Designing Blended Courses the ADDIE Way

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Ten Strategies to Improve Blended Course Design.

Blended learning does not simply involve shifting portions of face-to-face instruction online. Ultimately, a blended course will require reconceptualization of the entire learning process. That’s where ADDIE comes in.

The ADDIE method is an acronym that stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. It is a critically important tool for designing blended courses.

Instructors need to analyze their courses. Faculty members often want to skip this step. It is easy for instructors to assume that if they know the content, they know what works and what doesn’t. However, students bring baggage to the classroom, and that baggage can affect the success of various instructional tools and methodologies.

Sometimes students come to class with misconceptions about the instructor, the content, or the course format. Beyond that, they may have knowledge that they haven’t uncovered or connected to the course at hand. Most of higher education is delivered in silos, and students learn in silos. Even students who have met prerequisites for a course may not display adequate comprehension of that prerequisite content. This surprises some instructors who expect students to display the knowledge they have acquired in other courses.

That is why it is important for instructors to at least get a handle on what students might know and what they might not know before they arrive in class as well as what course content is likely to be most vexing for them. Prior course evaluations will offer guidance on where students have struggled, and that is where instructors will want to focus some of the online components of a blended course.

Without proper analysis, instructors would not know which concept needs emphasis. They might overemphasize topics that come easily to students and gloss over concepts that are more challenging.

Creating detailed learning objectives is one of the most challenging pedagogical activities that instructors face. Too often instructors use words such as “know” or “understand” or “learn” in their learning objectives. However, those words are limiting. Active verbs are much more powerful and effective, and actual objectives should be far more specific and detailed. Solid learning objectives not only allow instructors to map out content and create syllabi, but they also help teachers determine which technologies will enhance specific learning goals.

Once instructors have good learning objectives, they should determine which instructional technologies are available at their institutions and use those options to divide courses into the face-to-face and online components.

Developing the course takes a lot of work no matter what kind of technology is employed. Multimedia activities, games, online quiz banks, and blogs all take time to develop. However, instructors will want a substantial amount of online information available for students to access to keep them engaged. Instructors will need to take their time developing the various course components, and they will want to have everything complete by course launch.

Some instructors can get away with making things up as they go in a face-to-face course, but that does not work in a blended course. The whole design should be fully developed at the outset. It is fine to make changes as the course evolves; it does not have to be perfect right away. However, it should be a finished product that can be refined and improved and not an unfinished product that needs to be completed as the term unfolds.

Since it is hard to predict exactly how long it will take to develop an entire blended course, it is wise to begin far in advance. It will take at least an entire semester, sometimes a whole year, to develop a new course. It helps to begin with the big pieces, the ideal course components and the essential elements. With that shell in place, instructors can then fill in, refine, and improve the course over several semesters.

One timing strategy that works well is to develop a course over an academic year and then implement it in the summer. Summer terms generally have lower enrollment, which means fewer students will experience a course during its first run. Also, many faculty members have fewer overall obligations when they teach in the summer, and this could offer extra time for tweaks and improvements.

The last ADDIE phase is the evaluation phase. Assessing a blended course is critical. Instructors will want to know what students have accomplished, how much time they’re spending on various online components, and how beneficial they found the games and other features.

It is important not only to gather the information but also to act on it. This is the only way to improve the course. It is also valuable information to provide accreditors and administrators. Online technology actually makes assessment simpler, and the information makes it easier to improve a blended course.

For more on blended course design, see Ten Strategies to Improve Blended Course Design »