Office of Academic Innovation

Blended Courses


The blended course format includes both online and face-to-face components. It also includes and significant reduction of face-to-face time (Kerres & De Witt, 2003). The reasons for choosing a blended course format are similar to those for teaching fully online classes; opportunities for self-paced learning, flexibility and convenience (in internship courses, for example), and a learning environment where students can participate equally and fully in class discourse.


A blended course site will need to have much of the same documentation, policies, and planning needed for a fully online course; therefore most of the recommendations in this site for are useful both in online and blended courses.  Below are some additional recommendations for the blended instructor.

Lessons Learned from Hybrid Course Faculty

1. Start with the end in mind.

After careful thought, once you have determined that it is appropriate to use a hybrid format for your course, start with a plan. Your course objectives and expectations regarding appropriate assessments will enable you to determine which topics and activities work best online.

When designing a course in any mode, including blended, it’s helpful to start by addressing the following questions (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005).

  • What authentic things should the students be able to do (e.g. objectives)?
  • How will students demonstrate what they know or can do at the end of the course (assessment)?
  • What instructional activities can be used to facilitate student success (content)?

An example is provided below.


Objective Assessment Learning Activities

Students will be able to:

Apply the concept of Behaviorism in instructional practice.

Design and submit a lesson by applying Behaviorist principles.

Listen to the instructor’s lecture on Behaviorism

Participate in online discussions about Behaviorist learning experience

2. Decide when to choose a face-to-face or online format.

Once we have determined what instructional activities should be implemented to promote student learning, we can determine which format will best accommodate those activities. Below is a suggested list of online and face-to-face activities with brief explanations & examples (Caulfield, 2011).   


Categories of Online Activities Sample Activities
Online instructional content
Students watch assigned videos or lectures online
Reading assignments
Students read assigned articles
Asynchronous small group discussions Students exchange ideas within group members on assigned project
Asynchronous class discussion Students post opinions toward an issue and discuss with each other
Online quizzes (usually formative) Students take an online quiz that tests them with on some close-ended questions
Online web-based research, library databases Students are asked to collect information on a certain topic in recommended databases
Group projects Students in dispersed locations work with each other via Google docs
Online artifact creation (graphics, video, etc.) Students use Prezi to create their presentation slides
Course Blog Students report their project progress using the blog
Course Wiki The whole class create a glossary of terms using wiki
Journals Student write reflection journal on how the course content is relevant to their daily practice


Categories of Face-to-Face Activities Sample Activities
Content review The instructor reviews content with students before an exam
Student or group presentations Students present their work
Proctored exams The instructor monitors students taking a test or an exam
Classroom assessment The instructor assesses students learning during the class
Guided practice The instructor provides immediate feedback on student skills demonstrations
Group discussion The students are divided into groups to discuss on a topic


Some activities such as discussions can be completed either online or in-person. However, these activities function differently in each model. Online discussions usually lasts from several days to weeks, giving the students more time to think and reflect, while face-to-face discussions may occur within minutes or hours. Online discussion provides the participants with more flexibility in terms of time and place, while they have to gather in class to discuss simultaneously in the face-to-face setting. Online discussions may increase the sense of distance, while meeting face-to-face discussions reduce it. How an activity is undertaken should then be dependent on what objectives the instructor wants to achieve.

3. Create continuity between the classroom and the computer.

After you have determined which activities will be conducted online or face-to-face, ensure each segment complements the other. For instance, before an online class, use part of the in-class session to introduce the online interface and tools that will be used, so that the students can move easily to the online environment. To create continuity throughout his course, Bill Sadera at Towson uses the same administration strategies for both online and in-class course sessions. Regardless of the course segment, Dr. Sadera’s students submit all assignments online and use online discussion boards to get to know each other, discuss assignments, and respond to questions. Early on students have opportunities to locate and use these online tools while they are still meeting regularly with their professor. These tools are built into the structure of the class as a whole.

Claudia Carlson at Towson meets with her class face-to-face on the first day to acquaint the students to course materials, online technologies, and each other. Throughout the semester she ensures that she meets in-person with students to provide feedback as students practice new skills or to help prepare for important exams and assignments.

Martha McCoy’s online lessons are structured like a one-stop shop designed to guide students through activities. On the same page in her online course site, students can see their lesson objectives and due dates, followed by supplemental readings, videos and links to other areas in the course site where they must respond to a discussion or submit an activity. Dr. McCoy also staggers her online and face-to-face classes. Students start by completing online assignments which include interpreting readings, watching videos, or applying skills using online tools. Students then discuss those experiences and expand on those topics in class.

4. Communicate clearly.

More than in face-to-face classes, any online classes must include clear and accurate expectations, instructions, due dates and logistical information (such as, how assignments will be handed in). The impact of inaccuracies and misunderstandings are amplified in an online environment where there are delays between communications.

State all policies involving communication, participation and logistics in the syllabus and enforce them consistently. Each of the professors interviewed chose one or more methods for broadcasting information to students once the course was in motion (e.g. reminders, changes, clarifications) and informed the students to check for messages in specific places. Typically, these faculty members required students to check e-mail, online course announcements and/or a designated question and answer discussion board (sometimes called a café) at specific times. Tip: Require students to post course questions that affect all participants (such as confusing content or assignment instructions) in a discussion board. If they e-mail you instead, respond and remind them to post their question in the proper place. Allowing students to post anonymously in these Q & A areas permits self-conscious students to ask questions freely.

Illustrate your expectations for student performance with examples or models to reduce confusion.

To eliminate navigation problems, consider conducting a class dress rehearsal and follow your own directions for accessing your online class materials before your students use them. Ensure that materials are where they should be, in the order needed, clearly labeled and that all links and multimedia work. Recheck materials before each online session and again, have a back-up plan. Tip: Before loading anything into your course site, determine your course schedule, modes of communication, methods for handing in assignments and choose consistent, logical locations within the course site to place and order online components. Develop all materials offline and load materials into your course site as a final step.

5. Resist the urge to overload the class.

Faculty can inadvertently pile on the work in blended and online classes. However, without the usual model (lecture, activities, discussion, etc.), how do you determine how much is just the right amount of work for your online sessions? Look to your in-class models for help. Calculate the amount of time you require your students to work on task in your face-to-face classes and to do their homework. Use the results as a guide to determine appropriate amounts of online work.

6. Get started and improve as you go.

Just as you would with any new teaching technique, space out your first few online assignments in order to get evaluative feedback from your students on the first activity before starting the next one.

In blended courses, students can benefit from unique opportunities to practice new skills and then return to you to guide them through reflections on their learning. In the same way, the feedback you elicit from students on their experience as online learners that can further enhance your teaching in and out of the classroom. Surveys, questionnaires, and spontaneous conversation with your students can provide insights and inspiration for the enhancement of your course.

Thanks and References

Sincere thanks to Ms. Claudia Carlson, Ms. Martha McCoy, and Dr. Bill Sadera, who work as faculty members at Towson University and contributed their insights on hybrid course design.

Caufield, J. (2011). How to design and teach a hybrid course. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, Inc.

Kerres, M.& De Witt, C. (2003). A didactical framework for the design of blended learning arrangements. Journal of Educational Media. 28(2-3), 101-113.

O-Neil, C. A., Fisher, C. A. & Newbold, S. K. (Eds.). (2004). Developing an online course: Best Practices for nurse educators. New York: Springer.

Wiggins, G. & Mctighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.


Office of Academic Innovation
Cook Library Room 405
Phone: 410-704-2005


"Videotaping actual procedures came in handy for our weekend students... they travel down every couple of weeks for classes but then during the other weeks they're away..."
— Sonia Lawson

Watch Clips of Faculty Tips

How are hybrid and online courses defined at Towson? (0:51)

How can you create groups efficiently (in a course 90% online)? (1:21)

See all faculty tips







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