A Programmatic Approach to Blended Learning

Norm Vaughan
Mount Royal University, Canada

David Cloutier
Mount Royal University, Canada


The idea of blending different learning experiences has been in existence since humans started thinking about teaching (Williams, 2003). The growing infusion of web-based technologies into the learning and teaching process brings this term into current consideration (Allen & Seaman, 2016). These technologies have created new opportunities for students to interact with their peers, teachers, and content. Blended learning is often defined as the combination of face-to-face and online learning (Sharpe et al., 2006). Ron Bleed, the former Vice Chancellor of Information Technologies at Maricopa College, argues that this is not a sufficient definition for blended learning as it simply implies “bolting” technology onto a traditional course, using technology as an add-on to teach a difficult concept, or adding supplemental information. He suggests that blended learning should be viewed as an opportunity to redesign how courses are developed, scheduled, and delivered through a combination of physical and virtual instruction: “bricks and clicks” (Bleed, 2001). Joining the best features of in-class teaching with the best features of online learning that promote active, self-directed learning opportunities with added flexibility should be the goal of this redesigned approach (Littlejohn & Pegler, 2007). Garrison and Vaughan (2008) echo this sentiment when they state that “blended learning is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and technologies” (p.148). A survey of e-learning activity by Arabasz, Boggs, and Baker (2003) found that 80 percent of all higher education institutions and 93 percent of doctoral institutions offer hybrid or blended learning courses. Most of the recent definitions for blended courses indicate that this approach to learning offers potential for improving how we deal with content, social interaction, reflection, higher order thinking and problem solving, collaborative learning, and more authentic assessment in higher education potentially leading to a greater sense of student engagement (Norberg, Dziuban, & Moskal, 2011). Dziuban and Moskal (2013) further suggest that “blended learning has become an evolving, responsive, and dynamic process that in many respects is organic, defying all attempts at universal definition” (p.16). In this research study, the authors define blended learning as the intentional integration of theory into practice of classroom and field- based learning experiences through the use of digital technologies (Figure 1).

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