Flexible or blended learning represents a course delivery continuum which ranges from technology-enhanced face-to-face delivery to fully online delivery as indicated in the diagram below. The focus of flexible learning is on those areas shown in blue.
In technology-enhanced learning, the traditional lecture-based course structure is maintained, and technology is used to enrich the in-class learning experience. The use of clickers, video conferencing, simulations, and lecture recording are examples of this model.
Blended learning “is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and techniques” (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). Blended learning involves “rethinking and redesigning the teaching and learning relationship” (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004), to both reposition how learners engage with materials and content in the course, but also how they interact with their peers and their instructors. Blended learning can be be further divided into categories that reflect the impact on how a course is organized in terms of meeting times or the types of activities that take place, or both.
Blended Active Learning
Sometimes referred to as a “flipped classroom” or an “inverted classroom,” blended active learning involves intentionally moving didactic components out of the classroom in order to increase opportunities for interaction amongst students and between students and instructors. A goal here is to spend less time on content and its acquisition within the classroom, and more time on enhancing skills, abilities, and attitudes that support learning outcomes. Technology can play an important role in facilitating this shift: before coming to class, students can view short videos or other resources, or answer pre-class quizzes to ensure content mastery. During class, instructors can get real-time feedback from the online components so as to inform class based activities, often including “clicker” questions, team-based learning, and other activities (which typically involve application rather than the acquisition of knowledge). Classroom time can be focused on activities that foster skills, promote higher order learning, creativity, and problem solving by students, individually and in collaborative groups or teams.
Blended Learning – Reduced Class Time
As above, this mode of blended learning is a thoughtful combination of those activities which are best done in person with those best done online. However, in contrast to the blended active learning approach, this model involves an intentional reduction in the time or frequency that students spend in a physical classroom. The decision to reduce class time might be influenced by goals related to increasing flexibility in the scheduling of courses, providing greater access to students in multiple locations, or providing students with choices in terms of the mode of delivery that best suits their learning needs.
Blended Learning — Compressed Classroom Experience
In this model, the time in the classroom is concentrated into intensive sessions over a short period of time, such as weekends or at a frequency that meets the needs of students who want more flexibility in when they come to campus. A significant portion of course content and learning activities are provided in an online environment, and students come together to collaborate or interact at meaningful times during the course.
Online or distance learning courses are designed to allow all teaching and learning interactions to take place online without the need for face-to-face meetings. Online courses can support a diverse range of pedagogical approaches including those involving a high level of peer or group collaboration. Online courses can also be designed to support synchronous or asynchronous activities, or with paced cohort or guided independent study approaches, as best suits a particular learning and disciplinary context.
Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended Learning: Uncovering its Transformative Potential in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105. http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/science/article/pii/S1096751604000156
Tucker, R. & Morris, G. (2012). By design: negotiating flexible learning in the built environment discipline. Research in Learning Technology, 20: 14404.