Blended learning design advice for collaboration & retention

7 case studies reveal best practices for tech, learning support when combining face-to-face and online students

blended-learning-designAccording to a new roundup of case studies spanning multiple universities in Australia, blended synchronous learning can improve student retention rates and ease the concern that online students aren’t getting the same education as on-campus students. However, that’s only if blended learning is done right.

Researchers from Macquarie University, Charles Stuart University, and the University of Melbourne identified seven recent case studies from leading universities using diverse technologies in blended synchronous learning to enhance student and faculty collaboration, ultimately leading to better retention rates for online students and more effective learning.

The case studies are part of a project funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching as a way to see if blended synchronous learning designs could help online students receive “an equivalent education to their on-campus counterparts,” an issue identified by Australia’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

And though this concern is presented from Australia, it’s also a concern cited by many U.S. colleges and universities.

“To date, remote students tended to be supported in their learning primarily through asynchronous activities and resources such as recorded lectures, electronic documents, and discussion forums provided within a LMS,” explains the report. “However, these asynchronous methods may not provide effective support for learning in cases where students need to engage in real-time conversations, where they need to rapidly share audio and visual content, or where presence and community are important elements of the learning episode.”

Overall, blended synchronous learning can enable equity of learning by allowing participants to experience an instructor’s lesson, ask and answer questions, and offer comments in class; and generally allow engagement in a similar manner to on-campus students, notes the report.

It’s about creating “an enhanced sense of community between remote and face-to-face participants,” said the authors.

Therefore, these university case studies sought to use a variety of blended learning technologies to provide best practices for blended synchronous learning.

(Next page: 7 case studies and what each reveals)