Blended Learning

For Dr. Graham’s course this week we read several articles about blended learning.  Graham’s introduction (2006) discusses various uses of the term “blended learning,” providing this definition in the end: “Blended learning systems combine face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction…. Blended learning is part of the ongoing convergence of two archetypal learning environments. On the one hand, we have the traditional face-to-face learning environment that has been around for centuries. On the other hand, we have distributed learning environments …” (Graham, 2006, p. 5).  For me, the most interesting parts of this chapter are the discussion of the four critical dimensions of interaction and how they apply to blended learning (space, time, fidelity, and humanness) and the discussion of types of blends (enabling, enhancing, and transforming).  These types of blends are discussed further, with examples, in the second Graham chapter (2007).   As one with a background in classroom teaching, I always like it best when real-life examples show theory or definition in application.  Reading the second Graham piece, I found myself critiquing my own construction of the class I am currently teaching (MESA 201), in which I have employed some blended learning techniques.  In some ways, I made changes that could be viewed as transforming.  But other times my “blends” were merely enhancing or enabling.  I saw this more clearly because of the study of various blends used by BYU professors in the past.

Garrison & Kanuka’s article focuses on the transformative potential of blended learning.  For the authors, blended learning “represents a fundamental reconceptualization and reorganization of the teaching and learning dynamic, starting with various specific contextual needs and contingencies (e.g., discipline, developmental level, and resources)” (2004, p. 97).  They believe that blended learning is particularly effective at promoting a community of inquiry because “asynchronous computer-mediated conferencing supports flexibility, reflection, interpersonal and teamwork skill development, motivation, and collaborative learning environments— resulting in deep and meaningful understandings and communities of inquiry” (p. 98).  Moreover, blended learning can cause us to “questio[n] the dominance of the lecture in favor of more active and meaningful learning activities and tasks” (2004, p. 100).  However, it must be emphasized that this is potential, but not always actuality.  In my MESA 201 course, I overemphasized the lecture (especially in the first half of the course), despite the inclusion of several computer-mediated activities.

The final article of this batch (Shea, 2007) is interesting for its attempt to move towards a theoretical framework of blended learning.  (I do have to say that I sometimes want these articles entitled “towards a framework” to just give the framework! 🙂  But I know I’m being impatient, and moving towards something is a very good first step.)  For me, one of the most important lines was this one, which asks us to reflect upon “how & whether blended learning environments enable or constrain our abilities to put learners in active roles” (p. 22).  Moving the learner to activity is something I still struggle with as an instructor, so I appreciated the reminder to be thoughtful about our choices in instructional activities.

***add more?***

Resources

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education. 7(2), 95-105.

Graham, C. R. (2006). Blended learning systems: Definition, current trends, and future directions. In C. J. Bonk & C. R. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Publishing. pp. 3-21.

Graham, C. R. (2007). Realizing the transformational potential of blended learning: Comparing cases of transforming blends and enhancing blends in higher education. Blended Learning: Research Perspectives. pp. 83-110.

Shea. (2007). Towards a conceptual framework for learning in blended environments. In A. G. Picciano & C. D. Dziuban (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium. pp. 19-35.

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