Blended learning has many educational benefits which can help to establish rich teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. One of the most widely used and researched frameworks for online teaching is the Community of Inquiry. These three related concepts of teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence lie at the core and it is when an instructor successfully develops all three that the best learning outcomes are achieved.

In my teaching space, having taught subjects mainly around Training and Development and Human Resource Management, I understand that the workplace of the 21st century is constantly changing including the virtual organisation where members are connected by electronic technology. HR is now operating in a technological era, where all HR systems are digital and the professional must be in a position to be able to connect people better through technology. The effects of technology on HRM functions has certainly improved the efficiency and effectiveness around training and development and I see it as even more beneficial after learning about different digital tools and platforms. Furthermore, online learning can slash travel costs and make training available anytime, anywhere.

According to the 2019 Training Industry Report, “Instructor-led classroom training is used exclusively or mostly (90 to 100 per cent of the time) by 9.7 per cent of the organizations. More companies (38.1 per cent) use it for 10 to 29 per cent of their training. Most organizations are using a mixture of blended learning, instructor-led, virtual classroom, and online methods.”

When reflecting on this topic, it also made me think about how much work is in fact an online course? Before designing the structure of a blended or online course, one needs to determine how much time students should expect to study on the course. Another important factor is how structured the course should be for the students. Does this then depend on the needs of the students of your preferred teaching model? I thought about how confused or lost some of us felt at times in our PBL group and when we discussed if we preferred a more loose or strong structure for online teaching, it helped us adapt a more meaningful approach as topic leaders for the various topics covered. Like most of us agreed on the structure to be clear, my preference is for a strong structure for fully online teaching, so students are clear about what they are expected to do, and when it has to be done by.

The growing prevalence of technology inside and outside the classroom gives the impression that it should make teaching a whole lot easier today but the technology is just one factor that you have to account for amongst many others such as support and student motivation. Therefore, however much or little technology you use, you need to realise that the key to learning is engagement. For any type of learning environment, I still believe in the importance of keeping your students engaged with your activities. In our PBL group discussions, we looked at various theoretical approaches however, motivation and engagement or participation were central themes in this topic which we agree facilitates more meaningful learning.

Since new technologies that have educational applications are constantly emerging, our PBL group were keen to learn about and use a 3D virtual environment known as ‘iSee” as a platform to engage and collaborate for this topic. It was a really fun and interesting experience to be out of our comfort zone, “Zoom”, despite a few technological problems that some of us encountered, nevertheless it definitely influenced our curiosity and we obtained knowledge and experience at the same time. The main advantage of using virtual worlds in the education domain is that it offers an opportunity to develop learning communities online, create trust and increase sense of presence compared to traditional learning environments. A virtual learning environment can be similar to a face-to-face classroom environment in that allows direct communication with the teacher. Students are able to write on the “virtual classroom chalkboard” and move about freely which we experienced and were able to share with the rest of the class after we had also split into groups to discuss topics.

As we move towards a future where blended learning is more prominent, there is so much to be gained from investing in learning design. Students have high expectations of what higher education should be offering and so its important that we continuously evaluate our educational approaches to ensure that they are valuable and meaningful as they can be – for our students and for ourselves as educators.

EdApp Microlearning Blog (2020). Blended Learning Approach. Viewed: 2021-05-21. Link: Viewed: 21 May 2021.

Topic 4: Design for Online and Blended Learning