Why Blended Learning?
By Miné de Klerk
Blended learning involves invaluable contact hours carefully fused with (and not replaced by) educational technologies, thus capitalizing on the strength of both face-to-face and online engagement. The intended (albeit long-term) result: enriched learning for students, and even administrative and workload relief for lecturers. This does not require a complete online overhaul of your teaching practice, as technology is by no means a silver bullet for pedagogical challenges. Instead, 'blended learning' involves teaching strategies being augmented by effective, value-adding ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies). These strategies can only be effective when informed by the organic needs of a discipline's unique context, and are therefore expected to vary in each department. In short, this is not a one size fits all approach.
The extensive research conducted by Prof. Diana Laurillard (Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies, UCL Knowledge Lab) indicates that the significant pedagogical benefits of a blended approach lie in the promotion of different ways of learning (e.g. discussion, investigation, practice, production and collaboration – as opposed to only passive learning).
Empirical studies indicate that these intended outcomes can indeed be attained, and have resulted in the adoption of blended learning in the vast majority of higher education institutions over the past two decades. In order to achieve the benefits associated with blended learning, however, there needs to be both commitment from teaching staff and institutional support for their efforts. Technological means should be readily apparent and support networks need to be continually accessible.
We hope to provide each of the eighteen departments in the Faculty with the instructional development support to start exploring the best blended tools available to them. This requires continual technology and training assistance, but also critical reflection – evaluating whether each blended learning intervention is effective from both a student and an instructor perspective.
The Teaching and Learning Hub invites you to be part of this collaborative and dynamic process. It may require some courage and commitment, but we hope you will take the first steps toward harnessing the enormous potential of a blended learning approach.