How to Customize Your Blend

Photo of Blender

Here at West Chester University, teaching a blended course means that anywhere from 30% to 79% of your course can be taught online. That’s a big range. So it’s not surprising that I often meet faculty who are struggling to find their unique blend of online and face-to-face instruction for their blended course. What should go online? What should be done face-to-face? Isn’t there a formula for this?!?

Photo frustrated woman at computer

Unfortunately, there’s no formula, but there is a method for “customizing your blend”:

  1. First, look at your lesson plans. What learning activities are best suited to your objectives? Forget about the mode of delivery for now- the very first thing you want to do is determine the ideal learning experience for each week’s lesson, unit, or module. What would be the absolute best learning experience for your students? Write out an outline including all the learning activities for your course if you haven’t already.
  2. Next, analyze the elements of each learning experience and start sorting. Is there anything that naturally lends itself to an online environment? What experiences will work best in the classroom? Can you think of ways to keep students connected and engaged as they move between online and face-to-face formats?
  3. Now you’re ready to start exploring how technology can support and enhance the learning experience. At West Chester University, you have access to the Desire2Learn LMS and tools such as Adobe Connect and VoiceThread. There are also countless, free, web-based tools available online. The key is remembering that the learning experience should be the focus, not the technology!

It’s only three steps, but they are big, messy steps and like the first few steps at my house, they’re kind of cluttered with leaves and a basket meant for shoes that’s instead full of mail, toys, and who knows what else until I sort it. Figuring out your customized blend can be challenging whether you’re working with an existing course outline or building one from scratch. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the instructional design team in the Office of Distance Education at any step in the process.

Can You Tell The Difference Between A Blended and A Flipped Course?

After having a recent discussion with a colleague they began talking about how they were teaching a blended course but still met with their students 3 times a week for their face-to-face discussion for 50 minutes. I asked what types of technology or online tools they were using in their blended course and they said “I use the LMS to upload video lectures, link out to websites for them to read journal articles, or sometimes post assignments for them to complete when they come to class the next time and then we discuss those activities they’ve completed.” I started to think to myself, that sounds more like a flipped course.

It was at that moment when I realized how often the two terms, Blended and Flipped, are used and how they are frequently used in lieu of one another. And while the two terms do have a lot in common, there are also some vital differences that set them apart.

Blended Learning

Let’s take a look at these two types of eLearning approaches.

A Blended Course.

A blended Course is a pedagogical model which involves both the online and face to face instruction. Both which are used alongside of one another to provide an ample and effective learning experience for the student. A blended course implies that the face to face time will be reduced and some of the weekly meetings will be replaced with online content/activities.

A Flipped Course.

A flipped course is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework activities are reversed. Like a blended course, both online and face to face instruction are used alongside one another. Although, in a flipped course, meetings will not be reduced but the face to face time will be restructured. Activities such as listening to lectures or readings that would typically happen in the face to face session will be delivered in an online format that will to allow more time to discuss the activities done prior to coming to class.