Introduction

Blended Learning - are you ready?

Blended Learning has been found to be a viable and effective approach to deliver high-quality, up-to-date, on-demand learning solutions in the face of diminishing education budgets in higher education, further education or business education. However, experience has also shown that blended learning solutions often do not live up to the potential of the approach or fail to produce the intended results because administrators, instructors and learners are lacking the relevant technical, methodological or organisational knowledge and experience.

In the Blended Learning Readiness (BLR) model, we try to identify challenges and solutions for Blended Learning. During the development of the BLR framework, we interviewed stakeholders from different institutions and from different levels. The results are the design patterns which you find in this BLR wiki. This wiki was created for ensuring the cycle of defining and redefining the patterns (and their challenges, contexts and solutions).

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Design patterns ...

are a way of documenting proven solutions to reoccurring problems. Expert knowledge is externalized by capturing core elements of the problem and the solution, enriched with the description of context factors and specific requirements. A pattern is more than rules, or an algorithm, or heuristics (Alexander 1979). When a highly skilled person confronts an issue within his or her domain, he or she is able to quickly assess the situation: what is happening, what skills are needed, how is this similar to other situations, what needs to be done. The job of documenting and transferring expertise or skills is not just to describe step-by-step procedures, although that is part of the job, it is also to place the procedures in the same context that the expert uses. A pattern thus puts the rules in context, so that knowledge or skills can be more effectively transferred.

Challenges - a general description

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At the institutional/administrative level ...

Administrators/managers may fail to realize the extent to which planning, implementing, evaluating, and maintaining blended learning solutions requires enforcing and supporting in-depth cultural and organisational change. To achieve sustainable high-quality learning outcomes, it is not enough to set up technical structures and educate trainers. Administrators/managers have to actively engage in change and acceptance management. A successful blended learning strategy needs to take contextual factors such as the prevailing learning culture into account and address and deal with possible resistance to change on the part of all stakeholders.

At the instructional level ...

Educators and trainers coming from a traditional teaching background often find it difficult to integrate ICT and expand their methodological repertoire to meaningfully combine learning activities during face-to-face, live e-learning, and self-paced learning. They tend to resist changing established and proven instructional patterns unless they have experienced the possibilities of alternative methodologies for themselves. Often, the chosen "blend" merely consists of alternating traditional e-learning and instructor-led classroom components and does not accommodate the special needs of new forms of learning, e.g. self-organisation and online collaboration. The choice of tools and methods is frequently driven by technological constraints rather than pedagogical requirements and learning activities are not integrated.

At the learner level ...

It has been shown that end users are not always equipped to handle the technical, psychological and organisational challenges of blended learning approaches. Learners, mainly accustomed to instructor-centred teaching methods in the classroom, do not acquire the necessary skills for self-organised, collaborative learning, which they need for distance learning.