Blended Learning

Blended learning integrates in-class, face-to-face learning with online learning in a purposeful, thoughtful and complementary way to enhance student engagement. (Garrison and Vaughn 2008).

Improved student engagement is achieved by focusing on in-class interaction to promote active and collaborative learning, and minimizing or eliminating the passive transmission of information.

In Arts and Science a blended model generally involves moving fundamental knowledge acquisition out of the classroom—using interactive online materials to deliver enriched content, to guide students through the textbook, to verify comprehension—and devoting classroom time to applying, integrating and synthesizing the knowledge. This model is sometimes referred to as the “flipped classroom.” While blended courses have the same number of student learning hours as traditional lecture courses, the nature of the learning hours is different and fewer contact hours are involved.

In addition to enhancing student engagement, several benefits are associated with blended models. Flexibility is increased for students through the learner-centred approach, which allows students to progress at their own pace online and to review complex concepts as needed. For instructors, the blended approach frees up class time and offers opportunities to integrate teaching and research—to explore a research perspective, discuss case studies, or to pose a provocative question.

Redesigning a course as a blended model is not seen as a cost-saving model, but can be an effective way of increasing enrolment in high-demand courses using existing resources.

Blended models are particularly effective for large classes, where it is more challenging to engage students. The Faculty’s first innovations in blended learning were initiated in 2011 by instructors in two high-enrolment Arts and Science courses: Human Geography (GPHY 101) and Principles of Psychology (PSYC 100).

The Faculty is promoting the development of blended learning models for large introductory classes through a strategic Course Redesign project. Ten high-enrolment courses are now offered in blended formats and, starting in Fall 2014, Geography, Kinesiology, Nursing, Sociology and Psychology will share a common, flexible, blended introductory statistics course.  

All blended courses, including those initiated outside of the Course Redesign project, are being assessed to evaluate their effectiveness in terms of student engagement and learning. Preliminary results from the Classroom Survey of Student Engagement (CLASSE) indicate statistically significant improvements in student engagement in blended versions in comparison to their traditional versions, particularly in active learning in the classroom, student-faculty interaction, and higher order thinking skills.

Queen’s Centre for Teaching and Learning - info and resources for blended learning

Contact North - Ontario’s distance education network

EDUCAUSE  - nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology

Learning to Teach Online  - professional development resource for online pedagogy

MERLOT - multimedia educational resources for learning and online teaching

The National Center for Academic Transformation  - an independent non-profit organization dedicated to the effective use of information technology to improve student learning outcomes and reduce the cost of higher education

Sloan-C  - consortium of individuals, institutions and organizations committed to quality online and blended education


Harris, P., Connolly, J., & Feeney, L. (2009). Blended learning: overview and recommendations for successful implementation. Industrial and Commercial Training, 41(3), 155–163. doi:10.1108/00197850910950961

Vaughan, N. (2007). Perspectives on blended learning in higher education. International Journal on E-learning, 6(1), 81–94.

Selected Empirical Research:

Carle, A. C., Jaffee, D., & Miller, D. (2009). Engaging college science students and changing academic achievement with technology: A quasi-experimental preliminary investigation. Computers & Education, 52(2), 376–380. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.09.005

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning. Center for Technology in Learning, U.S. Department of Education. [PDF]

Vaughan, N. D. (2010). A blended community of inquiry approach: Linking student engagement and course redesign. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 60–65. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.007

Suggestions/Recommendations for practice:

Bonk, C.J., & Graham C.R. (2006). The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Garrison, R., & Vaughan, H. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles and guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stacey, E. & Gerbic, P. (2009). Effective Blended Learning Practices: Evidence-Based Perspectives in ICT- Facilitated Education. Hershey: IGI Global Publishers.