Future research agenda

This chapter’s reflection on blended learning over the past decade can be used to identify a future research agenda from the perspective of students, faculty, and administration. With regards to students, the focus of future research should be on increased student engagement and improved learning outcomes. The key question is how can educational strategies and digital technologies be successfully integrated in a blended course to support student engagement and success?

From the perspective of faculty, one of the driving questions is how does a blended teaching approach fit into the university culture? Faculty members continue to indicate that teaching a blended course is time intensive. How do they find a balance with their existing research and service commitments? Perhaps, the question should be on how can teaching a blended course become more collaborative through partnership with service units such as the Centre for Teaching & Learning, Information Technology services, the Library, and Student Services?

Administrators over the past decade have identified two key themes for future research. First, from the administration perspective, the early faculty adopters of blended courses are vital to the success of the institutional initiative. Thus, their question is how can they support and promote the leadership of these early adopters? Their second question involves their support of a central hub of pedagogical and technological support for blended courses. How can administration help create a faculty development environment for blended courses to meet the different levels of need of faculty and departments on campus?

Questions for reflection

  • 1. From a student perspective, what are the main advantages and disadvantages to a blended approach to learning?
  • 2. Conversely, from a faculty perspective, what are the main advantages and disadvantages to a blended approach to teaching?
  • 3. What opportunities and challenges does a blended approach to teaching and learning present for a higher education institution?
  • 4. How can the Community of Inquiry (Col) framework be used to support a blended approach to teaching and learning?
  • 5. What is the future research agenda for blended learning from a student, faculty, and administrative perspective?

Significant contributor

Charlotte N. “Lani” Gunawardena, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Distance Education and Instructional Technology in the Organization, Information and Learning Sciences (OILS) program at the University of New Mexico, USA. Dr. Gunawardena received her PhD and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Sri Lanka, Kelaniya. She founded and developed the graduate emphasis area in distance education in the OILS program, and has taught about online education for 30 years. She has designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated distance education courses, programs, and systems in the United States and overseas.

Dr. Gunawardena’s publication record spans over 30 years with over 125 publications to her credit. She was honored with the Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for Excellence in Book-length Manuscripts in Distance Education very early in her career. She blends her passion for online education and culture in her co-authored book, Culturally Inclusive Instructional Design: A Framework and Guide to Building Online Wisdom Communities, which won the 2019 Best Book Award presented by the Distance Education Division of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. She enjoys international research collaborations, and as a Fulbright Regional Researcher engaged in research in Morocco and her Native country Sri Lanka. Her co-authored paper on Distributed Co-mentoring as a Fath to Develop Culturally Inclusive Online Learning Communities with the Open University of Sri Lanka, won the Best Full Paper Award at the 28th 1CDE World Conference on Online Learning in Ireland in 2019. She currently researches the sociocultural context of online learning communities, and employs interaction analysis and social learning analytic methods for analyzing social construction of knowledge in online collaborations.

She has consulted for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, US corporations, and international higher education institutions in Brazil, Ghana, Mexico, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.


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