Tips on Blended Learning for Designers and Instructors

The following tips and snippets are inspired by a collection of articles that provide instructors/designers with concepts and components for modifying a f2f course into a blended course that includes some online instruction. The information herein captures best practices as set forth by industry experts.

Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-Based Guide

(Vai/Sosulski 2011)
Tip: Consider these phases during pre-planningThese elements determine how the elements of the class are structured. Having the information to provide is important, but having these elements implemented appropriately 
1. Graphic Design – easy to read, clean and lean design, no clutter or crowding
2. Images, Audio, Video – clarifies understanding, balance of visual and text elements
3. Language and Writing Style – use clear and concise wording, inviting and conversational tones
4. Learning Resources – textbooks, articles, references, websites, blogs, etc.
5. Chapter Structure – introduction and summary, links for further exploration and discovery
6. Real World Examples – Screenshots, templates, case study,

UX Design: Humanizing Interaction
Tip: Overview User Experience:breakdown how users interact with the online portions of a course. Consider these elements to enhance engagement, interaction and learning transfer. 
Tip: Overview of the Design Context:breakdown all the components in the design context. Use this throughout the design process. It seperates the design context into four basic zones. Things and people need to be considered, this graphic keeps everything in range and is a great tool for envisioning the elements of your blended course.  

E-learning methodologies: A guide for designing and developing e-learning courses

Beatrice Ghirardini, Instructional Designer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
Tip: Use during pre planning to determine program flow model: The set up of how the class is actually blended is paramount. How much will be done online, how much is done in class? How will the two phases compliment each other and what are the learning benefits?

The Basics of Blended Instruction

Catlin R. Tucker
Tip: Accept the changes trainer’s role from f2f to blended learning format: Don’t overthink the use of technology and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Use the feedback that you are getting from your class guide any tweaks that you need to make in an activity. Let the student’s teach you how to teach them.  Students want a choice in how they learn. Collaboration through games, case study, and field work is a good way to give students control in a blended setting.   
Avoid becoming overwhelmed with web tools– find one piece of technology that will complement your class, and start with that.
Be flexible – Ask for student feedback, learn from mistakes, keep communication constant.
Make technology valuable – Use technology to replace and improve what you already do.
Use tools for discussions and investigations and projects (individual and groups)
Utilize conversation starters – Hot topics and current issues help to enhance discussions and can lead to the formation of hypothesis for collaboration or projects.
Empower Students – Giving students control over the learning process requires that they know how to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems in groups, pairs, and individually.
Provide students authentic learning experiences – Deeper learning requires that the learning design take into consideration the learner’s context of practice, ways of learning, as well as experience in the world.

Designing Deeper Learning Experiences for Online Instruction

Betul C. Czerkawski
University of Arizona-South Campus
Tip: Use learning strategies for Deep Learning–  Always consider the culture of your participants. Think beyond the demographic and deeper into the values that come from their experience. Students need to use their own experience to think declaratively. Blended learning is an opportunity to explore deeper into subject matter in order to understand function and purpose.

Blended learning approaches enhance student academic performance

Neil P Morris
Tip: Enhance original training: Multimedia presentations should be used by the students for lectures, discussions, Q & A, and feedback. Students should be given the opportunity to give candid expressions during class or record it live and post it online. During f2f class using online interactive survey tools for surveys is effective and appropriate. (Makes for awesome gameshow style competition) 
Use of video resources to enhance learning opportunities – provide students with short videoed lectures with associated presentational materials, narration and self-assessment quizzes with instant feedback, in addition to the face-to-face teaching.
Revisit lectures that may have been missed, or not fully understood, allows for deeper understanding and a more flexible approach to learning
Use mobile assessment to enhance learning opportunities – A recent study by Morris (2010) highlights one way that mobile assessment can be useful to improve the learning experience and educational outcome for students who make use of mobile blended learning resources
Increasing interactivity in teaching sessions – eVoting handsets, or student response systems

Switching to blended learning: The impact on students’ academic performance

Zhigang Li, Ming-Hsiu Tsai, Jinyuan Tao, Chris Lorentz

Tip: Create a culture of accountability – conduct frequent and brief checks for understanding. Blended learning courses are great for addressing complications, concerns, and other nuances. Encourage students to be prepared each week by becoming acquainted with course material 
Design a variety of interactive activities to accompany pre-recorded lectures and reading assignments such as drag-and-drop, ordering, matching, and short quizzes.  
Small quiz at the start of online class to check students understanding of pre-recorded lectures.

Taking the “Distance” out of Distance Education: A Humorous Approach to Online Learning

Donna Gayle Anderson Instructor, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Tip: Encourage Online Communication – Have some fun with learning! Students should enjoy the learning process. Being lighthearted and having a jovial personality can help ease the natural tension that exist between students and teachers. Also, sharing good news, sharing in student celebrations, and or even a contest can motivate, encourage, and inspire. 
Use Humor – The positive correlation between humor incorporated in online class sections and student participation suggests that humor contributes to motivating more students to engage more in online discussion. This finding supports Shatz & LoSchiavo’s (2006) and Goldman’s (2001) research where students appeared to be more fully engaged in humorous online classes.
This material is from various publications so that instructors and designers access the major takeaways for the most important criteria when designing blended learning courses.  This guide is an overview of the most critical elements that must be considered when designing a blended learning course. This guide is not exhaustive, but does provide a useful tips for a designer/instructor to visualize and produce learning that enhances the levels of engagement and interaction and improves the overall quality of learning during blended learning.  
Anderson, D. (2011). Taking the “Distance” out of Distance Education: A Humorous Approach to Online Learning . MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching,7(1), 74-81. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from
Czerkawski, B. (20). Designing Deeper Learning Experiences for Online Instruction . Journal of Interactive Online Learning,1(2), 29-40. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from
Ghirardini, B. (2011). E-learning methodologies: A guide for designing and developing e-learning courses (Rep.). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Li, Z., Tsai, M., Tao, J., & Lorentz, C. (2014). Switching to blended learning: The impact on students’ academic performance. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice,4(3). doi:10.5430/jnep.v4n3p245
Morris, N. (n.d.). Blended learning approaches enhance student academic performance. Institute of Membrane and Systems Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. M. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Charlotte, NC: IAP – Information Age Publishing.
The Basics of Blended Instruction. (2013). ACSD,70(6). Retrieved April 20, 2017, from
UX Design Defined. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2017, from
Vai, M., & Sosulski, K. (2016). Essentials of online course design: a standards-based guide. New York: Routledge.