Blended Learning

16 Introduction to Blended Learning

Welcome to Blended Learning!

Why Blended Learning?

Because it’s the hot topic, right? It’s true. There have been many recent conversations in higher education and on our UW-Madison campus about blended learning, and this section of the text dedicated to blended learning is meant to help foster this campus conversation and provide another framework for some pedagogical best practices for blended learning.

While it has recently come to much greater prominence, blended learning itself (or the concept of blended learning) isn’t brand new. Blended learning pedagogy and course design borrow keys ideas from good general teaching pedagogy: engage students with the course materials, make good use of the in-class and out-of-class time for both instructors and students, design courses and syllabi based on learning goals and outcomes that you hope the students will achieve, and provide outlets for doing and sharing that help students reach these learning goals. In a face-to-face setting as well as in a blended environment, students won’t learn as well if you don’t engage them with the material and make them active participants in their own learning.

Blended learning also considers the “geography” of learning (where learning happens) and asks us as instructors to reconsider the traditional instructor-centered classroom. Blended learning initiatives ask us to reflect on, retool, and then reformat our classrooms. Instead of the limited traditional classroom space, the blended learning environment leverages online and out-of-class spaces that respond better to the ever-changing and ever-evolving needs of the students. Blended learning models also help us to move outside of thinking of the lecture in only a very traditional, hour-long lecture format. The possibilities of the blended learning environment point to a more active classroom environment or online learning space that engage the students with the content material in an interesting, refined, and targeted way.

Section Goals

This section of the text is intended to be an entry point for how to become more familiar with blended learning and how to get started with developing blending learning concepts that you can integrate into your own course design. We hope that most the materials here will be useful to instructors of all levels of familiarity with blended learning. You will find fundamental resources and materials (if you are just getting your sea legs with the topic), as well as supplementary and more advanced optional materials if you are looking to enhance your understanding of blended learning.

Our broad goals for this section on blended learning are:

  • Identify blended learning definitions that are relevant to the broader campus community
  • Consider blended learning models and case studies
  • Review common misconceptions about blended learning
  • Discuss challenges with blended learning course design and implementation, such as time constraints, cost, etc.
  • Survey the campus framework and resources for blended learning support and hear from campus faculty and staff who are involved in blended learning initiatives
  • Help you to develop actionable ways to implement in class or activities/modifications for your personal course design


The readings for this session are ones that we have collected and curated over time, based on our past experiences with blended learning. The podcasts and intro video were developed and produced exclusively for this session by L&S Learning Support Services Media Production. The campus speakers videos were produced by L&S Learning Support Services Media Production in Summer 2012 for the UW-Madison Educational Innovation campus initiative.

Projects & Activities

The activities are designed to gradually help you become more familiar with blended learning concepts and design as the session progresses, moving toward helping you to develop actual course activities and blended learning mini modules that you can implement in your own course in later chapters. As we move through this section, these activities will also become more complex; we will start with some word association and other discussion activities in early chapters and move toward course design and activity creation projects in later chapters. That said, these activities are blueprints and suggestions–you are welcome to do part, most, or all of each activity or to modify as you see fit or helpful to your instructional situation. You are also welcome to develop each activity further than the “assignment” suggests, either for your own personal benefit or to share with others.


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Teaching with Technology Copyright © 2015 by Steel Wagstaff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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