Selecting a Course
Blended or Online?
The move to a totally online course is a considerable step for faculty accustomed to teaching in a traditional face-to-face environment. Online courses, generally defined as any course in which 80% or more of course content is delivered online, are still not widely implemented, particularly in the undergraduate curriculum. Blended courses are typically defined as those that deliver 30–79% of course materials online. Sometimes referred to as hybrids, blended courses strive "to join the best features of in-class teaching with the best features of online learning to promote active independent learning and reduce class seat time" (Virginia Commonwealth University).
Determining whether a course is appropriate for online or blended delivery can be a difficult decision. The following considerations may help determine whether course content allows for effective virtual delivery.
- What are the identified student learning outcomes for the course?
- Who is the intended audience for the course/program?
- Do you expect to draw students from outside your geographic area?
- How does this course fit into the department hierarchy of courses (what courses come before or after and feed into or build from this course)?
- How much of the course content could be easily adapted to student-centered learning?
- Could course content be appropriately adapted to a virtual environment?
- Is there a lab component that would be difficult to replicate online?
- Are there role-playing scenarios that could not be conducted using online media?
- Does the nature of the content allow for interaction in both the synchronous and asynchronous formats?
- What are the technology skills of the average student traditionally taking this course?
- How self-motivated and self-directed are students in the program?
- What type of access to current online technologies will the students have?
- What is the learning/teaching style of the instructor?
- What types of assessment strategies are used in the course?
- Does the department have accreditation standards that may impact this decision?
While online courses and programs offer convenience for a wide range of students, programs want to be careful not to sacrifice the benefits that can be gained with face-to-face contact. Many online courses require several on-ground meetings, typically at the beginning and end of the course. For some, the final meeting serves as a final exam period that is proctored, addressing the concern regarding verification of student identity (is the student taking the exam the registered student). Since blended courses provide a mixture of online technologies and face-to-face interaction, content delivery is more flexible. Content in online courses needs to be carefully structured to effectively deliver the course information but also continuously capture student interest.
Ragan, L. (2007). Best practices in online teaching—Pulling it all together—Teaching blended learning courses. Connexions. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/m15048/1.2/ Virginia Commonwealth University. Blended classes—the alternative to total online teaching and learning. Online Teaching and Learning Resources Guide.