Blended Learning Provides a Positive Lifetime Learning Experience

Table of Content


The theoretical notion of cognitive load is the idea that memory is limited. When asked too much, the finite human memory suffers overload. To solve for this, course writers create systems to optimize working memory capacity (Jong, 2009). Objectivist course writers determine the need for instruction to establish learning outcomes: learning has occurred when new knowledge and skills are mastered. Conversely, the constructivist approach is when each learner introduces new information to existing knowledge and skill. When course writing from a constructivist view, teachers create problem scenarios where students learn through real practices in applied settings (Dick & Carey, 2001). Employing a blended objectivist-constructivist design strategy in an accelerated online format may present a solution for adult students desiring better outcomes and a more positive learning experience (Chen, 2007).

Blended Learning Provides Better Outcomes and a More Positive Learning Experience

Modern technology is closing the gap for distance learning. Online courses are meeting student needs in a year-round accelerated format. Still today, most proposed learning models are designed for a traditional fifteen-week semester. While online semesters, summer sessions, and winter courses are condensed into eight, five, and four weeks respectively. Conventional instructional design thought asked students to double and triple efforts to meet the demands of accelerated online learning. However, the idea that learner experience and outcomes in an accelerated format remain unchanged is questionable. Utilizing discussion and email, teachers and students already invest more time in an online classroom (Chen, 2007). The solution to better learning outcomes is an approach specific to adult online instructional development.

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Instructional Systems Development is a process in which teachers, learners, materials, and environment are critically considered using a systematic approach to bring about learning. The purpose of a systems approach model is to develop, implement, and evaluate instruction. Instructional designers and teachers utilizing a systems approach view preparation, implementation, evaluation, and revision as one unifying process (Dick & Carey, 2001).

Adult learning is best achieved through its environmental interactions, “the transactions between learner and teacher, learner and learner, and learner to content” (McDonald, 2012). Interactions have been hypothesized to provide specific outcomes such as communication and feedback. It is this interaction by which learners and teachers connect with content to create a positive online environment and achieve better outcomes. (McDonald, 2012).


Andragogy is the art and science of adult learning. There are six assumptions that are specific to Andragogy. First, as one becomes an adult there is a shift from dependency to becoming self-directing. Second, adults have accumulated a life rich with experiential learning. Third, the level of desire of the adult learner is associated to individual tasks and social roles. Fourth, mature adults see knowledge with immediate application. Fifth, internal motivation is the driving force of adults. Sixth, and last, Adults demand reasoning for learning a subject matter. The Andragogical learning model must emphasize process. Learners are involved in planning, delivery, and evaluation of their learning (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

Adults view themselves as independent members of society and require an environment of mutual respect. Mature learners perform best when engaged in self-directed learning. Adults bring a life of knowledge to the coursework. Therefore, the constructivist approach has great appeal though it may present a downside. Due to experience, some of which is negative, adults are more likely to be closed minded (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

Adults see education as way to build upon life experiences: Adults are looking to apply knowledge to improve resumes for career change or to freshen skillset. Problem-centered learning appeals to the mature audience as it is more engaging. Professional graduate education for working adults is often centered around real-world challenges: students are relied on by employers to provide a solution. Andragogy is rooted in human psychology on the journey to self-actualization and requires intelligent instructional design (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

Perspective of Learning

Well executed instructional design provides a systematic approach for effective teaching. Framing sophisticated design requires educational psychology, cognitive sciences, and system theory. Designers must clearly state goals and objectives and classify learning outcomes. Great design begins by planning with the end in mind. This outcome first approach ensures each module and objective is closely aligned (Miller, 2019). Teachers will inform learners of the design goals, provide instruction, and measure performance. This is the traditional objectivist approach (Chen, 2007).

Utilizing a blended approach that includes constructivism through collaboration and negotiation can make learning more meaningful. A flexible environment with mutually established goals set by both teacher and learner offer engaging dialogue through embedded learning tasks. A constructivist approach is manageable in a traditional semester as students and teachers have time to collaborate. Due to the time constraints of an accelerated format a blended approach is necessary to successfully include the most meaningful learning (Chen, 2007).

Applying good andragogy in a constructivist environment requires a significant time investment. Both instructor and student devote a considerable amount of time engaging in problem-based learning tasks; social interactions; form and norm groups; cognitive scaffold, coaching and feedback; and collaboration and interaction. Designing support based online learning require students to construct knowledge through virtual interactions. Assigned problem-based tasks foster higher-level thinking, promote teamwork, and improve attitude and motivation within a learning community. Providing this social support requires additional effort, but creates a more meaningful environment for the learner (Chen, 2007).

Understanding the importance of a resourceful and supportive learning environment is essential to online course design. Meaningful learning requires a blended approach to produce efficient learning in an accelerated environment. Scaffolding, providing consistent and constant feedback, within the learning community is essential to the online accelerated learning format. Purposeful consistent course orientation will ensure students and teachers a positive learning experience (Chen, 2007).

Learning Theories

The human brain files memory into temporary and semi-permanent folders. The brain receives information through the two subsystems of written text and narration. The Cognitive Load Theory hypothesizes learning is obstructed when beyond memory capacity (Jong, 2009).

There are three types of Cognitive Load: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Intrinsic relates to difficulty of subject matter, the number of activities assigned, and a prior knowledge of the topic. Extraneous is the volume of unnecessary work, the number of instructional materials, with no prior knowledge of the topic. Germane is imposed by the learning process; interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, inferring, differentiating, and organizing (Jong, 2009)

Jong correctly states, (2009) “Working memory performance correlates with cognitive ability and achievement”. And knowing that poorly executed instruction and design improperly reflects the student’s ability and intellect, care must be taken to safeguard the students’ academic future. This is accomplished by first, presenting material that aligns with the student. Second, delivering essential only content that is understandable to the learner. And lastly, designing guard rails that lead instructors to deliver conceptually rich content aimed at deep knowledge (Jong, 2009).

Load and effort are often used interchangeably when referring to cognitive load theory. Though it is important to note that is not always the case (Jong, 2009). If this theory were a truck, effort would be the engine that pulls the cognitive load. And while many students begin with a strong motor, when the load becomes too heavy doubt and eventually failure set in. Like a mismatched motor to load ratio, a mismatched instructional design approach ends with the hood up: on the side of the road; getting passed by traffic; and leaving the learner stranded and frustrated. A systematic step-by-step approach is essential to ensure needed content is exchanged in each course to achieve deep knowledge.

Instructional Strategies

The first step of the systems approach model is to conduct a needs assessment. Second is to determine what skills, knowledge, and attitudes will be needed prior to class. Third is analyzing what is to be learned and how the knowledge will be applied. Fourth is establishing written performance objectives. Fifth is creating learning assessments to measure performance of objectives. The sixth strategy includes, “pre-instructional activities, presentation of information, practice and feedback, testing, and follow-through activities” (Dick & Carey, 2001, p. 6-7). Seventh, is developing teaching materials which may include modules, pages, discussion boards, tests, and quizzes. Eighth, is creating three types of evaluation used for course improvement; one-on-one, small group, and field evaluation. Ninth, and lastly, is summative evaluation. Although evaluation is not included in design, it is the best assessment to evaluate whether outcomes were achieved (Dick & Carey, 2001). Outcome based blended learning course design requires rigorous planning and is worth the effort.


Retrofitting traditional fifteen-week pedagogical courses by doubling the workload to accommodate accelerated online learning creates cognitive overload, poor outcomes, and a negative learning experience for the adult learner. An objectivist approach of binging on mass quantities of assigned reading and then purging through testing offer the online learner little in the way of knowledge, mastery, and scholarly experience. Andragogy is based on self-directed, self-motivated, life rich learning. Online adult programming offer flexibility and socialization unique to the traditional classroom. Adults connect best when engaged in self-directed problem centered learning.

Learners have relearned how to learn in a virtual environment. “Faculty may also need to relearn how to facilitate courses in blended modalities,” McDonald (2012) reports. The greatest challenge of blended learning is determining and employing the proper combination. In a virtual environment data and feedback are readily available for review and redirection; Are teachers taking advantage of the ability to course refresh in real time? Most instructors are very qualified in their respected discipline. However, adult online learning is forcing teachers to discover andragogy course design. Those who elect to develop a constructivist-objectivist learning model specific to accelerated online adult learning ensure a positive environment and achieve better outcomes.


  1. Chen, S.-J. (2007). Instructional Design Strategies for Intensive Online Courses: An Objectivist-Constructivist Blended Approach. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 72–86. Retrieved from
  2. Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J. O. (2001). The systematic design of instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  3. Jong, T. D. (2009, August 27). Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: some food for thought. Instructional Science. doi:
  4. McDonald, P. L. (2012). ProQuest LLC., Ann Arbor.
  5. Merriam, S., & Bierema, L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice (First ed., The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series).
  6. Miller, M. E. (2019, August 23). How To Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from

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