The Basics of Asynchronous/Synchronous Blended Learning
A heightened awareness of online music education has come to the forefront of higher education as an increasing number of post-secondary students enroll in online courses. From the initial listservs and bulletin boards of early distance education to complete online degree programs, music education departments are continuing to grow their online counterparts. According to the research of Tallent-Runnels et al (2006), during 2000-2001, 90% of two-year public programs and 89% of four-year public programs in institutions has distance learning components; This amounted to 2,876,000 students in college level distance education courses. Current statistics (Allan & Seaman, 2010) describe “over 4.6 million [American] students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2008 term.” The latest Canadian statistics suggest, “The overwhelmingly majority (over 82 percent) are studying at the undergraduate level with only 14 percent taking graduate level courses and the remainder in some other for-credit course” (Statistic Canada, 2005). Many institutions are regularly adding more online courses to their roster. This begs the question of "how is this use of technology different from the traditional classroom?"
As courses move to their online complement, educators face new opportunities to discover technology as a tool for teaching. But, higher-level learning in online education involves more than technology; it involves exploring foundational elements of learning engagement to create personalized, meaningful learning. Framed within the basic psychological approaches for teaching and learning in online education, online education has the capacity to unite a body of diverse learners with substantive levels of cognitive, social and teaching engagement. Through its online design, technology forces the online student to embrace the social, cognitive and teaching engagement of the online course layout. Therefore to take advantage of personalized learning, the re-thinking of face-to-face curriculum design and instructional strategies needs to be considered. How an online course can be structured to engage students in meaningful, purposeful learning becomes the paramount question. Using various online instructional strategies, organizational design concepts and purposeful planning of asynchronous and synchronous activities and tools, the online classroom can become a place of meaningful engagement and rewarding higher level thinking and learning.