Blended Learning Initiative: Increasing Access and Opportunity

Background: Phase I
Drawing on its experience with online learning, UIC piloted five blended courses in two colleges during Phase I of the UIC Blended Learning Initiative in the 2005 - 2006 academic year. The pilot program laid the groundwork for blended learning, developing expertise, and gauging student and faculty readiness for success in blended learning and teaching.

At the conclusion of Phase I, UIC had successfully blended 14 courses and five degree programs. During student evaluations and focus groups, students shared their satisfaction and enthusiasm for the flexibility and learning opportunities that blended courses provided them:

Student One:
“I was able to work full-time and complete this course. I could watch the lectures on my own time, and I could repeat slides that had a lot of information that I would have otherwise missed if I was in a regular face-to-face lecture.”

Student Two:
“The best thing about participating in this blended course was that I was able to take another class at eight in the morning while still being able to complete this requirement as well. It was also easy to follow the lectures because it was as though I was sitting in class.”

With the support of the Office of the Provost, UIC was ready to launch into the next phase of the initiative broadening the number of courses and colleges engaged in the effort.

Increasing Access and Opportunity: Phase II
In March 2008, UIC received grant funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the implementation of Phase II of the Blended Learning Initiative, which will accelerate campus adoption of blended learning as a means to increase access. With Sloan grant funds and campus matching funds, the campus is working with five colleges to re-design 62 courses, resulting in the integration of online and face-to-face instruction in 80 degree programs by December 2010.

This phase of the Blended Learning Initiative will strategically target three areas of education at UIC—undergraduate general education, undergraduate business education and graduate-level health professional education. As the principal educator of Illinois’ physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare professionals, UIC faces high demand for its undergraduate and graduate programs, and this phase of UIC’s Blended Learning Initiative will have a particular impact on both undergraduate and health professional education. The courses in Phase II will significantly increase access to high-quality education at UIC, especially for students living and working in geographic proximity to the campus. Additionally, the courses will provide a critical foundation for the full implementation of UIC’s Blended Learning Initiative.

Following the foundation laid during Phase I, UIC will conduct on-going assessments and evaluations of the courses and programs that are part of the initiative. Additionally, faculty who are developing the blended courses and programs will be preparing case studies to be posted on this site as a resource to other faculty interested in developing a blended or online course.

Faculty members or departments who are not engaged in the grant funded effort and are interested in developing a blended course or program should contact UIC Online.

Phase III and Beyond
Provost Tanner has made blended learning one his five critical objectives for maximizing UIC’s academic resources. Assessment and evaluation of the blended courses and programs will be key drivers for continuing the support and expansion of blended learning at UIC.