The Blended Learning FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT IS BLENDED LEARNING?

As the participants in the UW Blended Learning Fellowship Program defined it, “blended learning can mean different things to different people.” But it also provides a working definition currently being used by many here: “At UW-Madison, blended learning courses are instructor-designed and supervised environments that use face-to-face and technology-mediated channels to enhance interactive, engaging learning experiences and to improve student learning outcomes.” It is as important to understand what this definition doesn’t say as what it does. It does not, for example, specify that a certain amount of class time should occur online, and it doesn’t specify any specific activities that should occur online or in the classroom. This allows for creativity to flourish. What it does imply, with words like “interactive” and “engaging” is that blended learning and active learning are linked in important ways. You can learn much more about the practices, methods, philosophies, methods, and practices of blended learning at https://blendedtoolkit.wisc.edu.

ARE BLENDED LEARNING AND ON-LINE LEARNING BASICALLY THE SAME THING?

While blended learning typically involves a mix of online and face-to-face instructional strategies, on-line learning typically does not involve any face-to-face instructional strategies.

CAN I DO BLENDED LEARNING IN THE TYPICAL CLASSROOM?

You don’t need a high-tech classroom to do blended learning. Since, for many people, blended learning and active learning go hand in hand, you can do active learning with simple writing or discussion techniques. See Active Learning In Your Course.

IS BLENDED LEARNING GOOD FOR LARGE INTRO CLASSES?

In large introductory classes, forms of blended learning integrated with active learning can support students who don’t do well with the traditional lecture and test format. The technology in blended learning allows for efficient tracking of student outcomes. Rather than take only two or three exams, students can engage in online exercises, take online quizzes, and do other activities that provide frequents feedback without the necessity of hand-grading. You can see examples of blended learning in large courses by checking out Aurelie Rakotondrafara, Plants, Parasites and People — PLP123or John Klatt, Blended Learning in a Freshman Seminar Course – InterAg 155

IS BLENDED LEARNING GOOD FOR SMALL ADVANCED CLASSES?

In small advanced classes, the connection between blended learning and active learning can be powerful, as online interactions among students (and students and instructors) can enhance, and be enhanced by, face to face interactions in the classroom.  You can see examples of blended learning in advanced or graduate courses by checking out Patty Lowe, Native American Environmental Issues and the Media — Life Sciences Communication 444,Susan Smith, The Vitamins — Nutritional Sciences 627, or
Randy Stoecker, Community and Environmental Sociology Capstone — CESoc 500.

HOW CAN I TRY BLENDED LEARNING WITHOUT A HUGE TIME INVESTMENT?

If you think about blended learning and active learning as intersecting, you can begin just by incorporating active forms of discussion and writing in the classroom or online using a system such as Learn@UW or Moodle. You can use an online discussion board, for example. With a little effort, you can post videotaped lectures online, freeing up face to face classroom time for discussion, exercises, or workshops using lecture and readings ideas.

DOES BLENDED LEARNING REALLY IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNING?

There is literature promoting the learning outcomes of various forms of blended learning. Go to the bibliography for a quick peek.

CAN DIFFERENT BLENDED LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES SERVE DIFFERENT PURPOSES?

L. Dee Fink, in his book Creating Significant Learning Experiences, distinguishes six kinds of significant learning: foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn. And though there is no research establishing that certain technologies serve certain types of learning, we can hypothesize. For example, technologies like videos might support the development of foundational knowledge, while on-line interactive scenarios might support application learning. Forums might be good for integration. You may find it helpful to start with the type(s) of learning you want students to achieve and then consider the methods and technologies that may best help them learn those things.

DOES BLENDED LEARNING REQUIRE A LOT OF TECHNOLOGY EXPERTISE?

No. The more expertise you have, the more possibilities you can imagine. But you can also get support to implement your ideas from https://blendedtoolkit.wisc.edu/where/ and you can contact any of us on the CALS blended learning contacts list.

WHERE CAN I GET TRAINING IN BLENDED LEARNING?

Blend@UW offers a variety of general training sessions that can help faculty get started. Academic Technology can provide support for using specific software applications.