FRAMING BLENDED LEARNING, TEACHING AND EDUCATION
The rapid development of internet-based media and technologies during the past 25 years have changed considerably higher education in terms of flexibility, adaptability and accessibility of courses and programs (Wallace, 2003; Yang, Wang, & Chiu, 2014). At university, virtual learning environments and (massive) online courses have replaced traditional distance education (Perry & Pilati, 2011). More recently, blended learning has been cited as the future ‘major instructional movement’ (Yen & Lee, 2011) or the 'new normal' (Dziuban, Graham, Moskal, Norberg & Sicilia, 2018). Blended learning has shown evidence of being more effective in enhancing students’ performance than online learning and face-to-face instruction, also its demand has increased rapidly in higher education (Alammary, Sheard, & Carbone, 2014; Castaño-Muñoz, Duart, & Sancho-Vinuesa, 2014; McCutcheon et al., 2015).
However, despite its popularity particular conceptual and operational problems induce important challenges to scholars and practitioners. On the one hand, blended learning is ambiguously defined in literature, on the other hand it remains unclear in what circumstances, how and why implementations are successful, or not. Among others, Sloman asserted in 2007: ‘We must understand more about what motivates learners, what support they need and how these supportive interventions can take place in practice. Only with understanding can we get the “blend” right.’ (p. 315). Moreover, Geraldine Torrisi-Steele and Steve Drew posited in 2013 (p. 371): 'If we are to realise the potential of blended learning in higher education, then further research into academic practice and relevant academic development is essential (...) when described in detail, pointedly directs attention to the lack of literature seeking to understand academics’ current blended practices. We argue that this is problematic in terms of formulating the required professional development and support. (...) the need for further research into understanding not only why academics may choose to engage in blended learning, but also, once engaged, why some choose to integrate technology to create transformative blends while others choose minimally impacting blends.'
This study attempts to develop a frame of reference for blended learning, teaching and education, consisting of:
(1) a conceptual framework with definitions and demarcations,
(2) a descriptive framework regarding blended education policies and strategies, next to blended learning designs.
It is based on a literature review of published resources, including (inter)national reports (e.g. Becker, Cummins, Davis, Freeman, Hall, & Ananthanarayanan, 2017), scientific publications including books (e.g., Anastasiades & Zaranis, 2017), articles (e.g., Lukenchuk, 2016; Mozelius & Hettiarachchi, 2017) and peer-reviewed conference proceedings (e.g., Cheung, Kwok, Ma, Lee, & Yang, 2017). In this way we hope to provide a resource both for researchers investigating blended practices and those developing or supporting BL. It allows them to conceive studies, to develop research instruments, to map practices or to initiate planned changes and (re)designs, in line with a common evidence-based framework.