What does an ‘Active Blended Learning’ programme look like?

The following statement explains what an ABL programme looks like:

The programme is taught through student-centred activities that support the development of subject knowledge and understanding, independent learning and digital fluency. Our face-to-face teaching is facilitated in a practical and collaborative manner, clearly linked to learning activity outside the classroom. Opportunities are provided for students to develop autonomy, Changemaker attributes and employability skills.

Active blended learning is therefore a pedagogical approach that combines sense-making activities with focused student interactions (with content, peers and tutors) in appropriate learning settings – in and outside the classroom. ABL focuses on engaging students in knowledge construction, reflection and critique, on the development of learner autonomy and of course, on the achievement of learning outcomes.

It is worth noting that the term ‘online’ does not feature in this definition.

What does “not being ABL-ready” mean?

Pedagogically, a programme hasn’t made the shift to ABL if one or more of the following statements is true:

  • It makes use of broadcast (non-interactive) lectures
  • The virtual learning environment is primarily used as a content repository
  • Online activity is an add-on to the face-to-face sessions
  • It has not been through a redesign workshop or equivalent in-depth intervention in the past three years
  • There is no evidence of systematic enhancement since the last Periodic Subject Review.

A session may include tutor-led elements, but will also include student-centred activities in support of Active Blended Learning.


Not ABL Active Blended Learning
Based on one-way delivery (for example through broadcast lectures or online content). Learner-centred and interactions-based: a suitable balance between learner-tutor, learner-learner and learner-content interactions, face-to face (University-based and outside) and online.
Content is King. Context is King. Content is important, but its application in context is what really matters.
The virtual learning environment (Blackboard) is a content dump Accessing content is one of the many functions of the virtual learning environment to achieve successful learner engagement before, during and after face-to-face sessions. Tutor visibility in the online domain is key.
The online components of the ‘blend’ are an add-on to the face-to-face provision Active Blended Learning is our normal in learning and teaching. Appropriate online activity is designed into the module, with the tutor visible and active. Some face-to-face contact time may be moved to the online environment, both synchronously (real-time) and asynchronously (discussion forums, blogs, wikis, etc).
‘Read this and watch that for next week’ ‘Do the following meaningful tasks for next week (for which you’ll need to read X, watch Y and explore Z)’. This constitutes the sense-making element of the online learning part of the blend which can be designed to prepare students for the following face-to-face session, or consolidate the knowledge and understanding developed during earlier sessions.
Face-to-face is the absolute best An evidence-based blend is best: the design is informed by what is best achieved in the F2F classroom, workplace, placements and educational visits, and what is best done online – before or after each session.
Designed by an individual, in isolation from what other colleagues are doing for ‘sister’ modules Team approach to course design, including academic librarians, learning technologists, learning designers, the Learning Development team, students and other key stakeholders such as employers.
No evidence of systematic enhancement or pedagogic innovation Regularly evaluated, enhanced and redesigned, including explicit innovations in teaching and assessment.
Students receive information Students build their own knowledge, develop their own understanding and articulate this in different ways with appropriate and balanced tutor input, both in and outside the classroom.
Students turn up for a face-to-face session poorly prepared or completely unprepared Students are given the scaffold, the encouragement and the tools to make sense of content in advance, so they come prepared to a face-to-face session and are productive members of a learning community.
Direct tuition: ‘tell me what to do’, passive Focus on promoting student autonomy and active learning. Students learn to learn in a blended context.