Blended Learning – The Best or Worst of Both Worlds?

At a talk /workshop on blended learning in Mexico City recently, Pete Sharma referred to some research which claims that learning outcomes on blended courses are superior to those on either 100% face-to-face or 100% online courses. The piece of research (which is actually an analysis of existing research), from the US Department of Education, is here.

The report states the following:

The corpus of 50 effect sizes extracted from 45 studies meeting these criteria was sufficient to
demonstrate that in recent applications, online learning has been modestly more effective, on
average, than the traditional face-to-face instruction with which it has been compared. It should
be noted, however, that this overall effect can be attributed to the advantage of blended learning
approaches over instruction conducted entirely face-to-face. Of the 11 individual studies with
significant effects favoring the online condition, 9 used a blended learning approach.

The authors speculate that the reason for these findings might be:

additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for
collaboration, that has proven effective

There’s also loads of other research available online that apparently backs this up. To be honest though, my experiences with teaching on blended courses in EFL have been mixed. What about you? I’d love to hear any comments on teachers / learners experiences of blended learning.

Here’s what I’d like to know:

In your experience
…are learners on blended courses more highly motivated?
…what new challenges do teaching blended courses present for learners and teachers?
…are learners really taking advantage of the additional flexibility of blended courses?
…when it comes to designing and planning classes, are there any particularly good models to use?
…what can teachers do to make the blended experience more engaging / productive / effective?


3 Responses to Blended Learning – The Best or Worst of Both Worlds?

  1. As a blended learning service provider we consider the most important aspects are to:

    1. Train – teachers and students.
    2. Customize – content.
    3. Integrate – online/offline curriculum design.
    5. Support – teachers and students.

    It´s also important to take your time, research, and implement slowly across all departments. Allow buy in.


    • Mark says:

      Thanks for your comment. Of the 5 points that you mention.1 and 3 really stand out for me. Students definitely need to be trained to get the most out blended courses – not just on how to use the software but also on study skills, note taking skills etc. Re point 3, getting the link between online and in-class work is key. Recently, I’ve changed my approach here. I now incorporate some kind of task into the final stages of the online work which is further developed in class.

  2. Yes – and you´ll probably find you go through this tweaking process for quite some time. We would typically spend 3 months on a course design before implementation. Then a further month on training and support. The entire process is 6 months.

    What we see is teachers doing their own thing, and implementing tools, that are not integrated into the curriculum design. When different teachers and doing different things it can get confusing for a student moving through the grades. So, the programme needs buy in from the admin team, dos´s, teachers and students. If one piece is missing it can cause problems down the track.


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