Blended learning: modeling online and face-to-face course combination

Blended learning is a combination of various ratios of online and face-to-face learning activites. From totally face-to-face to fully online lerning, combinations may be adjusted according to multiple criteria. In the following, an example of 30% online and 70% face-to-face is described as a very common solution. 

The blending process: reconsidering the curriculum design

Developing a blended course requires a deliberate process on the part of the teacher to revise the course structure, instructional activities, assessment process and time allocation for face to face and online activities. This directly answers the question about the meaning of the blending process. How should we proceed to convert 30% of a face-to-face course to make it partially accessible online? It is certainly not by digitizing 30% of the course content and uploading it as texts, audio files and videos for the students. The blending process involves a more complex transformation on:

  • The content structure,
  • The methods of distribution of educational resources,
  • The learning activities to be carried out by the students,
  • The scheduling of students' working time,
  • The monitoring and evaluation procedures.

 

In short, these are all among parameters that characterize a “virtual classroom” which depends on many factors, including:

  • The objectives of the training program,
  • The teacher's educational scenario (the choice of activities to be done);
  • The technological environment available (LMS and its digital services),
  • The technical choices of the teacher (software, applications and what these technologies allow to achieve),
  • Online access conditions (bandwidth, kind of terminals)

 

Thus, the proposal of a blending model for UEH curriculum cannot be done according to a single and uniform scenario. The nature and context of each course can vary widely. They may impose completely different blending approaches due to the above indicated factors.

However, moving from fully face-to-face to blended course or creating a blended course from scratch can be achieved applying common generic rules. Then, 30% distance and 70% face-to-face blending can hypothetically be applied to all UEH curricula but only from the perspective of broad guidelines of a common strategy. On the other hand, the concrete application of each blended scenario will, however, deeply depend on the technical and pedagogical context of each syllabus.

The following section will outline a blending approach of 30% online and 70% face-to-face courses.

The blending process: general guidelines

A course is a set of units that constitute an integrated entity: resources, but also teachers, students, activities, timing, assessments, etc. All could constitute key items for blending. To blend a training, some prerequisites need therefore to be obtained. Each responsible teacher of a syllabus, can for instance take the following steps.

The first step to do is to carry out a quantitative sizing (volume) of each syllabus using measurable indicators related to its structure and organization. A syllabus is usually built using some structural units of information which can be:

  • A total number of hours of training per syllabus,
  • A total number of sessions per syllabus,
  • A number of modules / chapters / lessons in the syllabus,
  • A number of students who will follow the syllabus,
  • A number of educational resources per syllabus,
  • A number of activities (exercises by the students) per syllabus,
  • A number of evaluation tests per syllabus.

 

Generally, two key units related to timing and content are extensively used:

  1. The number of hours, sessions,
  2. The number of chapters, sections, modules, lessons,

Knowing the quantity of one or both of these structuring units is necessary in order to be able to estimate the extent of the 30% of the syllabus to be converted online. Here are some hypotheses:

  • If the syllabus is structured according to units of time (hours, days, weeks, months), the 30% online learning will be calculated on the basis of 30% of the total number of hours of the course,
  • If the syllabus is structured according to a total number of sessions, the 30% online learning will be calculated on the basis of 30% of the total number of sessions composing the course,
  • If the syllabus is structured according to semantic units (chapters, modules, lessons, the 30% online learning will be calculated on the basis of 30% of the total number of chapters or modules composing the course,
  • If the syllabus is structured according to a total number of activities (for example realizing projects, preparing studies and reports, manufacturing products), the 30% of online activities will be calculated on the basis of 30% of the total number of the activities programmed in the course,

 

As a first step in converting 30% of their courses online, teachers can fill out the following form with indicative data about their courses.

Measurement unit

Total units in the syllabus

30% online

70% F2F

Hours / days / months

 

 

 

Sessions

 

 

 

Modules/chapters/Lessons

 

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

Activities

 

 

 

Assessments

 

 

 

Table 1: first data collection matrix on the organization of the blended course

The data collected can give the teachers and the institution several choices to determine a blending mode. The criteria that are taken into account in choosing one of the measurement units are determined by the teacher's pedagogical preferences, the available technological and logistical resources and the institution's educational policy.

This process raises some questions:

  • How the online teaching material and learning activities are calculated in respect to the global course hours amount?
  • How, if any, the online material is articulated/adjusted with a face-to-face course planning?
  • Is “attendance” to class (virtual or physical) counted on basis of both synchronous and asynchronous modes?
  • In the final assessment, are gardes attributed to LMS Individual exercises, proportional to the volume of material distributed online, and is this online material proportional to the resources distributed in face-to-face classes?

All these, and others, are questions that count when preparing a blended learning syllabus. Using guiding grids with proportional ratios for each item can help structuring a feasible scenario respecting time allocation, teachers and student’s effort investment, teaching quality assurance, better competency qualification.
Once rational data elements about blended learning system components are collected and listed in a working document, teachers can start step 2 to develop their syllabus with more precise description.

 

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