Blended Learning Course Design Creates New Opportunities for Learning

Blended learning course design, a deliberate combination of face-to-face and online learning, requires a shift in thinking in what it means to teach and what it means to learn. Done properly it provides a robust, pedagogically sound learning environment. Done poorly, without adequate forethought and planning, and you have a train wreck in the making.

In the online seminar Ten Ways to Improve Blended Course Design, Ike Shibley, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State – Berks, explained how to successfully transform a traditional course into a blended course, and dispelled a number of teaching myths along the way.

“This is not the only way to approach [blended design] but I am going to suggest that you want to still use the face-to-face time as the central focus of the online time, and look at how you can get students prepared for face-to-face time and how you can help the students after they’ve been in class,” Shibley said. “So you start with the face-to-face and then think about using the online component for the other times the students interact with the material. In order to do that, you need to throw away all preconceived notions and start from scratch.”

One of the keys Shibley talked about was to use the ADDIE process to guide the design of your blended course. Here’s a brief summary of how to use ADDIE, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation.


  • Review prior course evaluations for guidance on where students struggle.
  • Identify the most difficult concepts for students and focus on those.


  • Create detailed learning objectives. Use strong action verbs and avoid terms like “know,” “understand,” and “learn.”
  • Divide course into F2F and online components.
  • Match learning objectives with technology.


  • Start early – at least a semester, preferably a year, in advance.
  • Create an ideal course then start with the most important elements in the next step.
  • Create a shell with the intention of refining and improving over several semesters.


  • Start with a smaller course if possible (summer is a good time).
  • Launch the entire course once completely designed rather than piecemeal.


  • Assessment is critical for course improvement and accreditation.
  • Leverage technology to collect data (think about this in the design stage).
  • Utilize evaluation data to ‘close the loop’ to improve the course for next time.

In addition to using ADDIE to guide design, Shibley explained how to divide your course content in a way that creates opportunities for learning before class, during class and after class; how to assess student learning; and how to use technology to support learning. While the before-class activities typically introduce students to the content and include low-stakes grading, in-class activities tend to focus on higher-order thinking, collaboration and high-stakes grading. After-class activities then provide opportunities for working with the content, higher-order thinking, and grading in the mid-to-high-stakes range.

Watch a brief clip from the seminar:

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