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 will always include student-centred activities in support of Active Blended Learning, as well as possibly some tutor-led elements.


Active Blended Learning Not ABL
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. Based on one-way delivery, for example, through broadcast lectures or by uploading online content.
Context is King. Content is important, but its application in context is key. What matters is what students do with content, why and with whom. Content is King.
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 engagement and visibility in the online domain, as well as in the classroom, are key. The virtual learning environment (Blackboard) is, in essence, a content dump.
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 tutor-facilitated contact time may take place in the online environment, both synchronously (real-time) and asynchronously (discussion forums, padlets, shared documents, blogs, wikis, etc). The online components of the ‘blend’ are just an add-on to the face-to-face provision, sometimes resulting in a ‘two-track’ course.
Sense-making elements (tasks, activities, mini-projects, etc) have been carefully designed and aligned to learning outcomes. They are presented to students for use in and outside face-to-face sessions. They can be used to prepare, motivate students or consolidate knowledge and understanding. ‘Read this chapter and watch that video for next week’.
The design is informed by what is best achieved in the classroom, workplace, placements and educational visits, and what is best done outside those settings – individually or in groups, before or after each session. Face-to-face is the absolute best.
Team approach to course design, including academic librarians, learning technologists, learning designers, the Learning Development team, students and other key stakeholders such as employers. Designed by an individual, in isolation from other colleagues.
Regularly evaluated, enhanced and redesigned, including explicit innovations in teaching and assessment. No evidence of systematic enhancement or pedagogic innovation.
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 receive information.
Students are offered the scaffold, the encouragement and the tools (including digital ones) to make sense of content, so they are prepared and can operate as productive members of a learning community, in and outside the classroom. Students turn up for face-to-face sessions ‘to be taught’ – poorly prepared or completely unprepared.
Focus on promoting student autonomy, active learning and application. Focus on direct tuition.