What is E-Learning?
Overcoming Time/Place Barriers
Blended Learning
E-Learning Architecture
The Benefits
Technology Overview

  E-Learning > Blended Learning

Blended Learning

E-Learning does not exist apart from already established and traditional learning venues. As new technology is introduced and adopted, it immediately becomes integrated with the instructional technology that preceded it. This is called "Blended Learning" or "Hybrid Learning" delivery. We are blending old and new instructional methods, and more technically we are blending a sequence of both synchronous and asynchronous learning events.

Blended Learning aims at orchestrating an effective composition of learning experiences. Instructional design has a long history of "blending" classroom work with homework, field trips, labs, reading assignments, and audio-visual media. However, what is new in this era of blended learning are the powerful modes of online synchronous and asynchronous activities, and technology-based instructional methods
which can now be added to the mix.
Richard Otto, Cognitive Design Solutions

Clark's Four Learning Architectures provide a learning theory rationale for composing a "blended learning" strategy.

  • Receptive (information acquisition),
  • Directive (response strengthening),
  • Guided Discovery (knowledge construction), and
  • Exploratory (linking to real world tasks and resources).

The different architectures suggest different ways to organize lesson content, what kind of practice is included, the value of making mistakes during learning, and the opportunities for the learner to control the learning process. The different Delivery Systems modalities which constitute a "blended" or "hybrid" learning approach reflect the kind of instructional choices that the designer believes is appropriate (most effective and efficient) for a particular audience. The section entitled "Four Architectures" provides a detailed discussion of Clarke's model.

The Variety of E-Learning Instructional Methods & Activities

A particular learning event will engage a learner in Receptive, Directive, Guided Discovery or Exploratory Learning; while the sequence of activities in a Blended Learning course has the potential to engage all of these learning architectures (instructional strategies).

The following table provides a summary of the kinds of learning activities and instructional methods that are available to an E-Learning Blended Course.

E-Learning Instructional Methods & Activities
Same Time /
Same Place

(Traditional)
  • Classroom Instruction
      Mini-lectures
      Interactive Lectures
          (participation required)
      Panels
      Videotape presentations
      Demonstrations
      Guided discussions
      Debates
      Student presentations
      Group collaboration
      Case study analysis
      Role playing
      In-class writing
      Simulation exercises
      Games
      Problem-based learning exercises
      Story-telling
  • Hands-on Labs & Workshops
  • Field Trips
      Observations
      Fieldwork or Clinical work

Same Time /
Different Place

( Synchronous
)

Live E-Learning

  • Web Casts
  • Virtual Classroom
      Mini-lectures
      Interactive Lectures
          (participation required)
      Panels
      Videotape presentations
      Demonstrations
      Guided discussions
      Debates
      Student presentations
      Group collaboration
      Case study analysis
      Role playing
      In-class writing
      Simulation exercises
      Games
      Problem-based learning exercises
  • Conference calls
  • Video broadcasts
  • Chat
  • Virtual Labs
  • Instant messaging (IM)
  • Online Collaboration
      E-meetings
      Online coaching or mentoring
      Communities of Practice

Different Time /
Same Place
(Traditional)

  • Lab Exercises
  • Observations
  • Coaching, Tutoring or Mentoring

Different Time /
Different Place
(Asynchronous)

Self-Paced
E-Learning

  • Web-based Training Tutorials
      Mini-lectures
          (text, graphics, audio, video)
      Video presentations
      Flash animation (interactive exercises)
      Drill & Practice
      Demonstrations
      Guided discussion
          (email, threaded discussion forum)
      Writing exercises & assignments
      Simulation exercises
          (automated guidance and feedback)
      Online assessments & testing
      Games
      Problem-based learning exercises      
          (scenario examples)
      Story-telling
  • Assessments, Tests & Surveys
  • Simulations (stand alone applications)
  • Performance Support
      Job Aids
          (on screen; printable)
      Online Help
          (documentation; search engine tools)
      EPSS
    (Electronic Performance Support Systems)
  • Online References & Document Management
  • Online Recordings / Multimedia
      Audio
      Video
      Webcasts & Podcasts
      Virtual classroom session recordings
         (Recorded live events)
  • Print-based Materials & Documentation
  • CD-ROM: Self-paced content / Multimedia
  • Intranet: Enterprise Portal
  • Knowledge Management Systems
  • Communities of Practice Portal Sites
      Online learning communities
         (Announcements, publishing articles,
          promoting workshops & conferences)

      Discussion Forums
      Project Collaboration Forums
  • Blog
  • Threaded Discussion
  • Email: registration, alerts, group messaging, individual mentoring
  • Distributed & Mobile Learning Resources

Media elements (such as computer graphics, PowerPoint slides, Flash animation, audio and video) can be used to enhance both online and offline learning events.

The order in which blended events are presented can affect the effectiveness of learning. For instance, a Web-based Tutorial can be used prior to a physical classroom event in order to introduce the students to a common ground of vocabulary and multimedia experience — it sets the stage, priming the students for their classroom interaction to be more effective. An initial WBT can sometimes most efficiently introduce the course syllabus, event schedule, and class rules ("housekeeping" issues) and thereby avoid wasting classroom time.

In the same way, a WBT that serves as an immediate follow-up to a classroom event can establish a higher level of required responding than can be achieved in a typical classroom. The follow-up WBT presents the learner with the new concepts through numerous examples, and then requires students to practice their use through quizzes, simulations, problem scenarios, and interactive tasks. This is particularly important for learners who are shy or hold back from participation in a classroom setting. With the follow-up WBT the instructor obtains real insight into what has been learned and what has not.

Different learners have preferences about learning styles (i.e., auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile; introvert / extravert; independent / social collaborative). For instance, Dr. David Kolb authored the Kolb Learning Style Inventory (1971) that includes the following learning styles as combinations of the characteristics of observation, experience, thinking and action: Assimilating Style (planner), Converging Style (decision-maker), Diverging Style (creator), and Accommodating Style (doer). These preferences are based on how a learner processes information. Providing learning events that engage the learner's strengths is always desired. The blended approach allows a wide variety of learning styles to be engaged.

 

The Power of the Blend

The range of instructional options that are available within an E-Learning program is immense. Blending involves providing the end-user with the appropriate learning delivery mode (ILT classroom, virtual classroom, web-based tutorial, CD-ROM, mentoring, team collaboration, and print) to support the learning objectives.

The power of the blend is in sequencing the activities, engaging the learner in different ways, and then optimizing the combined learning effect. In a blended course, truly "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." The design challenge is to create the most effective synergy of activities and learning style engagements.

Each learning event requires instructional design to ensure that the appropriate information, instruction, feedback, and media use has been presented. Orchestrating the right blend of learning events in a course requires instructional design to ensure that the most efficient and cost-effective sequence of learning experiences have been provided.

The E-Learning realization is that electronic learning modes are not an exclusionary alternative to the traditional classroom, but really are an extension of that classroom into cyber-space and global networking. Traditional classroom teaching and learning are addressed with the leverage provided by technology-based instruction and testing. Where appropriate, the distance learning and self-paced approach of E-Learning offers an increasingly viable alternative to the traditional classroom (school or corporate). Until now the traditional classroom has been the primary channel of learning opportunities, but with the Internet rich-media instruction is available at the business workstation and at home.

Levels of the blend

On a basic level, Blended Learning supports existing classrooms (instructor-led training — ILT) to make their management more effective. It does this through: automating enrollment and student tracking via learning management systems (LMS); online testing with automated scoring and reporting; and technology-based teaching tools brought into the classroom, including PowerPoint, Flash animation, collaborative games, and simulation exercises.

On the next level, Blended Learning opens up the instructional options to include all the existing resources of "Distance Learning." This may involve use of audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, audio conferencing, video conferencing, and more. In certain situations (due to cost constraints or the opportunity for more effective media use) a virtual classroom may become a viable or preferred alternative to the physical classroom.

From the most inclusive point of view, Blended Learning incorporates all the options and benefits of synchronous, asynchronous, and traditional delivery modes. Blending takes into account the four basic instructional architectures described by Ruth Clark (1998): Receptive (information acquisition), Directive (response strengthening), Guided Discovery (knowledge construction), and Exploratory (linking to real world tasks and resources). It creates a blend of activities and instructional strategies that will effectively engage the learning preferences of the students.

The following example of a blended course illustrates way in which all of these instructional architectures can be used.

What is "blended" is the composition and sequence of learning activities that relate to:

  • Different delivery modes: online, offline; synchronous, asynchronous
  • Different learning architectures — Receptive, Directive, Guided Discovery, and Exploratory Learning
  • Different instructional methods and use of media that engage learning style preferences
  • Different social learning dynamics that affect motivation

 

Course structure

The structure of an online WBT course might have the following structural hierarchy: Course -- Units -- Lessons -- Quizzes -- Final Assessment. This graphic illustrates a WBT tutorial structure.

The learning events in a Blended course might more accurately look like the activity map below with a primary path through the sequence of learning activities (shown by the blue arrows).

Based on preferences and personalization, individual learners may traverse the learning map with their own unique path (shown by the red arrows). Part of the instructional design is to plan which learning events are required as pre-requisites for a specific milestone learning activity. At the same time, the goal of instructional design is to allow and encourage the learner's choices and preferences to be expressed so the learner's motivation and learning styles are effectively engaged.

Blended
Learning

  2003 Cognitive Design Solutions, Inc.

 

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