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What on earth is blended learning?

By July 24, 201415 Comments

I was asked recently, ‘what on earth is blended learning’? So I thought I’d jot down my thoughts with some linked references.

Blended learning is when learning takes place in a number of different ways, normally with a mix of face to face interaction between teacher and student and elements which the student undertakes independently, usually through electronic means. These might be where students:

  • access the modules of work in electronic document format
  • receive formative feedback on assessment through digital means
  • have opportunities to learn from each other collaboratively
  • can submit summative assessments electronically

There are numerous ways in which the learner can participate in a blended learning environment.

This post will go through some of the ways in which you can do this and whilst clearly not exhaustive, these ideas may help to give ideas for other ways you can develop blended learning in to your curriculum.

Accessing modules of work electronically

There are lots of ways you can do this:

  • Moodle
  • AN Other VLE
  • Google Apps for Education >> Google Drive
  • iTunes U >> my favourite
  • Showbie
  • Edmodo

The key is to try to make sure that students get a consistent experience in terms of access. If students get one experience in one faculty, another experience in another, so forth and so on – it does make it difficult for the student. If you’re a student studying 10 different subjects and you have 10 different methodologies for accessing your modules of work; this can make things more difficult for them. Why would you want to do that? Try to keep things consistent across your institution. If in doubt, speak with your management team member who has responsibility for managing whole institution technology access.

Giving formative feedback on assessment through digital means

As above there are lots of ways of doing this. Often the system you have chosen to use will give you opportunities to assess within it. Here are some ideas on how you might want to go about doing this:

  • Track changes / review tool in Word / Pages / Google Docs
  • Feedback within Showbie
  • PDF annotation
  • Video annotation using tools such as Explain Everything
  • Comment only feedback within the VLE, e.g. Edmodo

The key with this is to make the feedback that you give quality. As noted in the EEF / Sutton Trust toolkit and John Hattie, effective feedback is one of the highest impacting (and cheapest) means of improving learner progress. Work at it!

Opportunities to learn from each other collaboratively

The system you choose to use for giving students access to your learning materials will be very likely to have community opportunities within there. iTunes U courses allow for discussions, as does Moodle; you can have public discussions and share blog posts within Edmodo. There are lots of opportunities. The key here is for students to learn from each other collaboratively, not work together collaboratively, there is a difference. With my A Level groups, one such way that I work with my students to do this is for them to create folders on Evernote which are shared with all of the other students within the group. In that way, not only are students able to create their work, save it in a space for me to assess it and give their formative feedback, each student has access to each other’s work – meaning they are able to learn from each other in a collaborative way.

Why not try some of these tools for learning collaboratively:

  • Evernote
  • Edmodo
  • Personal blogs such as WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr
  • iTunes U
  • Twitter

Submitting summative assessments electronically

There are lots of different ways you can do this. It is helpful for you as the person who is going to have to do the summative assessment that all students use the same means of submitting work. It’s one thing for students to use different tools to create their piece of summative work – it’s another for those to all be collated in different locations. Try and keep this to one place for your sanity and clarity of outcome for students.

  • Google Drive
  • Evernote
  • Edmodo
  • Your VLE
  • Showbie

The key is to get the evidence in to one location. Get that bit sorted and you are well on your way to ensuring ease of management of your summative assessments.

Further reading:

JISC (2006) In their own words: Exploring the learner’s perspective on e-learning [online] London:UK. [accessed November 14th 2007] <Available from JISC

JISC InfoNET Tangible Benefits of e-Learning (2008) Available online >>

Education Endowment Fund Toolkit >>

The impact of digital technology on learning >>

The 6 myths of digital technology >> >>


Blended Learning Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.