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Implementing Blended Learning the Right Way
A Review of The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide

By Kevin E. Kessler / March 2018

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The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide (Stylus, 2016) fills a gap in the current literature on blended learning that has been a high need area for many years. Although not entirely a book of andragogical principles, author Kathryn E. Linder has written a book that very clearly provides the path to proper implementation and design of blended learning with integrity. This practical guide was written for higher education implementation; however, its step-by-step approach can serve equally well at any grade level. The workbook provides explicit directions on creating a blended program with both justification and examples. The checklists can literally serve as a step-by-step guide to building a highly-effective blended program.

Surprisingly comprehensive, Chapters 1 and 2 introduce course development within the paradigm of "backward design," where the curriculum designer begins with standards then creates the assessment followed by the supporting educational material and learning activities rather than the typical attempts at justifying the value and need for blended learning before jumping straight to the technology and tools for blending. Particularly enlightening is the explanation of the difference between pedagogy and andragogy and how blended learning opens the doors to student ownership and agency of their learning. The author goes on to lay out the fundamentals of course development with both descriptions and exemplars of writing course goals. She also touches on learning objectives with further guidance on drafting and aligning technology-specific e-learning objectives and provides a review of Bloom's digital taxonomy's application to blended course design. The workbook is strikingly similar to the standards that Quality Matters uses to quantify whether an online course is designed with alignment, integrity, and quality.

Chapter 3 continues the backwards design model applied to blended course design by illustrating the importance of formative and summative assessments and their placement within both face-to-face and online components. One gem offered as a "best practice tip" is the reminder that because something can be converted to the online format, it does not mean that it should. Bloom's taxonomy is revisited within the framework of assessment and an extremely useful "Blended Course Assessment Checklist" provides explicit guidance toward alignment.

Chapter 4 provides a list and description of online assessment tools with reminders regarding accessibility issues, academic dishonesty, student feedback, and real-time assessments. Chapter 5 stands out as most useful to classroom teachers with a clearly defined overview of how to blend the online or digital component with direct instruction, guided inquiry, collaborative learning, cooperative learning, team-based learning, and problem-based learning. The author goes on to encourage what many blended learning programs are lacking: meta-cognitive activities. Active learning activities that lead students to reflect on their own learning are provided followed by a well-defined list of effective learning activities. Chapter 6 focuses on course mapping and writing a syllabus; if the backwards design process is properly utilized, then this task will essentially already be established and only requires a formal write up. In Chapter 7, the author discusses learning management systems (LMS) and provides a very useful checklist for selecting the LMS that best fits the needs of the course.

Another often-forgotten, or perhaps often-failed, component to blended-learning course design is discussed in Chapter 8 "Creating Social Presence in Your Blended Course." The author not only establishes the importance of social presence, but also provides very helpful strategies for both the instructor and student. Yet another checklist provides a clearly illustrated plan followed by even more strategies for developing effective interactions within the course for both modalities. It isn't until Chapter 9 that the author provides a list and strategy for finding resources online, something most books, articles, and blogs typically begin and end with. Another checklist is provided to ensure the integrity of resources found, as well as tips on how to integrate and blend these online resources into the course. Chapter 10 is a bit shorter, but still an impactful, guide to creating multimedia resources that includes a list of best practices and practical tips. Chapter 11 is dedicated to the use of mobile devices, apps, and social media with an important reminder regarding acceptable use policy. Exemplars are provided for each major social media platform in use at the time of publishing.

Chapter 12 provides a dynamic look at the use, application, and purpose of a well-written syllabus that will most likely change any teacher's approach. Often rushed-through during the first days of class, the author highlights the incredible power of a well-written and emphasized syllabus for student success. The detail and breakdown of a well-written syllabus is well worth its own chapter and came as a hidden gem in an already enlightening book. Chapter 13 focuses on preparing students for success beginning with welcome announcements, video, and tutorials followed by multiple excellent suggestions on how to keep in touch with students throughout the course and keep communication open and readily available. The conclusion chapter, Chapter 14, is several pages of very useful checklists and reflection questions. This is then followed by a glossary of terms and five extremely helpful appendices that are equally as valuable as the chapters.

Linder has clearly dedicated an enormous amount of time, research, and, most importantly, experience to provide such a guide to building a highly-effective blended learning program. This course-design workbook could easily be used as a literal guide for every blended learning coach, curriculum and instruction designer, instructional coach, or technology fellow. It is highly relevant to the needs of today's blended learning programs. Though the price is nearly double that of most popular books about blended learning, the reader will quickly realize the content is nearly quadruple of any other book about blended learning. This book will provide the quality and integrity that blended learning implementation so desperately needs and should be purchased by any school considering implementing blended learning or improving their blended program.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin E. Kessler is a senior educational adviser for Johns Hopkins University, a fellow researcher for Michigan Virtual Learning & Research Institute, and facilitator/public speaker as well as course reviewer for Quality Matters. His research efforts have focused on implementing and sustaining online and blended learning in public schools in America from both the administrator side as well as in practical pedagogy for teachers. His 14 years of teaching and leading has culminated his career with a renewed focus on improving the education system through effectively implementing online blended learning with integrity and alignment.

Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for third-party components of this work must be honored. For all other uses, contact the Owner/Author.

2018 Copyright held by the Owner/Author. 1535-394X/18/03-3200483


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