The rise and rise of blended learning

Robert Fox
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia


Blended and open learning strategies continue to increase in importance for mainstream university learning and teaching. The primary reasons for this relate to ongoing debates about a variety of issues the costs of face-to-face lectures and tutorials and resulting economies of scale; demands for more student-centred and flexible approaches, providing students with more choices in learning; technology ubiquity and portability and their affordances, providing solutions to identified student needs; and the impact of MOOC experiences and the lessons learnt which have rolled back into mainstream teaching. Based on case study analysis, this paper examines 25 years of experiences across four universities in developing blended and open learning solutions for predominantly mainstream campus-based education, and identifies longer-term impacts on changing core practices in those institutions. The first case explores the impact of distance and open education courses and course resources and activities re-purposed to replace conventional on-campus teaching; the second is a re-engineered continuing professional education course converted to blended learning; the third describes how a conventional course structure, quality assurance and sustainable improvements were made through the introduction of blended and online solutions; and the fourth case explores the impact of an institution's use of MOOCs as a catalyst to effect changes in mainstream face-to-face courses and programmes. Arising from the cases described, the paper identifies key concepts that support improved opportunities for success in adopting blended learning. The paper concludes by outlining a curriculum design framework, based on recent research and practice, that facilitates sustainable and transferable improvements to learning and teaching in universities adopting blended and open learning strategies.