What and Why?

What are they?

The Blended Learning (BL) approach has been used extensively in higher education for a number of years. With advancements in computer technologies, students now have new ways to access and interact with knowledge and people. However, new information and communication technologies on their own do not transform into good learning experiences. Good pedagogy and well-designed courses do.

At HKUST, Blended Learning (BL) is defined as a blend of self-paced online and face-to-face teaching that typically involves students acquiring fundamental, conceptual knowledge online; and applying, analyzing or evaluating this through a sequence of activities in-class, thus maximizing the benefits of both self-paced online and face-to-face to help campus students achieve higher levels of learning. The self-paced online component of a blended course is usually delivered through a learning management system (e.g. Canvas) and consists of, among others, online video lectures/demonstrations, online activities, and online assessments. While the face-to-face component is delivered on campus and consists of, among others, interactive exercises, group tasks, projects, and discussions. Our guideline is to replace 30-50% of contact hours with online components for self-study and keep the remaining 50-70% of the contact hours for face-to-face learning activities.

An effective BL approach means a well-thought-through combination of face-to-face teaching, self-study online courseware, synchronous and asynchronous online collaboration, and readily accessible online reference materials into a quality teaching solution. Having said that, it is not necessary for every learning solution to contain all of these learning components. What is most important is to align the learning technologies with an active-learning pedagogy that helps students to meet the desired learning outcomes.

A MOOC is an online HKUST course provided to the general public through our strategic MOOC partners’ platforms, such as Coursera and edX. Learners who sign up for these courses are of different academic backgrounds, cultures, languages, age ranges, etc. All learning activities, including lectures, practices, discussions, projects, and assessments are mainly done asynchronously online.

Why do it?

A blended course is a kind of teaching innovation that offers advantages over the traditional form of a didactic lecture where learning is seen as one-way dissemination during classroom time. Both teaching staff and students’ experiences will be enriched through an active and blended learning approach.

With blended courses, basic concepts can be taught through online video lectures, online interactive exercises, and online discussions in a self-paced, asynchronous mode. Students’ mastery of lower-level knowledge can be assessed through online/in-class assessments. The traditional classroom time can then be turned into highly interactive sessions where students can apply what they have learned online to a real situation or develop their higher-order thinking through the interactions between instructors-students or among their peers.

The high-quality online components developed may also be used for a MOOC delivery where faculty outreach can be enhanced and the University’s reputation can be increased.