In my final reflection blogpost, I want to share my thoughts on a popular institution-wide initiative – the adoption of blended learning, which has gained momentum due to the need for continued teaching & learning during this Pandemic. Most faculty members would agree that blended learning is an effective approach to learning that combines the strength of both face-to-face pedagogy and technology-enhanced instruction. However, there remains issues such as clarifying what exactly is blended learning, how best to go about blending instructions (and other aspects of learning) and how do we know that it is working for our students?

Firstly, I believe that blended learning demands blended research. This means researching blended learning in practice rather than as a by-product of an evaluation of large-scale intervention. What we are looking for is a systematic, programmatic and incremental improvement of blending that is situated in the professional expertise of teachers and teaching assistants. Teachers’ learning progression (aka academic development) is just as important as KPIs. Researching how teachers develop their understanding and use of blended learning will help shed light on the above issues.

Secondly, effective adoption of blended learning is dependent on the teacher being able to design an effective balance between their instructional strategies and the learning tools which creates effective learning opportunities for students. The emphasis here is on instructional design and teacher decision-making, which in many university settings, are rarely taught or developed. More can be done to equip university teachers with the necessary knowledge and skillset to bring about effective and meaningful design or blending, to enhance students’ learning.

Thirdly, blended learning is not a new phenomenon. In fact, most institutions of higher learning have been engaged in blended learning since the 90s. However, the rapid transformation of technology has afforded many opportunities for students to learn beyond a traditional classroom setting (or face-to-face instruction), which means some form of ‘blending’ has already occurred in the online learning space, regardless of whether there is formal blending or not. The availability of OER (Open Educational Resources) is a case in point. It’s arbitrary to argue about the right percentage of blending, but rather, to focus attention on programme and course/module design and their alignment and coherence.

Fourth, and related to the notion that blended learning is not new, we could and should leverage on past learning experiences on implementing blended learning. Besides looking at data, we could invite colleagues with experience in adopting blended learning to share and to engage in building a learning community.

Fifth, blended learning is only one of the many active learning approaches that promotes deep and engaged learning. The teacher should have the agency to decide when and how best to use (or not to use) blended learning in their teaching practice. What I mean is not to ignore blended learning but to complement it together with other useful strategies. At the end of the day, it is about asking “As a teacher, what is the unique value that I can contribute to help my students’ to learn better?” and “What can the technology offer to support students’ in their learning?” rather than “Should I blend or not blend this course?”

Sixth, while good design is fundamental to the effective implementation of blended learning, learner self-regulation is at the heart of successful learning. To put it bluntly, students need to learn how to learn, whether it is online or face-to-face. If we consider blended learning as developing important skillsets for both teachers and students, than we need to provide space and time for this to happen.