The problem with blended learning

Once I get out from under the PhD, I’m hoping to expand an initial idea attacking the rhetoric of blended learning currently in vogue in some parts of higher education. The purpose of this quote is to save a quote that I’ve just come across for that expansion, and also to summarise the idea.

At the very least, this has helped me realise that it isn’t the original idea of blended learning that is at fault, it’s how the idea has been translated into action within some institutions. i.e. as a fad, with little understanding of the complex complexities and even less engagement with them.

Blended learning described

In describing blended learning, Garrison and Kanuka (2004) offer this

A blended learning design represents a significant departure from either of these approaches. It represents a fundamental reconceptualization and reorganization of the teaching and learning dynamic, starting with various specific contextual needs and contingencies (e.g., discipline, developmental level, and resources). In this respect, no two blended learning designs are identical. This introduces the great complexity of blended learning.

This is a significantly more nuanced understanding of blended learning than is typically used. In such typical rhetoric, blended learning is typically equated with the adoption of an LMS. Any “fundamental reconceptualization and reogranization” of learning can only occur within the confines of the LMS.

More broadly, it can only occur within the confines of the existing practices within the institution. Practices that typically include workload calculation formulas that have the provision of lectures and tutorials embedded within them. Institutional management don’t engage with the complexity of Garrison and Kanuka’s conception of blended learning.

What’s worse, the idea that “no two blended learning designs are identical” clashes horribly with the commodification of learning and requirements for accountability.

References

Garrison, R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-104.

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