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    Hi all.   I am six months away from completing an MA in Learning and Technology through RRU (not that I’m counting down or anything).  My research project is on blended learning and I’m using the CoI as a theoretical framework – so it’s great to be here.  I am also using the newly published text ‘Teaching in Blended Learning Environments’ for quite a bit of my work so thanks to the authors :) . My teaching environment is largely traditional (I teach cardiac sonography at BCIT – mostly in the lab setting and I team-teach with another instructor who delivers everything via lecture).

    Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online learning opportunities “with the aim of each complimenting each other” (Poon, 2013, para. 1).  I’ve quoted Poon here although I’ve come across many authors who have described blended learning in this way. 

    In terms of the opportunities that blended learning offers, I believe that blended learning provides the opportunity for higher-order thinking and I say this based on my limited experience teaching in the blended learning environment.  Recently, I transitioned a three hour lecture into a blended module.  I asked the students to read the online material (supplemented with videos/images etc..- the stuff I never had time to show in class), and develop five multiple choice questions based on the new information. (There was a short section in the module on how to develop a good multiple choice question. In order to become a registered sonographer, our students write several multiple choice exams). For the one hour face-to-face session, I reviewed the material/answered questions for half of the time and for the other half, the students worked in teams and vetted each others’ questions to come up with the three ‘best’ questions from each team (there’s something to be said about student developed content).  Once the questions were chosen, I added them to the LMS as a review tool.  This exercise allowed me to evaluate their depth of knowledge and when compared to previous years was significantly higher – even their verbal questions in class lead me to believe that they just seemed to ‘get it.’  And finally, the verbal feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive – the students appreciated the time away from campus and the flexibility to learn at their convenience.
    The biggest challenge that I see is faculty support in adopting blended learning.  According to the literature, this requires a complete redevelopment/redesign of a course and I could not agree more.  Until educational institutions understand this, I don’t see quality blended learning going very far.  I work with instructors who add a bit of technology and call their course blended but they fail to examine or understand the pedagogy of a blended learning environment.
    I’m interested in learning more about blended learning in the context of vocational education.  I think that there is HUGE opportunity for vocational institutions to take this and run with it.  Transition the didactic content to online and have the students on-campus for the hands on practical portion.  But with this vision comes the necessity for robust faculty development opportunities.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.