Blended Learning 2016 took place on October 26 and 27. Some twenty universities from the United Kingdom collaborated in the organization of this conference. Here is my report. Blended Learning combines the strength of face to face learning and Online Learning and is increasingly viewed as one of the most important vehicles for education reform today (Picciano, Dziuban & Graham, 2013). Consequently a rapidly increasing number of higher education institutions positions Blended Learning at the heart of their educational vision. Not surprisingly since learning technology offers unprecedented possibilities for realization of customized education and personalized training programs. On the other hand, design, development and implementation of Blended Learning requires craftsmanship. At the VU University Amsterdam, I both coach and advise lecturers during the design and development of their Blended Learning programs. In addition to this, I initiated and co-chair the SURF Special Interest Group Blended Learning and I conduct research into Blended Learning. Naturally, I was delighted to be a part of this conference.
One world, one strategy
Fiona Harvey (Educational Development Manager, University of Southampton and President of the Association for Learning Technology) rightly pointed out that Blended Learning is already frequently applied, but people are not always aware that they are doing it.
Peter Bryant (Head of Learning Technology and innovation, London School of Economics) emphasizes that there is no such thing as an online world and a real world. There is only one world. I share Ian Myatt’s (Director of Educational Enterprise, University of Birmingham) opinion that the way you integrate both worlds is crucial. A well-considered educational design is essential, having a separate vision on Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) or Blended Learning is not. Gavin Brown (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, University of Liverpool), confirms this statement. Brown tells us that vision documents on TEL and Blended Learning used to circulate at the university of Liverpool. Nowadays, they are no longer around. TEL and Blended Learning are an integral part of the university’s strategy (one document). Indeed, good teaching is not about which Learning Management System (LMS) or which device, but about communication. Tools, used in the correct way, do not only support communication, but can also enrich it.
Education, Didactics and Technology
I find the route mapped out by Don Passey (Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning & Director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning, Lancaster University) interesting. Passey points out that it is useful to establish which way of learning (problem based learning, for example) fits best within a certain context and which form of education is most suitable (online, face to face). Next, you determine which forms of interaction fit (such as discussions) and which role the lecturer can take (for example, facilitator). Then, it is time to establish the desired form of learning technology (such as video or a discussion forum). I find Racel Bovill’s (Learning and Teaching Professional Development Manager, University of Sheffield) remark interesting in this regard. She rightly points out that the more enriching activities with regard to the supporting learning technology are part of the top of Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) (Evaluate, Synthesize and Analyze). Or, according to Krahtwool and David (2002): Create, Evaluate and Analyze (high order thinking skills).
Applying learning technology effectively asks for more than just knowledge about this technology. It mainly asks that you apply knowledge and skill in such a way that it really enriches education.
Take a look at this good example that helps to determine the best LMS functionalities with regard to the didactics you favour (courtesy of Joyce Seitzinger). This is a good reference tool for transforming assessments and feedback using technology. With regard to tools, thinking about using them before, after or during your class deserves attention. In addition to this, determine whether they are LMS functionalities, linked to your LMS or tools you use outside your organization’s LMS. You can find a good overview of helpful learning tools here (courtesy of Jane Hart).
Furthermore, I share Passey’s opinion that socio-constructivism asks for focus on networked learning. Networked Learning deserves a bigger role, also in connection with research into Blended Learning. As I see it, the same applies for Learning Analytics.
Streamlining large scale Blended Learning adoption
Peter Bryant points out that we must understand what a modern university should look like in the digital age. In order to do this, we need imagination, a long term vision and thoughtful expectation management. The institutional Blended Learning adoption checklist (courtesy of Charles R. Graham) seems helpful to me. In addition, although it is a modelling tool and not a cost tool, I can see clear potential in the Course Resource Appraisal Modeller (CRAM) tool presented by Diana Laurillard (Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies, UCL). This tool (freely downloadable for private use) shows the allocation of percentages of the different forms of education within a program. It also beautifully shows that a possible initial increase in costs can decrease as the program is repeated.
The CRAM tool contributes to awareness of the actors and stakeholders involved and enables the specific discussion about Blended Learning as an expense or investment in education. Also, I can highly recommend the Moocs about Blended Learning, Getting Started and Embedding Practice by Diana Laurillard and Neil Morrison.
Richard Walker (Head of e-Learning Development), shares another tip: the downloadable University of York’s TEL Handbook. Active Learning plays an important role in this university’s ten year plan.
It is misguided and arrogant to persist in resistance, because we all share the same world. A world in which (most) students adapt to technology faster than most university lecturers.
Imagine a world in which we manage to turn the tide and can really connect to personal, flexible and custom education…