What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a pedagogical approach that harnesses and merges the relative strengths of face-to-face and online modes of learning to create and sustain vital communities of inquiry (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). The former mode is commonly associated with a synchronous, oral form of communication, social interaction and collaboration opportunities, and the latter commonly associated with characteristics of asynchronous communication, self-paced, self-directed learning, and access to broader Internet-based learning opportunities. In essence, blended learning refers to contextually appropriate combinations of the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the technologically-enhanced active learning possibilities of the online environment (Dziuban, Hartman and Moskel, 2004).
Benefits of Blended Learning
Effectiveness: Research in Blended Learning by many academics have concluded that “blended learning … has the proven potential to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of meaningful learning experiences.”*
Flexibility in presenting content: complex topics can be discussed in class, while other subject matter can be made available online.
Student-centric approach: students can go through course materials at their own pace, review and reflect and be better prepared for class.
Efficiency: By digitizing the expertise of several instructors or subject-matter experts, more students can be reached with high-quality content in a shorter period of time.
Reach: Learning can take place anytime and anywhere and this is especially powerful in distance learning where students can tap on subject matter experts around the world or collaborate with overseas group mates to leverage on their different perspectives and viewpoints.
Blended Learning models in SMU
Here are some examples of how Blended Learning looks like in SMU:
As part of School of Accountancy (SOA)’s efforts to promote self-directed learning, instructors teaching school core courses, such as Financial Accounting and Management Accounting, have worked with CTE to co-develop self-paced digital resources. These digital resources deliver content using interactive visuals and provide self-check quizzes for students to learn at their own pace, at their own preferred time usually before attending face-to-face classes. This flipped learning approach aims to improve the learning experience for the students by allowing them to go through concepts through these learning objects before coming to class. Instructors would reinforce students’ learning through further in-depth discussions and application of concepts when they meet face-to-face.
LKCSB EdTech initiative
The Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) EdTech initiative is driven by the vision of the fully online degree programme offering which provides a learning experience with transformational impact no less than equivalent to the very best face-to-face courses. This endeavour takes form on a digital learning experience platform which is structured to focus on the learner’s journey, through time and within a learning community. Instructors have the option to custom-build content to make room for a range of creative experience design possibilities and learning optimisation. In the design approach, clarity, brevity, balance, variety and interaction is emphasised.
Digitally transformed courses will be utilized in a blended learning format, where there will be face-to-face touchpoints with the learning community in a physical classroom, during which the components of learning which are best addressed in a face-to-face setting can be worked on. The rest of the learning experience is otherwise conducted in the virtual learning environment, which is itself a rich and varied landscape, held together by a narrative structure and populated with learning activities. The journey is interspersed with bite-sized multimedia objects (such as instructional presentations, recorded interviews, tutorials, explanations and feedback) and opportunities for practice and production (in forms such as interactive polls, discussions, assignments and simulations).
The IE-SMU MBA is a part-time programme which combines face-to-face sessions with interactive online study. This structure is tailored for easy accomodation into the busy schedules of high-performing professionals. The online learning environment provides participants with the opportunity to interact with their instructor through an online synchronous platform at scheduled sessions. Participants are also able to read, reflect and contribute to their online learning community in a flexible manner – from any location and at any time of the day.
Working in teams, participants undertake a 10-month Action Research Project with the aim of devising value creation goals for the companies the teams partner. This experience of project-based learning allows participants to design, test and implement real change, deepening learning through immediate application of new knowledge.
Project teams are guided by their instructors, both through online interactions and during the face-to-face sessions. Throughout the 13-month programme, students interact through the Virtual Campus, an extension of a traditional class into the online environment. The face-to-face components are conducted during the 5 residential periods in Madrid and Singapore.
If you would like to convert part of your course to blended format or would like to explore further options on blending your lessons, please contact us at cte [at] smu.edu.sg.
CTE also organises faculty developmental sessions such as Blended Learning workshops and the Emergency Preparedness for Teaching and Learning (EPTL) pedagogical workshop, which focuses on the use of WebEx, a video-conferencing tool used to conduct synchronous online lessons. Do keep a lookout for them!