The University of Central Florida is developing a national model for blended learning, a practice that combines web-based learning with traditional classroom instruction.
The Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) awarded UCF a $250,000 grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others. NGLC is coordinated by EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of information technology to advance higher education.
For the grant, UCF will develop a “Blended Learning Toolkit” that will include: strategies for blended course design and delivery; models for blended Composition and Algebra courses; assessment and data collection protocols; and “train-the-trainer” materials.
The toolkit and course models will be provided to the American Association of State Colleges (AASCU), the partner in the grant. The association will then engage 20 member institutions, which will use the kit’s course templates and models, or build their own courses using the strategies and resources provided.
“This project will bring national and international recognition to our leadership in the field of blended learning, and will bring exposure to our faculty and the groundbreaking work they are doing reinventing instructional approaches for math and composition curricula,” said Tom Cavanagh, assistant vice president for UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning.
The benefits of blended learning are many. For universities, blended courses encourage collaboration and compensate for limited classroom space. For faculty, they can be a method to infuse new opportunities for engagement into established courses. For students, the courses offer convenience combined with instructional interaction.
UCF’s blended courses consistently rank higher than other modes in student course evaluations and have the highest levels of student success and the lowest withdrawals of any modality — including purely face-to-face.
“This project will allow other institutions to benefit from UCF’s highly successful online learning and assessment models,” said Joel Hartman, vice provost for Information Technologies and Resources. “There is great potential for future adoption beyond the project itself, and what we create and learn will ultimately benefit UCF and our students.”
In the long-term, the program could be distributed to the more than 420 AASCU member colleges and universities.
In addition to developing a blended learning infrastructure at AASCU institutions, the project aims to increase access to education and improve student success and retention. The NGLC program specifically targets improving college readiness and completion among low-income students.
At UCF, blended learning is managed by the Center for Distributed Learning, which provides leadership in distance learning policies, strategies and practices. The department collaborates with colleges to develop UCF’s online programs and works with faculty and students to ensure successful course experiences.
In the fall 2010 semester, 26,000 UCF students enrolled in at least one online, blended or video course. UCF currently offers more than 2,500 online, video and blended classes.
To learn more about Next Generation Learning Challenges, visit http://nextgenlearning.org/.
For more information on UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning, go to http://online.ucf.edu/.