Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Blended Learning the Future of Higher Education?

Mike KeppellProfessor Mike Keppell afternoon workshop at ANU was "Blended Learning: The Future of Higher Education". The material was mostly familar to me from having prepared blended learning courses. Some tricky issues include the expectations of the students and staff: "am I getting my money's worth", "is this a real course?", "all the answers are on the web".

Having used blended learning some of the issues raised in the workshop seemed to be things that had been settled. As an example one surprising issue was if on-campus students should have access to the materials provided for distance education students. To me it seemed obvious you would provide the materials developed for distance education to the local students. Distance education materials are expensive to develop and will likely be of higher quality than the usual ad-hoc lecture notes. However, there may be an equity issue in that the local students will then have an advantage. This seemed to me a silly argument, but still one current at some places.

Another issue was sufficient access to online material. If video is used, then a high speed internet connection is needed. To me this seemed a non-issue. For disabled access the material will need to be provided in different formats and as a by-product this will include low bandwidth access. In addition the student should be informed what Internet access they need before the enrol.

Mike also mentioned affordances that is making tools obvious as to its use. There are new designs of teaching spaces to allow for lectures and discussion. I have looked at this extensively with flexible learning centres.

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