Blended teaching combines online learning materials and interactions with a place-based classroom.

Blended teaching or learning, as a term, arose at the time when educational systems were navigating entry into the online world. Thus, most early thinking about blended learning was focused on figuring out how to mix or blend learning that happens online with learning that happens on campus.

In this sense, blended learning offered students and lecturers a new kind of flexibility. Learning and teaching, and all the communication between learners and teachers, were no longer constrained to a physical location or dependent on face-to-face contact. In a very short period of time, all courses at UQ had an online presence through Learn.UQ (Blackboard) (learning management system) and the ECP (electronic course profile).

Blended teaching is an instructional approach that uses digital strategies in tandem with best practice in the classroom (Best, 2020). Blended teaching/learning enables options for interaction, communication, space and educational philosophy as shown in the framework below:

Blended teaching framework

Blended course models

Mostly on-campus (traditional) course Fully online course

Weekly content delivery on-campus (lectures, workshops, lectorials, etc.)

Weekly tutorials, pracs, placements on-campus

Formative assessment (in Blackboard or in-class)

Summative assessment (in Blackboard or in-class)

Student communications (in Blackboard or in-class)

Weekly/module content delivered online (asynchronous or synchronous content delivery)

Tutorials, practicals or laboratory sessions online

Formative assessment/activities online

Summative (graded) assessment online

Student discussion forums online

Student communications online

Blended course

Model 1

Weekly content on-campus

Similar content online

Tutorials/pracs on-campus

Weekly tutorials, pracs, placements on-campus

Formative assessment online integrated with content or on-campus during tutorials

Graded assessment (on-campus and/or online)

Model 2

Weekly content online only

On-campus interactive workshops/lectorials/Q&As

Tutorials/pracs on-campus

Weekly tutorials, pracs, placements on-campus

Formative assessment online integrated with content

Graded assessment (on-campus and/or online)

Model 3

Weekly content online only

On-campus interactive workshops/lectorials/Q&As

Tutorials/pracs on-campus with tutorial content online

Formative assessment online integrated with content

Graded assessment (on-campus and/or online)

Model 4

Weekly content online only

Online discussions/review of more difficult concepts

Tutorials/pracs on-campus with tutorial content online

Formative assessment online integrated with content

Graded assessment (on-campus and/or online)

Benefits of blended teaching

Research connecting active learning classrooms with student learning has been documented by Baepler et al. (2016) and shows that students in active learning:

  • outperform their peers in traditional classrooms
  • exceed their own grade expectations as predicted by standardised test scores
  • show significant student learning gains over using a lecture-based approach in the same space.

Active learning approaches are evidenced with 'blended' learning practices that combine in-class activities with the delivery of online resources. It involves integrating and interspersing face-to-face engagement alongside interactive online activities.

A number of systematic analyses and meta-analyses have addressed the effectiveness of blended learning:

  • Paul (2001) concluded that face-to-face with online enhancement was 11% more effective than face-to-face alone (perceptual skills, intellectual skills, motor skills, attitudes). 
  • A 2004 meta-study by Prince found strong support for active, collaborative, cooperative and problem-based learning.
  • Across 52 studies, Zhao et al. (2005) found a 0.49 effect size for online learning mixed with face-to-face instruction (i.e. greater achievement gain for blended learning).
  • Bernard et al. (2014) found that, across 96 studies, blended learning conditions exceeded face-to-face conditions on any measure of academic performance (effect size 0.33). 
  • A well-cited 2014 meta-study by Freeman et al. analysed 225 previous studies of teaching in science, engineering and mathematics. The results showed that, when active learning was employed, average examination scores improved by approximately 6%. Further, students taught by traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students taught through active learning. In light of these results, the authors recommended "abandoning traditional lecturing in favour of active learning".