Blended Learning: Impact on Institutions

In a message to all faculty in March of this year, UBC’s president Stephen Toope, announced that UBC will make increasing flexible learning across all of their university programs a strategic priority.  He defines this more precisely as the “need to evolve our teaching model further to one that more systematically blends traditional classroom environments with online components, interactive distance dialogues and small support groups… to suit the varying needs of learners…”

Shortly after he resigned. Are the two events related? Not likely but it certainly emphasizes for me the impact that organizational change can have on institutions and individuals. At first glance Mr. Toope’s message sounds revolutionary, and having been through a few disruptive technology driven organizational change events myself I wonder what this aim will look like in a year or five. 

If history can tell us anything, it is that revolutionary change in education, is perhaps not so revolutionary after all.

 Listen to BF Skinner tell us about his Teaching Machine (1954). Skinner is of course associated most closely with behaviorism, which seems counterintuitive to my discussion here of revolutionary change. However if you listen to the video closely you see Skinner addresses the concepts of just in time learning, the importance of timely feedback and also the gamification of learning. He outlines that it is not the machine that teaches but rather the people who design the teaching program. Jump back to today, and are these not the same ideas UBC is examining? The question for me is not educational; there is a lot of research evidencing the benefits of pedagogically sound application of “teaching machines” to all forms of education. But with regard to an institutional approach to change I wonder what organizational structures need to be in place to make this change sustaining and accepted?


Kathy Enid Snow, EdD (ABD)

Instructional Designer

Distance & Online Education
174G Extended Education Complex
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2

Phone: (204) 474-9388
Fax: (204) 474-7660





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