Developing a successful blended learning initiative requires an institutional commitment involving leadership at each level in the organization to include senior executives, college deans, department chairs, faculty, and support staff. Alignment of mission(s) is also necessary for existing and emerging support units to achieve common desired outcomes such as improving access and retention. With unified leadership, support, and coordination, an institutionally-initiated blended learning program can reap benefits that impact face-to-face teaching and learning across departments. Investments may be required in the following areas to build, deliver, and assess blended learning:

  • technology infrastructure
  • special funding
  • incentives
  • special awards
  • release time
  • professional development
  • evaluation support
  • instructional design
  • media production services
  • technical help desks
  • learning management systems or other learning technologies

Excerpted from “Blended Courses as Drivers of Institutional Transformation” in Blended Learning Across Disciplines: Models for Implementation (quoted with permission):

… where blended courses (also known as hybrid or mixed-mode 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 universities, blended courses can be part of a strategy to compensate for limited classroom space. 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 conveniences of online learning combined with the social and instructional interactions that may not lend themselves to distance delivery (e.g., lab sections). If an institution’s blended learning strategy can be designed to address the needs and dynamics of all three constituencies (institution, faculty, student) simultaneously, then the modality can become a powerful force for transformation.

However, the converse is also true. When blended courses do not succeed, it is often the result of a misalignment with institutional, faculty, and/or student needs. An example of an institutional misalignment would be offering a blended course that time shifts face-to-face meetings on an irregular basis (e.g., the first three weeks of the term are in class, the next two meetings are online, followed by two weeks in class, and then every other week online). While possibly making instructional sense, such a schedule would not allow an institution to leverage the blended format to maximize classroom space utilization. Because of the irregular schedule, the classroom would need to remain reserved for the entire term, even during those sessions that are conducted online. A more effective approach might be to schedule blended courses so that they accommodate a regular, predictable meeting schedule. An example of misalignment with faculty needs would be arbitrarily compelling unwilling faculty or inappropriate topics into the blended modality. Forcing a subject best addressed via a different modality into a blended format will create extra work and unnecessary angst for already-busy faculty. For students, the benefits gained by a blended course are realized only if the associated risks are mitigated; for, without careful course planning and design, the blended format could offer the worst aspects of both the live and online modalities instead of offering the best. Students must also possess the self-motivation required to be successful in online learning. If an institution can create a supportive environment for faculty and students to ameliorate these risks, the transformational potential of blended learning can be realized.

  • Dziuban, C., Hartman, J., Cavanagh, T. B., & Moskal, P. D. (2011). Blended Courses as Drivers of Institutional Transformation. In Kitchenham, A. (Ed.), Blended Learning across Disciplines: Models for Implementation.  (pp. 17-37). doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-479-0.ch002

Prime indicators to assess readiness to engage in an institutional blended learning initiative include:

  • A commonly understood definition among stakeholders for “blended learning”
  • A blended learning strategy that aligns with institutional goals
  • An effective organizational model to support the blended learning initiative
  • Qualified staff capable to support diverse faculty needs and lifecycle of courses
  • Online student support services to support blended learning
  • A robust planning process to identify blended learning faculty/courses to develop
  • A faculty development program to prepare faculty to teach blended learning courses, including incentives and rewards as part of the program
  • Learner support resources to prepare students to learn in blended learning courses
  • The ability to identify blended learning courses in the class schedule
  • Blended learning policies developed around accessibility, copyright, and intellectual property
  • An evaluation program to assess the impact of the blended learning initiative
  • ROI calculated based on resources dedicated to the blended learning initiative
  • Reusable courses and materials shared within departments engaged in blended learning