August 24th, 2012

Blended Learning Course Design Mistakes to Avoid


Blended learning course design entails more than simply converting content for online delivery or finding ways to supplement an existing face-to-face course. Ideally, designing a blended course would begin with identifying learning outcomes and topics, creating assignments and activities, determining how interaction will occur, and selecting the technologies to best achieve those learning outcomes. However, a variety of constraints often affect the way blended courses are developed, which can compromise their quality.

In an interview with Online Classroom, Veronica Diaz, associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, talked about how to avoid common mistakes in blended course design.

Blended Learning Course Design Mistake #1: Adopting an add-on model. Diaz recommends designing a blended course from scratch; however, a lack of time and resources often means that instructors will redesign existing courses. “Nine times out of 10 there are going to be pretty significant constraints, so you’re likely to do this on the fly, where you will put some things online as a supplement rather than truly having an online component that is integrated with your face-to-face component. That’s when the problems really start. You end up having what they call ‘a course-and-a-half,’ which is a lot more than either the faculty member or students bargained for,” Diaz says.

Blended Learning Course Design Mistake #2: Lack of coherence between online and face-to-face modes. The add-on model of blended course design can lead to a disconnect between the face-to-face and online modes within a blended course. When students do not see the connection between the two modes, they tend to participate less, Diaz says. When faced with constraints, instructors often “end up adding things with really little thought given to the relationship between the online and face-to-face components,” Diaz says.

Blended Learning Course Design Mistake #3: attempting direct conversion from one mode to the other. Those who are new to blended (or online) course design tend to convert content from the face-to-face classroom without taking into account the differences between the two modes. When instructors try to convert their face-to-face lectures to the online format, the lectures often are less effective. “They don’t translate well. They’re not effective for students. Students do not [view or listen to lectures], because who wants to sit there and listen? There are too many distractions,” Diaz says.

This is not to say that lecture capture, narrated PowerPoint, or other similar content is inappropriate. “I think short lectures that are very topically based are helpful…I think there are still a lot of folks out there who will record an entire lecture. That’s not translating, that’s just converting,” Diaz says.

Excerpted from “Recommendations for Blended Learning Course Design.” Online Classroom, (October 2011): 1, 3.

For more on blended course design, see Best Practices for Designing Successful Blended Courses, an online seminar presented by Veronica Diaz that’s now available on CD.