Dziuban, Hartman, and Moskal (2004, p.3) describe blended learning as a “pedagogical approach that combines the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the technologically enhanced active learning possibilities of the online environment.” The opportunity to tap into a larger range of strategies and solve pedagogical problems attracts faculty to blended courses.

Mary, a Social Work faculty member at the University of Central Florida (UCF), voiced the following difference between her traditional and blended students:

Students in my traditional courses come to class like baby birds with their mouths open for food. In my blended course, students come in prepared and actively contribute to the class.

Enhanced student contributions such as those reported by Mary are similar to reports from other faculty teaching blended courses. Faculty members report improved outcomes such as students:

  • Arrive in class better prepared (Bauer, 2001; Cameron, 2003),
  • Write more effective and longer papers (Benbunan-Fich & Hiltz, 1999; Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; Murphy, 2002-2003; Spilka, 2002),
  • Earn higher scores on exams (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; O’Toole & Absalom, 2003),
  • Create higher quality projects (Benbunan-Fich & Hiltz, 1999; Cameron, 2003; Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; McCray, 2000),
  • Engage in deeper and more meaningful discussions of course content (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; King, 2002; McCray, 2000; Murphy, 2002-2003), and
  • Demonstrate a better understanding and deeper exploration of concepts (Bauer, 2001; Cameron, 2003)
  • Succeed at an equal or higher rate than students in traditional courses (Dziuban, Hartman, Moskal, Sorg, & Truman, 2004; Dzuiban, Hartman, Juge, Moskal, & Sorg, 2005; Dziuban, Hartman, & Moskal, 2004).

However, a well-designed blended course is not as simple as dividing your course into face-to-face and online components. Here are some principles to guide the development of your blended course:

Focus on Outcomes

According to Sands (2002), the “basic precept of course-planning [is]: What do [you] want students to be able to do at the end of the semester?” In other words, course goals and objectives should guide the design of your course rather than technology (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). Sands’ first principle for developing a blended course is to “work backward from the final course goal…to avoid a counterproductive focus on technology.”


Successful blended courses have higher rates of student-to-student and instructor-to-student interactions (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). For his second principle, Sands (2002) recommends focusing on interaction rather than the delivery mode of the course. Create activities that require students to engage in the course content and with each other.


Universally, successful blended faculty cite redesign of their course as the key element to creating integration between the face-to-face classroom and online components. Create online assignments that carryover to the classroom and back online (Sands, 2002; Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). For instance, you may start a class discussion face-to-face and then extend it into an online discussion in which all students participate.


Sands (2002) said integration is “the most important tip” for designing a blend course. You can never have too much integration. Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta (2002) suggest asking yourself some questions. What isn’t working in my current course? Is there a way to move that piece online that would improve the outcome? Don’t give up if the integration is not perfect the first time you teach the course. Even experienced blended faculty feel it takes three iterations of a course to get the integration down (Futch, 2005; Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002).

Keep It Simple Starting (KISS)

Professor Stephen Lytle of UCF came up with this variation on the KISS acronym.

  • His advice is to start with a few technology tools that integrate well into your course.
  • Make sure you understand the active-learning strategies associated with the tool so you use it appropriately and don’t create extra work for yourself or your students (Sands, 2002; Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002).
  • You can add additional activities and technology tools to your course in subsequent semesters (Sands, 2002; Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). Projects such as simulations take extended planning and time to create and frequently require help from programmers and other specialists.

Allocate Sufficient Time

Make sure you allocate sufficient time to redesign your course. Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta (2002) recommend six months to redesign your course. Simmons College has a Blended Course Redesign Schedule that might help you plan your redesign project. Notice Simmons recommends an eight month redesign period.

Collegial Process

Find experienced blended faculty willing to share their experiences (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). The exchange of ideas is beneficial to both parties.


Organize the sequence of activities logically and be consistent (Simmons College, 2011).

Student Expectations

Blended Concept

Students don’t always understand the concept of a blended course and the relationship between the classroom and online components. Clearly state the rationale for your course design and the relationship of the components (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002).

Active Learning

Some students don’t have the maturity to understand their responsibility in active learning strategies (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). You need to specify their responsibilities and the consequences of failure.

Time Management

Some students need help with time management (Sands, 2002; Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). They may need assistance to develop these skills.

Classroom vs. Home

Some students need help understanding the concept of “reduced seat time.” They do not consider time in the classroom to be “work” (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). However, time spent online outside the classroom is “work” and they have more “work” at home in a blended course.

Convenience, Convenience, Convenience

Everyone, teachers and students, love the convenience and flexibility of working from home. However, time in a campus computer lab is not considered convenient (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002) because it is not at home.

Simmons College has several checklists to help with blended course development. The checklists have several tips and suggestions designed to help new blended faculty. You might need to make a few adjustments to fit your institution.

BlendKit Course

Please see the BlendKit Course materials for a detailed treatment of design and delivery principles in blended learning. These are addressed at a high level in the BlendKit Reader and from a practical standpoint in the BlendKit Course’s do-it-yourself task guides.


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