The ‘Bricks and Clicks’ Towards Success: A Discussion Paper on a Blended Learning Research Project at the University of Ottawa
Maurice Taylor and Maria Bastien
University of Ottawa, Faculty of Education
As part of the Destination 2020, the University of Ottawa created the E-Learning Working Group in order to provide recommendations for online learning practices. In 2013, the working group produced a report that in part called for large-scale adoption of blended learning across the university. To achieve this, Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) created the Blended Learning initiative with the initial goal of converting 20% of the University of Ottawa’s course offerings to a blended learning format by 2020. This ambitious goal was part of Phase One, which focused on quantity in order to lay the foundation for future work in blended learning. Moving forward into further phases TLSS continues to provide training and support to professors in order to focus on increasing the quality of blended learning courses offerings.
The Blended Learning Project, which was funded through the Centre for University Teaching (CUT) Chairship Program was a systematic inquiry on the topic of blended learning across the University of Ottawa. It provided needed evidence-based information for the planning and implementation of university wide adoption of blended learning as per the recommendation of the E-Learning Working Group and the goal of the Blended Learning Initiative. Therefore, the scope of the Blended Learning Project was to better understand how university professors could improve the quality of learning and teaching and as well as to better understand the student experience through the development and delivery of blended learning courses. Three questions drove the project: (1) What is the lived experiences of students who have taken a blended learning course at the University of Ottawa? (2) What type of changes do professors experience when teaching in a blended learning format? (3) What factors are important in the implementation of a university-wide blended learning initiative?
The three elements relating to student experience include: 1) Motivators for participation; 2) Mechanisms for supportive learning; and 3) The focal point of the blended learning course. For each element, information is presented from the perspective of graduate and undergraduate student experiences. Five elements relating to professors and their changes in teaching experiences through blended learning include: 1) Driving forces to change; 2) The power of new technology; 3) Discovering the meaning of a blended learning pedagogy; 4) Improved learning outcomes; and 5) The need to establish a supportive culture. Finally, four factors in the adoption and implementation of a blended learning initiative from an administrative point include: 1) The necessity for defining blended learning, 2) A hub of pedagogical and technological support, 3) Leadership through early adopters, and 4) Creating a research agenda to advance widespread adoption. To further deepen our understanding of the key factors in the adoption and implementation of a blended learning initiative, two additional perspectives were sought after: Subject Matter Experts from various Ontario universities developing blended learning and university personnel from across the country.
This discussion paper does not conclude, but rather looks forward through the enumeration of best practices in blended learning, the exploration of lessons learned through the project, and moving forward with questions towards a research agenda.
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