P. Mihnev, T. Zafirova-Malcheva

Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" (BULGARIA)
The paper is based on the experience of the authors in university teaching in a blended learning mode. The focus of the paper is on the learning effectiveness and efficiency of blended learning university courses, based on the distribution of the courses’ activities between the face-to-face and the purely online modes of learning. The decisions about such distribution affect the course design, development, organisation, delivery and evaluation.

The effectiveness and efficiency of the blended learning mode courses represented in the paper, is supported by the examples from two elective courses conducted by the authors – „Design, development and evaluation of educational software” and „E-learning”. These courses are intended mainly for students in bachelor Higher Education (HE) programmes in Software Engineering, Informatics, Computer Science, and similar, at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics (FMI), Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (SU).

In the beginning of the paper advantages and limitations of the blended learning are briefly discussed, based on theory and authors’ own experience. Best practices of organisation and blended courses’ delivery are described. The courses’ activities are considered in two groups, with respect to their mode of delivery – face-to-face (f2f) and online. A clear distinction is made between instructional and learning activities conducted in face-to-face and in pure online mode. The principles of the division of activities in these groups are based on learning theory, the described practice in the literature, and own practice. From a theoretical point of view behaviourist and constructivist perspectives are used to justify the distinction of the activities for the two modes of learning. Estimates of instructional effectiveness and efficiency are used as a second group of important criteria for the distribution of courses’ activities.

Instructional and learning tasks that are short term, behaviourist in nature, and observable are grouped for delivery in f2f mode, as well as the activities for what the communication in presence mode can be more easily conducted (interactive lectures, basic performance tasks, class discussions, etc.). To this group we add some creative cognitive tasks used to hint and give direction to students to perform creative home assignments.

Complex longer term assignments, including team-based, reading materials, presentations, and audio/video are meant to be conducted and studied entirely online. The completion of the interim/weekly assignments (albeit possibly started in-class), and final assignments, go also in online mode. The same holds true for the independent student search and research activities.

The paper presents examples of the discussed deliberate approach of division between f2f and online activities used from several years in teaching the two courses mentioned above. Their structure, f2f and online activities are described, the effectiveness and efficiency issues are discussed, courses’ products and results are presented. The opinions of the students, expressed in the standard faculty’s courses’ evaluation forms are summarised and presented.

The described way of courses’ organisation and delivery leads to a conclusion that in a blended learning mode the type of f2f and online activities depends not only on the technological tools and resources, but mainly on the theoretical basis on which they are built, and on learning effectiveness and efficiency criteria.