Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners
Blended learning refers to the use of a combination of traditional face-to-face instruction and online learning. Blended learning can take many forms, including hybrid courses, which combine on-campus and online learning, and flipped classrooms, which use online resources to introduce material and reserve class time for more interactive and hands-on activities. Blended learning can offer the benefits of both face-to-face and online learning, such as the ability to personalise and customise the learning experience, and to provide students with more flexibility and convenience.
Blended learning leads to improved learning outcomes.
Combining online and face-to-face approaches leads to improved learning outcomes compared to either approach alone. Importantly, blended learning seems to be most effective when the online and face-to-face elements are added to rather than substituted for each other.
Interactivity and videos are hallmarks of the online element of effective blended learning.
Blended learning seems to be most effective when the online elements support student-centred learning through interactive means. For example, educators could offer students online quizzes or have students create online concept maps. Also, using videos as online learning tools are particularly useful when added to face-to-face teaching.
How to create an interactive video using H5P:
How to create an interactive presentation using H5P:
Adding online elements to face-to-face instruction allows students the time to reflect on the learning, while also reducing demands on attention and memory.
Cognitive load theory
The online learning element allows students to be flexible in how they engage in learning. They can choose when and how they learn, as well as reattempt and revise learning. This level of autonomy is assumed to reduce the cognitive load of students during online learning, but also when they attend face-to-face classes. That is, students in blended learning environments arrive at face-to-face classes primed with ideas and knowledge important for learning.
It is hypothesised that the online learning elements that comprise blended learning approaches afford reflective knowledge construction. That is, because of the self-paced nature of online learning, students have more time to reflect on their learning and greater opportunity to absorb key information into their existing understandings.
The quantity and quality of research on blended learning give us great confidence in the effect of this approach.
This evidence summary is informed by four meta-analyses. The ones by Means and colleagues (2009; 2013) are impressive. While a risk of bias analysis wasn't conducted, the other GRADE features are addressed well. These meta-analyses also earned points for demonstrating dose-response effects. That is, the more blended learning students are exposed to, the better their academic performances. The Vo et al. (2017) meta-analysis is lacking in aspects of the GRADE criteria (not randomised trials, poor homogeneity, no risk of bias). But the Noetel et al. (2020) paper is high quality, providing us with an overall high level of confidence in the effect of blended learning on student achievement.
Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended learning: a meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College Record, 115(3), 1-47.
Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. U.S. Department of Education.
Noetel, M., Griffith, S., Delaney, O., Sanders, T., Parker, P., del Pozo Cruz, B., & Lonsdale, C. (2020). Are you better on YouTube? A systematic review of the effects of video on learning in higher education.
Vo, H. M., Zhu, C., & Diep, N. A. (2017). The effect of blended learning on student performance at course-level in higher education: a meta-analysis. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 53, 17-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2017.01.002