Intro to Blended Learning: Part One

Today is Part 1 in a 3 part series from Dr. Jenny Hooie, author of Blend: Implement Blended Learning In Seven Days or Less.  She also teaches online courses in blended learning.  

BLEND: Take time to define blended learning…you will be glad you did!

While blended learning is all the “rage” in education, I have discovered an interesting problem. As I meet with various groups of educators, I always begin by asking one question, “what do you mean when you say blended learning?” This may sound like common sense yet the majority of the time the question is met with silence and blank stares. smoothie blenderAfter a few minutes, people start sharing and discover that each person has their own understanding of the term and they can be quite different. This is why it is essential to begin any implementation of blended learning by defining it and making sure that everyone shares a clear understanding of the definition.

I know this suggestion may be met with many eye rolls because there is also a dilemma with defining any educational term. The problem is that as soon as you define it, some educators use the definition process as a way to limit or block dialogue. Often, this “debate” is a strategy that allows us to avoid the real conversation about changing our practice. So, I am suggesting a process that should be succinct and flexible.

  1. First, simply setting a set timeframe for your group to define blended learning (and stick to it). One to three hours spread over a couple of meetings should do the trick.
  2. Prior to starting dialogue, the group should have the opportunity to read articles on the topic that will provide shared background knowledge. These articles should be short and there should be 2-3.
  3. When the dialogue takes place it should be organized around 1-3 central guiding questions.
    1. Why are we considering blended learning?
    2. With which students are we planning to use blended strategies?
    3. Which models or aspects of learning fit this learning situation?
  4. During the group meeting, take time to share reactions to the article and begin to brainstorm essential key words for your definition.
  5. Take time to reorganize the words into a definition. NOTE: Do not get into endless debates about a word. If this is starting to happen, I use a preference/principle technique in which I ask the group to share if it is a preference (something we would like to see) or a principle (something we cannot live without). If it is a principle for several group members more dialogue is needed, if it is a preference keep the word as is and move on.
  6. Once the definition is complete take time to review it, allow group members to pair off and share their explanations before sharing with the entire group.

Although taking an entire meeting to examine the definition of blended learning may seem like a lot of time. These three questions enable the group to focus dialogue and move sooner to possible steps of action. The defining process should also be flexible, enabling the definition to morph and change as the needs change and/or as the group is exposed to more information about blended learning.

Part Two: getting started with blended learning

About the Author:

Dr. Jenny Hooie is an educational innovator with over twenty years of experience as a teacher, administrator and professional development facilitator. Her doctorate in the area of Instructional Design for Online Learning combined with her real world experience in classrooms, and her professional development work with practicing teachers make her the perfect guide as you explore blended learning strategies and make them part of your daily classroom instruction. Jenny is currently the Chief Instructional Officer for Tri Rivers Educational Computer Association and Chief Executive Officer of Instructional Design Innovations. Her email is