The Blended Learning concept
Educate-it assists teachers in innovating and blending their teaching practice. It also helps teachers use the available IT tools to engage students and clear the log jams that obstruct effective teaching. Educate-it provides technical and didactic support to teachers getting started with one of the four subprojects that contribute to the introduction of Blended Learning: E-lectures, E-assessment, the E-learning environment and innovation projects. Teachers with ideas about how to improve their teaching practice with IT tools can submit a request for an innovation project on the Educate-IT site. Teacher development, quality assurance and research (into the effects of using IT in education) are common themes throughout the programme.
Blended Learning as a guiding principle
The Utrecht educational model is small-scale, engaging, focuses on the student, and holds the student responsible for their personal development and academic progress. The key factors in the academic success of Utrecht University students are good teachers, personal and engaging teaching practices, and regular feedback in communities of students and teachers. Within Utrecht University and the Utrecht educational model, we will devote ourselves over the coming years to the introduction of Blended Learning. Blended Learning is the integration of face-to-face and online education in such a way that the two forms of learning support and enhance one another. IT tools like web lectures and electronic simulations are not tacked onto courses as extra features, but introduced as replacements, where appropriate, for traditional forms of face-to-face education and self-study. Independent of time and location, students will be able to acquire much of the required knowledge and insight through self-study (independently or in groups). This will free up face-to-face teaching time for in-depth discussion, the application of knowledge and insight and the treatment of complicated aspects of the study materials.
Cooperation and face-to-face education will remain essential for the development of specific technical skills as well as more general competencies like communication and social skills and community building. Students will often (virtually) cooperate on assignments in groups. They will be able to track their academic progress and personal development through (peer) feedback and formative assessments. Working in small groups reinforces group dynamics and social control and removes anonymity, which stimulates active participation. Learning analytics will provide students with more insight into their scholastic progress so they can adopt optimal learning strategies for themselves. Teachers will be able to see how their students are progressing, which means they can adjust their teaching practice accordingly.
Changing roles for students and teachers
Blended Learning also means that the teacher and student roles will change. Routine tasks will take less time, so teachers will be able to use their time more efficiently and effectively. Students will be expected to show more personal responsibility and will be trained as independently thinking academics. Enriching education with IT tools reinforces the Utrecht educational model:
- IT offers (new) opportunities for teachers to engage with students about the study material and to offer the necessary guidance
- IT broadens the range of educational tools. This makes it possible to design courses that better match both the teacher’s teaching style and the students’ learning styles
- IT encourages new forms of cooperation among students
- IT makes both summative and formative assessment more efficient and effective, in the process providing real insight into students’ progress through learning analytics
- IT makes optimal use of contact hours, reserving them for in-depth discussion, applying knowledge and insight, and reviewing complicated elements of the subject, thus maximising the return on time invested
- IT enables the efficient and effective use of the teachers’ time, reducing the time spent on such routine tasks as repeatedly giving the same lecture or grading tests
- IT challenges students by allowing them to test their own academic progress and making them responsible for their own personal development