Unit Two: Designing for Blended Learning

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Unit Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand blended learning as an instructional delivery mode
  • Identify the benefits of blended learning and how this approach can enrich the college’s regional center modes of study
  • Identify and use basic principles of instructional design as they relate to learning objectives and assessment.

As We Begin This Unit

  • The ideas in this unit are intended to guide your thinking in considering the possibilities for developing a blended learning activity.
  • You may not have answers to all of the questions posed in this unit, although we suggest that you to keep track of your ideas and further questions as they arise
  • Also remember that you will be working with a faculty instructional technologist who will be able to answer your questions and work with you to accomplish your blending project.

What is Blended Learning?

According to the Sloan Consortium, blended learning (also known as hybrid or mixed-mode instruction) combines online and face-to-face time in an optimal way to improve student learning outcomes. It is an approach that brings together the best of both these approaches.

What are the benefits of Blended Learning?

  • The thoughtful integration of blended learning makes possible:
  • The incorporation of new types of collaborative and independent learning activities
  • A broader variety of online and in-class teaching strategies
  • The chance for students to learn new technologies while they earn instructional content
  • Student engagement and collaboration opportunities
  • Potential to increase and extend instructor-student and student-student connectivity
  • Integration of out-of-class with in-class activities allows more effective use of traditional class time
  • Creating more structure for out-of-class time

Learning Objectives

Let’s begin by looking at one of your current learning contract. Select a learning contract that is a good candidate for blending. Examine your contract’s learning objectives. Are they written such that they provide a clear statement of what students will need to be able to do when they have completed the study? If your contract is not segmented by topic or unit, you will need to give some thought to this and align your objectives with them. Your learning objectives will facilitate your efforts to think about the addition or revision of existing learning activities, and guide the later selection of technologies.

To review writing learning objectives:

  • Stony Brook University, SUNY. Center for Teaching Learning + Technology. Writing Learning Objectives. Web site. http://bit.ly/sSkuko


Now is also a good time to consider how you will assess whether your students met your learning objectives. For assessment to be effective and meaningful in checking depth of student learning and understanding, it’s best that it be embedded and aligned with course objectives. Palloff and Pratt (2005, p. 42) suggest the following principles to guide assessment of online learning activities:

  • Use learner-centered assessments that include self-assessment.
  • Include grading rubrics to evaluate individual and group contributions
  • Provide collaborative forms of assessment by having students share and evaluate each others’ work
  • Provide explicit guidelines for delivering effective feedback and modeling your expectations.

Another important consideration is how you you will use formative and summative assessment in your learning contract. Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence provides a good description of the differences between the two.

Formative assessment. The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. Specifically formative assessments can help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work or aid faculty in recognizing where students are struggling and address problems immediately. Some typical examples of formative assessments might include:

  • Drawing a concept map to represent their understanding of a topic
  • Submitting one or two sentences identifying the main points of a reading
  • Participating in peer assessment prior to the submission of a final project

Summative assessment. The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • Midterm exam
  • Final project
  • Rresearch paper

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when used by faculty use to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

Group Discussion

Review the information presented in this section and the resources presented below. Effective blended learning calls for developing student-centered forms of assessment and one approach is the use of authentic assessment. How might you envision incorporationg authentic assessment as part of your revised learning contract? What changes will you need to make? What supports will you have to provide your students?

  • Making the Grade: (2008). The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning. Educause Learning Initiative. PDF. http://bit.ly/bqAlHa

Additional Resources:

  • Eberle Center for Teaching Excellence. Carnegie Mellon University. Whys and Hows of Assessment. Web site. http://bit.ly/ruEgRH
  • Palloff & Pratt. (2005). Chapter 4. Assessment and Evaluation of Collaborative Work. p. 41-54.

Connect to Group Discussion Area: Talk: Unit Two: What is Blended Learning?


Looking back over this unit's readings and resources, and what you have learned from this group discussion, write a 300-500 word reflection in which you begin to describe your thinking as it relates to revising your learning contract to include an online learning activity. How will your learning objectives change? What forms of assessment are you considering? How will these elements assist you in shaping a new learning activity that will incorporate collaboration and building community? How will this new activity integrate the benefits of blended learning into your learning contract?

Each participant will post a reflection to share with our community at Unit Two Reflections.