Blended Learning Theory and Design Principles

Blended Learning Theory and Design Principles



Identify goals and objective to be learned; create environments for learning that assists the learner in acquiring goals; review, examine and consider adopting and adapting existing materials before developing new ones.

Implications for online learning

  • Learners should be told the explicit outcomes of the learning so they can set expectations and can judge for themselves whether or not they have achieved the outcome of the online lesson.
  • Learners should be tested to determine whether or not they have achieved the learning outcome.
  • Learning materials must be sequenced appropriately. Simple to hard, known to unknown, knowledge to application.
  • Learners must be provided with feedback so they can monitor how they are doing and take corrective action, if necessary.


Design course to include problem solving; provide sufficient help and resources to assist learning in solving problems; Structure problems in steps so learners can be successful in developing their own solutions; analyze learning readiness for learning core concepts, principles and attitudes of the course; and establish course prerequisites.

Implications for blended learning

  • Strategies should be used to allow learners to approach the information in ways that allows for transfer of knowledge into working memory. Examples include the proper location of the information on the screen, the attributes of the screen (color, graphics, size of text, etc.) pacing of visual information, and mode of delivery (audio, video, graphics, animations).
    • Important information should be placed in the center of the screen for reading, and learners must be able to read form left to right.
    • Information critical for learning should be highlighted to focus learners' attention.
    • Learners should be told why they should complete the lesson, so they can attend to the information throughout the lesson.
    • The difficulty level of the material should match the cognitive level of the learner, and match the level at which student will be assessed.
  • Strategies should be used to allow learners to retrieve existing information from long-term memory to make connections with the new information presented.
  • Provide conceptual models that learners can use to retrieve existing mental models or to store the structure they will need to use to learn the details on the lesson.
  • Ask questions prior to instruction to set expectations and to help them recall previous and existing learning.
  • Information should be chunked to prevent overload during processing. Online materials should present between five and nine items on a screen to facilitate efficient processing in working memory. If there are many items in a lesson, the items should be organized in the form of information maps to show their organizational structure.
  • Other strategies that promote deeper processing should be used to help transfer information to long-term memory. Strategies that require learners to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate all promote higher-level learning, which makes the transfer to long-term memory more efficient.
  • Learning materials should include activities for the different learning styles so learners can select appropriate activities based on their learning preference.
    • Concrete-experience learners -- specific examples in which that can be involved, and in which they can relate to peers and not to people in authority. group work and peer feedback. instructor as coach
    • Reflective-observation learners -- observe carefully before taking any action. prefer to have al the information be available for learning. instructor as expert. avoid interaction with others.
    • Abstract-conceptualization learners -- work with things and symbols and less with people. work with theory and conduct analysis
    • Active-experimentation learners -- learn by doing practical projects and through group discussion. prefer active learning methods and interacting with peers for feedback and information. establish their own criteria for evaluating situations.
  • Adequate support should be provided for students with different learning styles. Students with different learning styles have different preference for support.
  • Information should be presented in different modes to accommodate differences in processing and to facilitate transfer to long-term memory. Where possible, textual, verbal and visual information should be presented to encourage encoding.
  • Learners should be motivated to learn. Some methods of motivating students during learning are:
    • Attention -- include an activity at the start of the learning session to connect with the learner.
    • Relevance -- inform learners of the importance of the lesson and how taking the lesson could benefit them.
    • Confidence -- design for success by sequencing from simple to complex, or known to unknown. Use competency-based approach where learners are given the opportunity to sue different strategies to complete the lesson.
    • Satisfaction -- provide feedback on performance and allow learners to apply what they learn from real-life situations.
  • Provide learners with the opportunity to reflect on what the are learning, to collaborate with other learners, and to check their progress.
  • Use strategies that facilitate the transfer of learning to encourage application in real-life situations. Also, learners should be given the opportunity to complete assignments and projects that include real-life applications and information. Transfer of knowledge to real-life situations could assist the learners to develop personal meaning and contextualize the information.


Design for continuity of learning at the individual level by providing options for students and by using well-constructed content; design for interaction; include balance of dialog between faculty-student, student-student, and student-content; design for student goal setting and decision-making; use a learning environment that puts the student in charge and makes them responsible for learning a set of objectives and skills.

Implications for blended learning

  • Keep learners active by engaging them in meaningful activities that result in high-level processing. Asking learners to apply information to a practical situation is an active process, and facilitates person interpretation and relevance.
  • Learners should construct their own knowledge rather than accepting that which is given by the instructor.
  • Collaborative and cooperative learning should be encouraged. Working with other learners provides real-life experience, and allows learners to use the strengths of other learners. Group membership should be based on expertise level and learning style.
  • Learners should be given control of the learning process. There should be a form of guided discovery where learners are allowed to make decisions on learning goals, but with some guidance from the instructor.
  • Learners should be given time and opportunity to reflect. Embedding questions within the content can encourage reflection and processing the information in a relevant and meaningful manner.
  • Learning should be made meaningful for students. The learning materials should include examples that relate to students so they can make sense of the information. Assignments and projects should allow learners to choose meaningful activities to help them apply and personalize the information.
  • Learning should be interactive to promote higher-level learning and social presence, and to help develop personal meaning.

Deeper Learning Principles [2]

Drawing on the work of several prominent learning researchers, Carmean and Haefner (2002) developed a core set of deeper learning principles. These principles can provide a conceptual framework when you plan your teaching strategies.

Learning is social when:

  • It involves cognitive apprenticeships.
  • It promotes reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  • It offers prompt feedback.
  • It encourages contact between students and faculty.
  • It emphasizes rich, timely feedback.

Learning is active when:

  • It is engaged in solving real-world problems.
  • It is intertwined in judgment and exploration.
  • It is situated in action.
  • It uses active learning techniques.
  • Practice and reinforcement are emphasized.
  • Involvement in real-world tasks is emphasized.

Learning is contextual when:

  • New knowledge builds on the learner’s existing knowledge.
  • New knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.
  • Knowledge is applied by the learner.
  • New knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.
  • Students have a deep foundation of factual knowledge.
  • There is awareness that students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works.
  • Students understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework.
  • Learning is concrete rather than abstract.

Learning is engaging when:

  • It respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
  • It communicates high expectations.
  • It is done in high-challenge, low-threat environments.
  • It emphasizes intrinsic motivation and natural curiosities.

Learning is student-centered when:

  • Students organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
  • Students take control of their own learning: noting failures, planning ahead apportioning time and memory to tasks.
  • It emphasizes time on task.
  • It emphasizes learning independence and choice.
  • It allows time for reflection.
  • It emphasizes higher-order thinking (synthesis and reflection).