Online and blended learning

You will find resources in this section to help plan for different types of online learning (e.g., tools and strategies) and links to external web sites with relevant information.

Before moving forward with e-learning, we strongly recommend that you consult an Instructional Designer. They are professionals with expertise in the design and delivery of teaching and learning in the online environment:

  • Amy Goruk – Instructional Designer, ext. 1075

Types of online learning

Blended online and face-to-face courses

The term “blended learning” suggests that some class time and activities take place in the classroom and some will be online. For example, a course where students were previously in class for three hours per week would be in class for one hour and spend two hours per week in online activities in a blended course.


Online and Classroom Blended Learning VEN DiagramIdeally, the use of Blackboard can help in the organization and execution of learning tasks.

These include reading, research, writing, sharing and group work.

The following partial list illustrates various strategies that can be implemented:

  • Online assessment: M0ve tests, quizzes and practice tests into the Blackboard testing engine. Tests are delivered and marked automatically.
  • Set up “communities of practice” using Blackboard discussion forums and group work areas for smaller teams. Many instructors break up large classes into small teams and assign learning tasks to the teams. The teams eventually use Blackboard to report back to the class as a whole about their results.
  • Put all your reference materials in Blackboard.
  • Place pre-class work online (learning activities students must complete prior to attending face-to-face classroom activities).
  • Set up coaching forums to help cover complex or tough subject areas.
  • Deliver learning-aids or lab support materials online (e.g., PowerPoint shows, handouts).
  • Provide access to “experts” via the web.
  • Use email effectively with the “send email” tool. Blanket the entire class with general announcement or select specific groups/teams or individuals.
  • Create folders for each module: Insert resources, practice tests, sample assignments, readings, etc. – label clearly.

Instructional design for online learning

Instructional design is a process that informs and guides the development of a lesson, activity or course. The CTLAE employs two qualified Instructional Designers who support teachers and programs from all campuses. The links below provide access to the basic and most important aspects of the instructional design process:

  • How to, plan, construct, analyze, evaluate and manage the instructional process effectively to ensure competent performance from students;
  • How to identify problems, discover learner characteristics, define objectives, develop methods and evaluate students and objectives used to instruct them; and,
  • Select applicable resources in an appropriate medium to support learning activities.

CTLAE workshop resources – online/blended

  • Visual Overviews for Planning and Facilitating Online Courses (developed by Annique Boelryk): This PDF file contains diagrams designed to facilitate discussions about instructional design for online course development.
  • Online Course Development: A Process Outline (developed by Annique Boelryk and Bob Marchessault): This PDF file outlines recommended elements for the selection and development of an online course. It discusses criteria for selecting courses, recommends design outcomes and describes faculty competencies that are needed for success in both the development and delivery of an online course.
  • Review Guide for Online Courses (developed by Annique Boelryk and Jason Hunter): This comprehensive course review guide outlines objectives and indicators for seven aspects of an online course including: course organization, learner support, instructional design, information design, feedback and assessment, communication and interaction, and resources.

Books available in the CTLAE – online/blended

  • Kemp, J, Morrison, G, & Ross, S (1994). Designing Effective Instruction. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada.
  • Reiser, R, & Dick, W (1996). Instructional Planning: A Guide for Teachers. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Shea-Schultz, H, & Fogarty, J (2002). Online Learning Today: Strategies that Work. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
  • Salmon, G (2002). E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
  • Burdman, Jessica (1999). Collaborative Web Development: Strategies and Best Practices for Web Teams. Reading, MA: Addison – Wesley
  • Boettcher, J, & Conrad, R (2004). Faculty Guide for Moving Teaching and Learning to the Web. Phoenix, AZ: League for Innovation in the Community College.
  • Collison, G, Elbaum, B, Haavind, S, & Tinker, R (2000). Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

External web resources – online/blended

Blended learning

Blended courses (also known as hybrid or mixed-mode courses) are classes where  a portion of the traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by web-based online learning.

How much face-to-face instruction must be replaced by online coursework? This question varies greatly by class, discipline and learning objectives.

The Sloan Consortium (a professional organization dedicated to postsecondary online learning) defines blended learning as a course where 30 to 70 per cent of the instruction is delivered online. While this is a useful guideline, it may not be sufficient to cover every blended learning configuration.

The  EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative provides many useful resources related blended learning, including a  report on a national focus session and a  framework for faculty workshops. The  National Center for Academic Transformation has done a significant amount of work related to course redesign, including the innovative use of technology for blended learning.

The addition of technology to any academic program must be accompanied by fundamental process re-design. With funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenges program, the Blended Learning Toolkit website has been designed to provide an infrastructure for participating faculty and institutions that includes innovative technology, curricular reinvention, participant training, and ongoing assessment support, all of which are necessary for meaningful, sustainable, disruptive transformation.

Benefits of blended learning

Blended courses have proven to be among the most popular choices for students at institutions where they are offered. At first glance, this popularity seems intuitive because blended courses allow students and faculty to take advantage of much of the flexibility and convenience of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience.

Although fully online learning has become well-established in higher education, many institutions appear to be struggling with conceptualizing and implementing blended learning. Yet, where blended courses have succeeded, they have most often done so when strategically aligned with an institution’s mission and goals. The development and delivery of blended courses can be used to address a variety of institutional, faculty and student needs.

  • For colleges, blended courses can be part of a strategy to compensate for limited classroom space, as well as a way to think differently about encouraging faculty collaboration.
  • For faculty, blended courses can be a method to infuse new engagement opportunities into established courses or, for some, provide a transitional opportunity between fully face-to-face and fully online instruction.
  • For students, blended courses offer the convenience of online learning combined with the social and instructional interactions that may not lend themselves to online delivery (e.g., lab sections or proctored assessments).

Blended learning goals and outcomes

  • To create and sustain a community of inquiry in which learners are fully engaged and responsible.
  • To actively engage students in their learning, in the process of inquiry, to achieve the higher order learning outcomes.
  • To significantly enhance the learning experience.
  • To develop the student’s ability to become a self-directed learner and learn how to learn; to develop metacognitive awareness of the inquiry process.

Blended learning considerations

  1. Why are you considering delivering your course in a blended model?
  2. What do you hope to accomplish by redesigning or designing this course to be delivered in a blended model?
  3. List your primary goals. What do you want students to take away from this course? What will they learn and remember five years from now?
  4. If you are redesigning, what do you hope to preserve from your existing course? Does the purpose and outcome of those ideas, materials and evaluation still fit with this framework and mode of delivery?
  5. Describe your vision for this course in an inquiry and collaborative format. Does it fit? How will assessment and evaluation be consonant with the inquiry aspect?
  6. How will this model of delivery affect your teaching? Does it fit with your own pedagogical philosophy and values?
  7. How will this model of delivery affect student learning?
  8. What will students require from a technical aspect to take this course?
  9. What are the experiences of the student population with this mode or online delivery of learning?
  10. What plans do you have to support students from a technical and learning strategies aspect?
  11. What resources will be required and what is available at your institution? Are you familiar with these?
  12. Do the course hours, number of students in a class fit with this model or will the time and sectioning need to be reviewed? Is there support for this?
  13. Develop a plan for design/redesign and visit your plan and goals often. Consider the need for macro approval and timelines.
  14. What are your experiences and the experiences of other faculty that will be teaching this course in the delivery of online/blended learning?
  15. What kind of assessments and evaluation of your redesign/design are you planning? What will you do to ensure continuous improvement?

Planning for online learning

Key shifts in thinking for online learning

When planning for teaching online there are several key shifts in thinking to transform a traditional classroom based course for online delivery. The need to design and develop a course that is “learning-centred,” where the focus is on the learning that needs to take place, is paramount. In an online learning environment a teacher does not have visual cues, relationships or feedback from your students. Below is more information on the “learning-centered” approach.

Weimer (2002) described five learner-centred practice areas that need to change to achieve learner-centered teaching: the function of content, the role of the instructor, the responsibility for learning, the processes and purposes of assessment, and the balance of power.

The 4 parts of Learning

  • The function of content– from knowledge transmission to knowledge construction
  • The role of the teacher– from instruction to student learning
  • The responsibility for learning – from one-sided to shared
  • The processes and purposes of evaluation– from fragmented to integrated

For more information on learning-centered approaches please visit the following sites and articles:

Means to Evaluate your Online Course
  •  Online course development: A process outline: This PDF file outlines recommended elements for the selection and development of an online course. It discusses criteria for selecting courses, recommends design outcomes, and describes faculty competencies that are needed for success in both the development and delivery of an online course.
  • Review guide for online courses: This comprehensive course review guide outlines objectives and indicators for seven aspects of an online course including: course organization, learner support, instructional design, information design, feedback and assessment, communication and interaction, and resources.
  • Rubric for online instruction: This rubric offers a framework for addressing the question “What should a quality online course look like?” This rubric can be used as a course “self-evaluation” tool; advising instructors how to revise an existing course to the Rubric for Online Instruction, or as a way to design a new course for the online environment, following the rubric as a road map.
Needs of the Online Learner

What support will learners require? Learners can experience difficulty in four common problem areas.

List of common Online Training Problems

Tools for online learning

Online discussions:

Journals: Online journals allow students to make journal entries over time and allow teachers to read these and comment (however, other students cannot by default see individual journal entries).

Blogs: Blogs are similar to journals, except that the entries can be viewed by the entire class whose members can leave comments.

Groups:  How to Create Groups a video from Blackboard


Assignment Areas:

Turnitin Assignments:

Tests: Blackboard has a built-in test creation and deployment engine (multiple choice, short answer, essay, fill in the blank, true/false, etc). The tool not only allows teachers to prepare tests, but can grade them and enter the scores in the Blackboard Grade Center. A similar tool allows teachers to create and deploy online surveys. The tool tabulates the results and presents the data in various numeric and visual formats.

Grade Center: Teachers can distribute marks and grades as well as critiques, feedback and comments using the Blackboard Grade Center. This tool has been improved and expanded in the latest version of Blackboard. Input, management, calculation and weighting are all supported. Assignments can be retrieved in the Grade Center right in the columns where specific grades are entered.

Methods and Tools Outside of Blackboard
  • Use of social media
  • Online portfolios
  • Online games
  • Web-enabled simulations: Exploring the Learning Process explores whether web-enabled simulations can provide new ways of learning that are fundamentally unlike traditional methods.
    Games Find Home in the Classroom
  • MediaRich websites
  • Web quests: Using an inquiry-oriented activity is the premise behind a WebQuest. This game-like activity has learners seeking most or all of the information required from the Web. A well designed WebQuest uses learners’ time well by having them focus on doing something with information rather than simply finding it.
    Some Thoughts About WebQuests

CTLAE resources for online learning

In the CTLAE Library (Room M350)
  • Bender, T. (2003) Discussion Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning: Theory, Practice and Assessment. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
  • Shea-Schultz, H., & Fogarty, J. (2002) Online Learning Today: Strategies that Work.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Bonk, C.J. & Zhang, K. (2008) Empowering Online Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating Learning Online: Effective Strategies for Moderators. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.
  • Conrad, R.M. & Donaldson, J. (2004). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Draves, W.A. (2007). Advanced Teaching Online, Third Edition. River Falls, WI: LERN Books.
  • Elbaum, B., McIntyre, C. & Smith, A. (2002). Essential Elements: Prepare, Design, and Teach Your Online Course. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.
  • Hanna, D.E., Glowackin-Dudka, M., et. al. (2000). 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Online Groups. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.
  • Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Third Edition. USA: Corwin.
  • Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning. Sterling, VA: Kogan Page Limited.
  • Waterhouse, S. (2005). The Power of eLearning: The Essential Guide for Teaching in the Digital Age.  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.
Workshops offered by CTLAE for Online Learning
  • Online Teaching Skills Series
  • Online Assignment Design
  • Online Discussions
  • Good Practices in Online Learning
  • Blackboard Orientation
  • Blackboard Grade Center
  • Online Testing with Blackboard