Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Transformative potential of Blended learning

Greetings from the ANU where I am in a discussion of "Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education" by D. Randy Garrison and Heather Kanuka (2003). On the other end of a video link the the University of South Australia. What strikes me about this and many other papers on blended and e-learning is that they are really about techniques for education (such as reflection), which do not necessarily require computers.

I was amused by the line "Nor can senior academic officers continue to manage at a distance." . Taken literally, this would suggest that the authors don't think that the Internet can be used for managing education. But perhaps they were using "distance" as a metaphor". There are other vague statements such as "The core issue and argument is such that, when we have solid understandings of the properties of the Internet ...".

In my view the authors have made a mistake in assuming "the Internet" changes education. There were forms of blended e-learning before the Internet and there will be ones after it. Human nature, and therefore the behaviour of the teachers and students, will not change rapidly. The issue is really about a group of people talking together or communicating over a time delayed medium.

Much more useful I have found "Online Learning and Assessment in Higher Education: A Planning Guide" (Robyn Benson and Charlotte Brack, Oxford : Chandos Publishing, 2010). This gives some educational theory, but then provides practical advice for educators.

The purpose of this paper is to provide a discussion of the transformative potential of blended learning in the context of the challenges facing higher education. Based upon a description of blended learning, its potential to support deep and meaningful learning is discussed. From here, a shift to the need to rethink and restructure the learning experience occurs and its transformative potential is analyzed. Finally, administrative and leadership issues are addressed and the outline of an action plan to implement blended learning approaches is presented. The conclusion is that blended learning is consistent with the values of traditional higher education institutions and has the proven potential to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of meaningful learning experiences.

Author Keywords: Blended learning; Leadership; Higher education; Higher-order learning; Communities of inquiry; Transformation; Action plans

Article Outline

1. Introduction
2. Blended learning described
3. Meaningful educational experiences
4. Not more of the same
5. The transformative potential
6. The front end: administration and development
6.1. Policy
6.2. Planning
6.3. Resources
6.4. Scheduling
6.5. Support
7. Organizational and leadership issues
8. Conclusions

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