In SMU, Blended learning is defined as 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 in bringing about active learning. 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 Moskal, 2004).
Benefits of Blended Learning
The pandemic has disrupted the way we perceive work, office space and interaction with others. By being familiar and adept at learning as well as communicating with others in blended learning environments in school, students will be able to acquire and apply these necessary skills required to assimilate into the new requirements of working life.
Improving Student Learning Outcomes
- Research studies have found that Blended Learning approaches help students:
- develop self-directed learning strategies as they go through course materials at their own pace
- review and reflect
- be better prepared for class to achieve intended learning outcomes.
E.g. A course is recommended to have between one-third and one half of its time online (with a focus on interactions), with students performing significantly better than students in other course designs that have less time online (Owston & York, 2018).
More flexibility for learners
The online components of blended learning would allow learners to have better control over:
|Space||Learning is not restricted to the seminar rooms;|
|Time||Learning is not restricted to formal contact hours;|
Learning is not restricted to the pace set by instructors.
Students have the flexibility of setting a schedule to accommodate their needs.
|Path||Learning may not restricted to the sequence of learning and content designed by instructors|
Wider reach for Instructors and Students
- Students residing outside Singapore can participate in courses. Online synchronous modalities more easily facilitates exchanges with international and local guest speakers. Students can collaborate with project sponsors and overseas group mates to leverage on their different perspectives and viewpoints.
- Reduced travel time: For both learners and instructors, there is potential time-savings from not having to move from home/workplace to campus or from classroom to classroom within campus.
In addition, instructors would be able to deliver portions of the course content using recorded videos. This allows instructors to invest initial time and effort to create videos which can be used across sections over multiple terms. By digitising the expertise of several instructors or subject-matter experts, more students can be reached with high-quality content in a shorter development time, bringing about greater efficiency. The time saved can be used for instructional goals such as interactions, feedback for students or class preparation.
Blended Learning as an institution-wide pedagogical approach
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about disruption in the higher education space, it has also accelerated the opportunities for SMU to pivot quickly from an in-class environment to an online learning environment. To build upon the progress and momentum gained, one of the key initiatives of the Digital Learning Strategy (DLS), is the implementation of an institutional-wide Blended Learning (BL) approach to allow instructors to replicate SMU’s distinctive interactive pedagogy effectively through a blend of both online and physical modes of delivery and bring about the unique value propositions afforded by each.
By adopting Blended Learning as an institution‐wide approach, SMU leverages the strengths of both online and face‐to‐face activities to enhance our distinctive interactive pedagogy as well as complement our unique value proposition of interactive small class teaching. This approach also serves to strengthen the three pedagogical pillars – personalised learning (e.g. developing students’ self‐directed learning strategies as they set their own pace of learning, review and reflect on digital course material); collaborative and interactive learning (e.g. developing students’ facilitation and communication skills through online team‐based activities and networking); and experiential learning (e.g. developing students’ project and time management skills) by enabling the University to be purposeful and strategic in identifying appropriate Technology‐enhanced Learning (TEL) pedagogical approaches for incorporation in our curriculum.
The blended learning approach is not simply about replacing face-to-face contact time with technology-enhanced learning. Instead, instructors will reconceptualise and reorganise the teaching and learning dynamic (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) in order to facilitate a community of inquiry (Garrison & Anderson, 2003). Based on our three pedagogical pillars, the University will strengthen and be purposeful and strategic in identifying appropriate TEL pedagogical approaches for incorporation in our curriculum.
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