Online/Blended Courses

Any course has multiple learning objectives, ranging from mastery of content to enhancing critical thinking to motivating and engaging students in active learning. Blended course models combine the best use of both face-to-face instruction and technology to achieve those objectives.

Online resources are effective in delivering information and content, as well as for promoting interaction between students and faculty and interaction and collaboration among students. Where classroom time is being used to deliver content with little or no student-faculty or student-student interaction, online resources can probably do an equal or better job, with the added accessibility advantages for students of any time, any place, any pace learning. This use of online resources promotes the use of precious face-to-face time for the purposes for which it is best suited — for more active learning strategies, for promoting higher level critical thinking through student-faculty and student-student interaction, and for motivating and engaging students.

Many 3 credit post-secondary courses aim for a student commitment of about 100 total hours – 30-40 classroom hours, and 60-70 hours of homework and studying. {The number of hours students actually put in is a different issue.) If you are new to online or blended courses, an excellent way to start thinking about designing a course is to focus on how you want students to use those 100 hours. The 10 questions below are a good place to start, even if your course will be fully online.

10 Questions for Planning a Blended Course

  1. When students have completed your blended course, what do you want your students: to know? to be able to do? to feel about the content and experience?
  2. As you think about your learning objectives above, which would be better achieved online and which would be best achieved face-to-face?
  3. Creating a blended course is not just a matter of transferring a portion of your traditional course online. Instead it involves developing challenging and engaging online learning activities that complement your face-to-face activities. What types of learning activities do you think you will be using for the online portion of your course?
  4. Online asynchronous discussion is often an important part of blended courses. What new learning opportunities will arise as a result of using asynchronous discussion? What challenges do you anticipate in using online discussions? How would you address these?
  5. How will the face-to-face and online/ out-of-class components be integrated into a single course? In other words, how will the work done in each component feed back into and support the other?
  6. When working online, students frequently have problems scheduling their work and managing their time, and understanding the implications for learning of the blended course format. What do you plan to do to help your students address these issues?
  7. How will you divide the percent of time between the face-to-face portion and the online portion of your course? How will you schedule the percent of time between the face-to-face and online portion of your course, i.e. one two hour face-to-face followed by one two hour online session each week?
  8. How will you divide the course-grading scheme between face-to-face and online activities? Ideally, course learning objectives, assignments and assessment should be “aligned.” What means will you use to assess student work in the face-to-face and online components?
  9. What specific technologies will you use for the online and face-to-face portions of your course? What proactive steps can you take to assist students to become familiar with your Web site and those technologies? If students need help with technology in the course, how will you provide learner support?
  10. There is a tendency for faculty to require students to do more work in a blended course than in a traditional face-to-face course. What are you going to do to avoid creating a “course and one-half” workload both for your students and for you? How will you evaluate the student workload as compared to a traditional class?

Quality Matters Rubric for Blended and Online Courses

The gold standard for developing and evaluating blended (and online) courses is the Quality Matters Rubric. The rubric has eight components:

  1. Course Overview/Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Learner Activities and Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

Go to for more information.