Recommendations for Blended Learning Course Design

In an interview with Online Classroom, Veronica Diaz, associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, offered the following advice for creating a better blended course:

Begin with a solid foundation in online learning pedagogy and technical knowledge. “If you are an experienced online instructor, you are much more likely to produce a much higher-quality blended course because you’ve been involved in all the technology-mediated types of issues that you would have come across in an online modality. So you’re familiar with what can go wrong. You have something you can really build on.

“Whenever you talk to online instructors who are moving into blended, they say, ‘I’m so glad I can do this because there have been these three or four units that I’ve always struggled doing online, and I would love to do them face-to-face.’ They’re really eager and have a really good sense of what they want to do in the classroom, which is something that the face-to-face instructor does not necessarily have the benefit of.”

Use a modular design. A blended course that is composed of modules or discrete chunks is easier to update as the instructor gains experience and finds ways to make incremental improvements, Diaz says.

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.

Integrate the two modes. “I think when content is properly integrated there’s an interdependence between what goes on in the classroom and what goes on online. There needs to be an ahead-of-time accountability measure, such as a quiz, so that when students show up in class or when they show up online you have a way of knowing beforehand. I don’t necessarily mean the day before but maybe two or three days before so that you have a chance to intervene,” Diaz says. “For instance, if you’re going to have some project-based work in your class and you would have had to have spent some time mastering concepts to be able to execute or apply something in the class environment, you ideally would know that a few days in advance. If they’re not participating, you have a chance to do something about it.

“That implies that you’re doing higher-stakes work in class than you did before, so students cannot just come and listen to you for an hour because they’re going to be doing something. It’s less of a transmission model, where the instructor is just lecturing and students are just listening.”

Get help. Take advantage of support within your institution even if you are not required to do so. Under the best circumstances you will have the time, compensation, and technical and pedagogical support to help design your blended course. In addition to general faculty development, Diaz recommends seeking a mentor within your discipline to address issues that are specific to your course content.

For more on blended learning, see Blended Learning Course Design Mistakes to Avoid.

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