August 16, 2018

A new MOOC on how to do blended learning

UCF BlendKit

Kelly, R. (2014) EDUCAUSE and UCF launching blended learning MOOC Campus Technology, 3 April

EDUCAUSE and the University of Central Florida are offering a free MOOC called ‘BlendKit2014 – Becoming a Blended Learning Designer‘, which will run initially from April 21 to May 27.

It is aimed primarily at faculty and instructional designers, will come away with best practices for developing design documents, content pages and peer review feedback tools. In particular it will offer:

  1.  a consideration of key issues related to blended learning and
  2. practical step-by-step guidance in producing materials for a blended course (e.g., developing design documents, creating content pages, and receiving peer review feedback at one’s own institution).

The course was developed and will be taught by two staff members from the UCF Center for Distributed Learning: associate director Kelvin Thompson and department head Linda Futch.

Participants may also choose to pursue an official “UCF/EDUCAUSE Certified Blended Learning Designer” credential. Those who choose this more rigorous option will submit the materials they develop as part of the free MOOC for a portfolio review. This portfolio review is available for a  US$89 fee.

Registration for BlendKit 2014 is open on Canvas Network for the class that begins April 21. Details can be found at and on Twitter at #BlendKit2014.

It should be noted that UCF has a great deal of experience in this field, having offered blended and fully online courses for many years.



An integrated online learning system for California’s community colleges

California OEI

Raths, D. (2014) California Community Colleges Joining Forces for Online Success Campus Technology February 25

Assisted by a $57 million grant from the Governor of California, the Online Education Initiative aims to develop an integrated system for online learning for the 112 Community Colleges in the state.

The community colleges in the state have a long record of online learning, with 41,000 online sections for 620,000 students. However, overall completion rates are low, each of the 72 community college districts offers its own online courses, and there are more than 10 different learning management systems in use.

The proposal involves the following:

  • dramatically increasing the number of students who obtain associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges
  • improving course/program completion rates
  • program and curriculum development leadership from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District (FHDA)
  • technology leadership from Butte-Glenn Community College District
  • sharing of resources (programs and technology)
  • a new, specifically designed course management system/portal available for use by all colleges (to be built through an RFP process)
  • a repository of model course content to be shared/adapted by faculty
  • a full suite of services to support online learners (e.g. 24/7 help desk)
  • ‘actional’ learning analytics for faculty
  • voluntary participation by each of the colleges


In several jurisdictions colleges or university campuses share online courses within a single system, such as the University of Florida Online. OntarioLearn is a collaboration between Ontario community colleges for sharing courses, but doesn’t go as far as the California proposal in terms of integrating technology and support services.

I expect to see more proposals like the Californian one across other jurisdictions in North America. It doesn’t make sense for 112 relatively small institutions to each design and deliver almost identical courses or programs, and each purchase and manage their own LMS. There should be not only major economies of scale, but an increase in quality in the courses and services, by pooling resources and ensuring common quality standards in the design and delivery of online learning..

The question is whether the colleges will voluntarily join in this initiative. We intend to make it so good that it is a no-brainer to participate‘, says Linda Thor, chancellor of FHDA. Let’s hope that’s the case. It will be interesting to see how successful this initiative turns out to be.




Grants for research on blended learning – from a lecture capture company

Nagel, D. (2013) Grants support research into blended, distance learning Campus Technology, January 7

Echo360, a vendor of a range of educational technology, including lecture capture technology, has announced the first six winners of grants for researching teaching practices involving the use of technology, including flipped classrooms and blended learning. They include four universities in the USA, and one each in Australia (Curtin) and New Zealand (Canterbury). Each grant is worth $10,000.

Additional information about the grants, as well as PDFs of the proposals submitted by the individual winners, can be found on Echo360’s site.


I have mixed feelings about this. First, it’s good that money is going into research in this area. We need to develop and evaluate a range of models for blended and hybrid learning.

However, there are models that could be developed that are not based on lecture capture. Who is willing to fund independent research that is not tied to a particular commercial product?

Surely this is the role of public national research councils, who in the past have been very slow to fund research into online learning. It’s more than time now for government-funded research councils to put significant money into research in online learning. However, in several countries these research councils have had their budgets decimated, and they tend to be dominated by mainstream academics with no interest in research online learning.

This makes it all the more incumbent on institutions that do move towards a mixed model of delivery to ensure that there are independent and well designed evaluations in place, with a strategy for dissemination to a wider public.

Use of analytics for early intervention with ‘at-risk’ students

© Bowen Island Community School

Grush, M. (2011) Monitoring the PACE of Student Learning: Analytics at Rio Salado College Campus Technology, December 14

This article looks at the use of learning analytics at Rio Salado College, Arizona, where all 41,000 students take online courses. It has instituted a Progress and Course Engagement (PACE) system for automated tracking of student progress–with intervention as needed. They found that there are three main predictors of success:

  • the frequency of a student logging into a course;
  • site engagement–whether they read or engage with the course materials online and do practice exercises and so forth; and
  • how many points they are getting on their assignments.

They claim they can predict, after the first week of a course, with 70 percent accuracy, whether any given student will complete the course successfully (with a grade of “C” or better). The PACE system enables them to identify the level of risk for every student in a course, which helps to focus instructor, advisor, and other institutional resources on quickly helping the ones who are most at risk.

There is a good deal more in the article about the potential of learning analytics in post-secondary education.


Developing an institutional strategy for mobile learning: Northeastern University

© WiredEducator, 2011

Grush, M. (2011) Creating Your Institution’s Mobile Learning Strategy Campus Technology, December 7

If you can put up with the really irritating web advertising in this online journal, this article provides a useful description of Northeastern University‘s mobile learning strategy. The main message: link mobile learning to the broader academic goals and priorities (such as, in Northeastern’s case, its focus on experiential learning.) It’s mainly about integrating the iPad into more traditional teaching.

The article also provide useful links to other institutions’ mobile strategies, e.g. Abilene Christian, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, Tufts and Stanford. If you don’t have an institutional strategy yet, these provide some good ‘benchmarks’ to follow.

See also Mobile Learning at Northeastern, their web site on mobile learning.