Oregon State University has more than 570 hybrid-designated courses. These hybrid (“blended”) courses integrate regularly scheduled on-site classroom meetings with significant online, out-of-classroom components that replace regularly scheduled class meeting time. In this blended learning format, face-to­ face meeting time is generally reduced by 30 to 80% compared to a traditional on-campus course.

Hybrid courses range from large-enrollment general education courses to seminar-style graduate courses. Since 2012 when OSU formally established the hybrid course schedule type, the total enrollment in hybrid courses has exceeded 42,000 students.

OSU Portland Center

Ecampus has recently expanded hybrid course offerings through the new OSU Portland Center, including undergraduate hybrid programs in business, psychology, cybersecurity and human development and family sciences. Portland-based graduate programs include the Master of Arts in Teaching, MBA and graduate certificate in business analytics.

As Susan Fein noted in the previous post, Blended Learning: What Dose the Research Show?, the literature provides a wealth of evidence for the efficacy of hybrid education. But what can instructors who design and teach hybrid courses tell us? Here are some valuable highlights from posts of the most recent Hybrid Faculty Learning Community cohort in the OSU Hybrid Faculty Blog. The members of this cohort were each engaged in the redesign of a more traditional on-campus course into a hybrid course that will be offered during the 2019-20 academic year.

Collaboration: Jillian St. Jacques – Applied Journalism: “Our students are thirsty to work with each other because it is stimulating, plain and simple. . . . They find their own interpersonal relationships incredibly exciting, as they agree, disagree, admire and/or square off with each other in the Arena of the Intellect.”

Creativity: Alina Padilla-Miller – New Media Communications: “Through activities, experiments and use of everyday media, there are a lot of opportunities to fold in the creation process. The process of creating is not only necessary to include in active learning but it’s also incredibly engaging and dare I say it, fun! Whether the class is face-to-face, online or hybrid, incorporating active learning will enrich the course and ultimately the student’s experience with the curriculum. Let the creating begin!”

Excitement: Susan Rodgers – Writing: “This is what’s exciting to me about the hybrid format: instead of simply assigning readings and hoping the students will come in prepared, they’ll do quizzes, discussions, and collaborations before they come to class . . . we can take the conversation very quickly to a deeper and more meaningful level during our f2f time.”

Students working together in class

Flexibility: Dennis Adams – Business: “Students can more easily sort out the variance in their individual ability in this format. Students who require more time and exposure can reread/re-watch the material on their own time.”

Ownership: Michelle Maller – Forestry – “One of the most effective ways for a student to really master a concept is to present/teach that topic to their peers. . . . Creating ways for the students to interact with the content in a way that builds ownership of it can affect the overall learning. A good example of this is to use a discussion board to have each student “teach” their peers about a specific topic covered in that module.”

Roles: Irene Rolston – Anthropology: “Rather than students relying on their ‘sage’ to inform them, we have the ability to transform the classroom from unidirectional communication into multilateral communications between instructor to student and student to student. Approaching this from a hybrid design perspective, using the initial collection and deciphering of data online prior to use in the classroom as, for example, small group discussions, moves the omnipotent sage into the role of facilitator, one who directs the flow of the classroom rather than dominating the stage.”

Skills: Inara Scott – Business : “In a blended classroom, we have a unique opportunity to rethink the structure and content of our courses. . . . Rather than delivering content, we should be thinking about what unique skills we are building in students, and how we can engage them in the process of finding, interpreting, and creating their own content.”

To summarize, intentional hybrid course design and delivery afford opportunities for faculty to create engaging learning experiences that effectively interweave the classroom and online learning environments. This may involve rethinking the roles of the instructors and students, redesigning learning activities and even reconsidering learning outcomes to optimize the teaching-and-learning experience!

What are your perspectives on blended learning? How does this teaching modality compare to fully online or traditional classroom approaches?

Thank you!

This post is the second in a three-part series that summarizes conclusions and insights from research of active, blended, and adaptive learning practices. Part one covered active learning, and today’s article focuses on the value of blended learning.

First Things First

What, exactly, is “blended” learning? Dictionary.com defines it as a “style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face learning.” This is a fairly simplistic view, so Clifford Maxwell (2016), on the Blended Learning Universe website, offers a more detailed definition that clarifies three distinct parts:

  1. Any formal education program in which at least part of the learning is delivered online, wherein the student controls some element of time, place, path or pace.
  2. Some portion of the student’s learning occurs in a supervised physical location away from home, such as in a traditional on-campus classroom.
  3. The learning design is structured to ensure that both the online and in-person modalities are connected to provide a cohesive and integrated learning experience.

It’s important to note that a face-to-face class that simply uses an online component as a repository for course materials is not true blended learning. The first element in Maxwell’s definition, where the student independently controls some aspect of learning in the online environment, is key to distinguishing blended learning from the mere addition of technology.

You may also be familiar with other popular terms for blended learning, including hybrid or flipped classroom. Again, the common denominator is that the course design intentionally, and seamlessly, integrates both modalities to achieve the learning outcomes.

Let’s examine what the research says about the benefits of combining asynchronous, student-controlled learning with instructor-driven, face-to-face teaching.

Does Blended Learning Offer Benefits?

Blended Learning Icon

The short answer is yes.

The online component of blended learning can help “level the playing field.” In many face-to-face classes, students may be too shy or reluctant to speak up, ask questions, or offer an alternate idea. A blended environment combines the benefit of giving students time to compose thoughtful comments for an online discussion without the pressure and think-on-your-feet demand of live discourse, while maintaining direct peer engagement and social connections during in-classroom sessions (Hoxie, Stillman, & Chesal, 2014). Blended learning, through its asynchronous component, allows students to engage with materials at their own pace and reflect on their learning when applying new concepts and principles (Margulieux, McCracken, & Catrambone, 2015).

Since well-designed online learning produces equivalent outcomes to in-person classes, lecture and other passive information can be shifted to the online format, freeing up face-to-face class time for active learning, such as peer discussions, team projects, problem-based learning, supporting hands-on labs or walking through simulations (Bowen, Chingos, Lack, & Nygren, 2014). One research study found that combining online activities with in-person sessions also increased students’ motivation to succeed (Sithole, Chiyaka, & McCarthy, 2017).

What Makes Blended Learning So Effective?

Five young people studying with laptop and tablet computers on white desk. Beautiful girls and guys working together wearing casual clothes. Multi-ethnic group smiling.

Nearly all the research reviewed concluded that blended learning affords measurable advantages over exclusively face-to-face or fully online learning (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2009). The combination of technology with well-designed in-person interaction provides fertile ground for student learning. Important behaviors and interactions such as instructor feedback, assignment scaffolding, hands-on activities, reflection, repetition and practice were enhanced, and students also gained advantages in terms of flexibility, time management, and convenience (Margulieux, McCracken, & Catrambone, 2015).

Blended learning tends to benefit disadvantaged or academically underprepared students, groups that typically struggle in fully online courses (Chingosa, Griffiths, Mulhern, and Spies, 2017). Combining technology with in-person teaching helped to mitigate some challenges faced by many students in scientific disciplines, improving persistence and graduation rates. And since blended learning can be supportive for a broader range of students, it may increase retention and persistence for underrepresented groups, such as students of color (Bax, Campbell, Eabron, & Thomson, 2014–15).

Blended learning  benefits instructors, too. When asked about blended learning, most university faculty and instructors believe it to be more effective (Bernard, Borokhovski, Schmid, Tamim, & Abrami, 2014). The technologies used often capture and provide important data analytics, which help instructors more quickly identify under-performing students so they can provide extra support or guidance (McDonald, 2014). Many online tools are interactive, fun and engaging, which encourages student interaction and enhances collaboration (Hoxie, Stillman, & Chesal, 2014). Blended learning is growing in acceptance and often seen as a favorable approach because it synthesizes the advantages of traditional instruction with the flexibility and convenience of online learning (Liu, et al., 2016).

A Leap of Faith

Is blended learning right for your discipline or area of expertise? If you want to give it a try, there are many excellent internet resources available to support your transition.

Though faculty can choose to develop a blended class on their own, Oregon State instructors who develop a hybrid course through Ecampus receive full support and resources, including collaboration with an instructional designer, video creation and media development assistance. The OSU Center for Teaching and Learning offers workshops and guidance for blended, flipped, and hybrid classes. The Blended Learning Universe website, referenced earlier, also provides many resources, including a design guide, to support the transformation of a face-to-face class into a cohesive blended learning experience.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of both online and face-to-face teaching, I urge you to go for it! After all, the research shows that it’s a pretty safe leap.

For those of you already on board with blended learning, let us hear from you! Share your stories of success, lessons learned, do’s and don’ts, and anything else that would contribute to instructors still thinking about giving blended learning a try.

Susan Fein, Oregon State University Ecampus Instructional Designer
susan.fein@oregonstate.edu | 541-747-3364

References

  • Bax, P., Campbell, M., Eabron, T., & Thomson, D. (2014–15). Factors that Impede the Progress, Success, and Persistence to Pursue STEM Education for Henderson State University Students Who Are Enrolled in Honors College and in the McNair Scholars Program. Henderson State University. Arkadelphia: Academic Forum.
  • Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Schmid, R. F., Tamim, R. M., & Abrami, P. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of blended learning and technology use in higher education: From the general to the applied. J Comput High Educ, 26, 87–122.
  • Bowen, W. G., Chingos, M. M., Lack, K. A., & Nygren, T. I. (2014). Interactive learning online at public universities: Evidence from a six-campus randomized trial. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(1), 94–111.
  • Chingosa, M. M., Griffiths, R. J., Mulhern, C., & Spies, R. R. (2017). Interactive online learning on campus: Comparing students’ outcomes in hybrid and traditional courses in the university system of Maryland. The Journal of Higher Education, 88(2), 210-233.
  • Hoxie, A.-M., Stillman, J., & Chesal, K. (2014). Blended learning in New York City. In A. G. Picciano, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), Blended Learning Research Perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 327-347). New York: Routledge.
  • Liu, Q., Peng, W., Zhang, F., Hu, R., Li, Y., & Yan, W. (2016). The effectiveness of blended learning in health professions: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(1). doi:10.2196/jmir.4807
  • Maxwell, C. (2016, March 4). What blended learning is – and isn’t. Blog post. Retrieved from Blended Learning Universe.
  • Margulieux, L. E., McCracken, W. M., & Catrambone, R. (2015). Mixing in-class and online learning: Content meta-analysis of outcomes for hybrid, blended, and flipped courses. In O. Lindwall, P. Hakkinen, T. Koschmann, & P. Tchoun (Ed.), Exploring the Material Conditions of Learning: Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) Conference (pp. 220-227). Gothenburg, Sweden: The International Society of the Learning Sciences.
  • McDonald, P. L. (2014). Variation in adult learners’ experience of blended learning in higher education. In Blended Learning Research Perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 238-257). Routledge.
  • Sithole, A., Chiyaka, E. T., & McCarthy, P. (2017). Student attraction, persistence and retention in STEM programs: Successes and continuing challenges. Higher Education Studies, 7(1).
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. Washington, D.C.

Image Credits

  • Blended Learning Icon: Innovation Co-Lab Duke Innovation Co-Lab [CC0]
  • Leap of Faith: Photo by Denny Luan on Unsplash
  • School photo created by javi_indy – www.freepik.com
OSU Portland CenterOregon State University now has over 500 hybrid (“blended”) courses including the Ecampus hybrid degree and certificate programs offered through the new Portland Center.

What do OSU faculty say about blended learning? Since 2012, participants in the Hybrid Faculty Learning Community have been blogging about their approaches to blended course design and teaching. The resulting 200+ posts in the Hybrid Faculty Blog are a rich compendium of reflections on hybrid teaching and learning.

As they design hybrid courses, faculty from across OSU describe how they come to terms with a course format that has great potential to successfully engage today’s students, but that can be challenging to do well, especially the first time. Instructors celebrate the possibilities of a course mode that combines “the best of both worlds” of online and face-to-face teaching and learning. Here are selections from their writing about integration of online and face-to-face learning, flipped teaching and student-to-student interaction.

Integration of Online and Face-to-Face Learning Activities

Our face-to-face meetings will be used to integrate all that they have been learning online and will use open-ended questions to engage students in discussions intended to broaden and deepen their thinking about the module’s content. – Ted Paterson, Business

The key method we are using to link the online material and the classroom time is the weekly case study.  Each case study will be tied to the learning objectives for that week, which in turn are mapped to course-level learning objectives…. This case study approach will both illustrate and reinforce the course concepts while also giving the students an opportunity to explore additional concepts. – Sue Carozza, Public Health

Flipped Teaching and Learning

Moving to a flipped approach provides an opportunity to really consider what types of learning materials and strategies deeply engage students in knowledge generation, while taking advantage of the expanding capabilities of electronic media. – John Bolte, Biological and Ecological Engineering (BEE)

Students using technology in blended classroomOnline and classroom experiences will be linked in a variety of ways. Specifically, the online activities will help students prepare for class by completing readings, video lectures, and quizzes prior to class meetings. Class time can then be used to focus on difficult concepts and to expand on current issues in nutrition. – Jennifer Jackson, Nutrition

The goal for the online content is that students arrive in class with a similar level of knowledge after reviewing and being quizzed on background materials. In-class content will then emphasize materials that are likely new to all students, emphasizing engineering design, example calculations, and content…. In this model, the online content will provide the theoretical foundation for diving deeper with in-class content on design. – Desiree Tullos, BEE

Student-to-Student Interaction

Integrating real-time discussion in class has been very fruitful in my hybrid course. I use a Just-In-Time approach where the students are asked a question prior to class, where they participate by posting in a discussion board and replying to each other. The discussion board closes a few minutes after the start of class. If there are points to discuss, I open a new discussion board and the students interact online for four minutes or so. I find that they have gotten to know each other very well in a short time by integrating their online presence with in-class discussions. In general, they are more open to verbally discussing material than previous classes I have taught. – Kathy Hadley, Astronomy

Students working together in blended classOne of the great things that online courses provide is the opportunity to have more transparency throughout a project compared to a non-hybrid class, because the digital material is available all the time and the entire class can have access. In a typical non-hybrid course … the students rarely see the daily or weekly progress and process of how other teams are working. Allowing teams to see one another’s process, progress and being allowed to contribute to other team’s process and progress may create a richer and more transparent experience for students. My hope is that innovative online team experiences will expand students’ collaborative toolkit, [and] help them gain confidence in peer learning. – Andrea Marks, Design

Understanding and fostering students learning from one another is a method of also avoiding the “sage on the stage” problem…. In our field it is important for each future public health professional to internalize that they will need to learn from the communities they will be working in. I believe one way to foster that is to make certain that students are learning from their peers and that we are continually learning from them as well. – Karen Volmar, Public Health

Want to find out more about hybrid teaching and learning? Check out the resources on the OSU Hybrid Learning webpage and review the effective hybrid teaching practices that OSU hybrid faculty have identified. Thinking of designing a hybrid course? Talk to an Ecampus instructional designer and learn how to use a blended learning mix map.

Every term a group of OSU faculty participate in the hybrid faculty learning community.  Group members each redesign a classroom course for hybrid (a.k.a. blended) delivery in which a substantial portion of the course learning activity takes place online, and face-to-face meeting time is typically cut in half.

Beyond individual hybrid courses on the Corvallis and Cascades campuses, some entire OSU graduate programs are offered in a hybrid format through Ecampus, such as the College of Education’s doctoral program in Adult and Higher Education.

In what ways are hybrid and online course pedagogy the same?  In what ways are they different?  For more information about hybrid course design and delivery, visit the Hybrid Course Initiative.  And, if you’re interested in participating in the hybrid faculty learning community, see the Request for Proposals for the Fall ’13 program; the proposal deadline is April 30.

Whether you’re a regular visitor to this blog or you just stumbled on it for the first time, you may be curious about where to learn more about the world of online education, particularly from an instructor’s perspective. You could start with a Google search for “online education,” but sorting through the 14 million results would be very time consuming!

To substantially speed things up–so you’ll have time to watch the leaves turn–here are four great sites where you can access a wealth of information, tools and resources about teaching online and the growing field of hybrid (“blended”) learning. Check them out!

  • EDUCAUSE Learning Initiativea community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology (IT) innovation”
  • Merlota free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy”
  • National Center for Academic Transformationan independent non-profit organization dedicated to the effective use of information technology to improve student learning outcomes and reduce the cost of higher education”
  • The Sloan Consortium“a consortium of individuals, institutions and organizations committed to quality online education”
An approach known as “inverted” or “flipped” learning is gaining momentum in contemporary higher education. Inverted learning figuratively flips the traditional lecture-plus-homework format of many college courses on its head. Rather than using class time for the largely one-way delivery of information from instructor to student, the lecture material is made available online for students to study prior to class. Then classroom time can be used for face-to-face interaction that includes clarification, amplification, small-group work, problem solving, review, and assessment of learning built on the foundation of online course content and readings.

As illustrated in Robert Talbert’s presentation, “Inverting the Classroom, Improving Student Learning,” the inverted learning model moves more of the transmission of information outside the classroom, so that class time can be devoted to higher-level assimilation activities. A growing body of research, including a widely publicized University of British Columbia study published recently in the journal Science, points to the efficacy of devoting class time to learning activities other than lectures.

By nature, inverted learning is well suited to “hybrid” courses, which include both regular classroom meetings—with class meeting time typically reduced by 50%—and significant online content delivered via a learning platform such as Blackboard. A pilot program for development of hybrid courses is the centerpiece of OSU’s new Teaching & Learning Technologies Initiative. A request for proposals to participate in this pilot program will be distributed to OSU faculty by early September.