Student in blended learning classroom.


Definitions of blended (or hybrid) learning vary. At the University of Manitoba, the Blended and Online Learning Task Force (2013) offers the following definition:

“A blended course integrates online with face-to-face instruction in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner by substituting online activity for face-to-face time, or vice versa. It offers less classroom time than a face-to-face course (for example, students meet one or two times per week in the classroom and time they otherwise would have spent in the classroom is spent online).  Conversely, a fully online course may be modified to decrease the online activities in order to add face-to-face activities” (p. 6).

The percentages of face-to-face time verses online time to constitute a blended course also varies between sources. The Sloan Consortium (2007) offers the following breakdown:

Proportion of content delivered online type of course typical description

  • 0% Traditional Course with no online technology used – content is delivered in writing or orally.
  • 1–29% Web Facilitated Course which uses online technology to facilitate what is essentially a face-to-face course. For example, uses the learning management system to post the syllabus and content, dropbox for assignments.
  • 30–79% Blended Course that blends online and face-to-face delivery. Substantial proportion of the content is delivered online, typically uses online discussions, and typically has some face-to-face meetings.
  • 80-100% Online Course where most or all of the content is delivered online. Typically have no face-to-face meetings.


  • Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., & Garrett, R. (2007). Blending in: The extent and promise of blended learning in the United States. The Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from:
  • University of Manitoba, Blended and Online Learning Task Force. (2013). Blended and online learning at the University of Manitoba.

Benefits of blended learning

There are several benefits for both students and instructors with regards to blended learning:

Benefits for students:

  • Collaborative learning: possibility to discuss course material online and face-to-face with classmates, TAs and instructor;
  • Flexible access to course material (time and place);
  • Learn at their own pace;
  • Help to overcome the sense of isolation many students feel when doing fully online courses; and
  • Reduction of costs for students by decreasing travel expenses, etc.

Benefits for instructors:

  • Positive experience and attitude of their students towards technology-mediated teaching and learning;
  • Schedule flexibility and more time to reflect in online discussions;
  • Redesign of teaching and learning approaches in ways that realize increased efficiency and convenience; and
  • Better ways to address the multiple needs of learners.


How to design a blended course

  • Constructive alignment process

    The first step in designing a course, whether it is for the face-to-face, blended or online context, is to design a blueprint for your course by working through the constructive alignment process. In this approach to course design, the following four elements are aligned:

    For more information on the constructive alignment process, including a sample of a course blueprint, refer to our resource: Course alignment.

  • Course goals, what are the "big picture" goals of your course? Learning objectives, what do you want your students to know and/or demonstrate? Assessment methods, how will you assess if students achieved the goal and objective? Teaching strategies, what teaching strategies will guide students to achieve the goal and objective?

Determining your blend

Once you have developed your blueprint, you can begin to ask yourself some questions to think about how you will blend your course:

  • What learning objectives could be best delivered face-to-face? What learning objectives could be best delivered online?
  • Is there content that students typically struggle with? What approach (face-to-face or online) might best support students in understanding this content?
  • Is there content that students may benefit from more active or hands-on learning opportunities?
  • How will the face-to-face and online sections of the course relate to and build upon one another?
  • Is the workload reasonable for students? How would the workload compare to a non-blended course?

Determining the online learning activities & technology selection

After determining the sections of your course that will be face-to-face and online, you can begin to ask yourself some questions to think about the online learning activities that will be integrated into your course:

  • What is the learning objective associated with the activity?
  • How long should the learning take?
  • Will the activity be individual, collaborative, or both?
  • How will the students get feedback on what they have learned?
  • What are the formative and summative assessment tasks associated with the activity?
  • How will I motivate students to participate in the activity?
  • How will the students communicate with each other and ask the instructor questions?

Technology is integral to blended courses, yet it should not be the focus. It is important to keep in mind the learning objectives and choose the technology option that will maximize learning and help students to achieve the learning objectives. It is also important to remember that overloading a blended course with technologies just for the sake of using technologies does not make for an effective course. Keep it simple and ask yourself, “Will using this technology enhance students’ learning?” Use the course learning objectives as your driving force but also factor in your comfort level and the comfort level of your students with the technologies you are considering. 

To discuss available technologies at the University of Manitoba suitable for your blended learning course, including UM Learn support, contact The Centre at


Connection of face-to-face and online learning activities and technologies

Two useful tools to work through to identify the connection between the face-to-face and online learning activities and technologies in your blended learning course are:


Best practices for blended learning

Recognize that developing a quality blended course requires time and effort.
  • Designing a blended course usually requires more time and effort than face-to-face courses due to the additional elements of determining your blend and the integration of online learning activities and technology. Try to give yourself one to four months to plan a blended course. Also, remember that things will not be ‘perfect’, especially the first time you teach a blended course. You will likely make changes to your course after each time you teach.
Consider the student workload of blended courses.
  • It is important to remember that the online components in blended course are meant to replace face-to-face time rather than adding on additional work for students. If you are designing a blended course from scratch or you are transitioning an existing face-to-face course to a blended model, ensure you are attentive to the credit hours for the course and have set realistic expectations regarding student workload.
Review a checklist of items to consider before, during, and after you teach a blended course.
Ensure that both you and students understand how the online and face-to-face components of the course relate to and build upon one another.  
  • Students need to understand the connections between the work they are doing face-to-face and online on an ongoing basis throughout the term. Make these connections explicit in your syllabus, course schedule, assessment descriptions, learning activities, and handouts. During the face-to-face sessions, spend time discussing the connections with your students. During the online weeks, use course announcements, discussion forums, and e-mail correspondence to convey the connections.
Discuss with students their role and your expectations.
  • If it is the first time that your students are in a blended course, it is important to spend time discussing with them their role as independent learners and your expectations of them. Examples include: the importance of time management, completion of online and pre-class material, participation in face-to-face and online activities, etc.
Ensure ongoing communication with students
  • It is important to maintain regular communication with students in a blended course, especially during the online weeks. Methods of communication may include: regular emails, announcements, and online forum posts by the instructor, scheduling virtual office hours and in person office hours before and after the face-to-face class, posting the course syllabus in the LMS and referring to it throughout the course, etc.