Integrating Professional and Undergraduate Education Using Blended Learning: Creating Pedagogical and Operational Synergies Online

By Iain Macdonald and Philip Evans.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A unique blended learning course is currently being offered at The University of British Columbia in which campus-based undergraduate students study online alongside professional non-credit workplace learners drawn from across Canada and internationally. The two groups have a common interest in the subject matter (industrial wood finishing), share course resources through a WebCT e-learning website, and receive similar practical instruction, but they have distinctly different learning goals and assessment criteria. The online pairing of university and industry learners has enhanced the undergraduate learning experience in many ways. Firstly, undergraduate learners have gained an enhanced awareness of the contextual relevance of the subject matter. For example, through online discussions with industry learners they are now able to understand the importance of concepts introduced in the course. The involvement of industry has also yielded valuable information on what subject matter is most relevant to the workplace. Such feedback has allowed the course to be re-focused and improved, leading to increased student satisfaction (both undergraduate and industry learners).
The involvement of industry learners has encouraged equipment manufacturers to donate equipment to the teaching laboratories and provide technical expertise which has strengthened both the online and practical components of the course. Finally, tuition revenues from the industry training course have helped the University to hire a tutor/technician to assist with undergraduate teaching. The blended learning format has proven advantageous for geographically disparate industry learners as the flexibility afforded by the web-based study period increases their access to training as well as lowering its overall costs both to the learners and their employers. This paper outlines the rationale for developing this blended learning course, describe the steps involved in redesigning a classroom-based course to become a blended learning course, describe the benefits of the approach for undergraduate students and industry learners, and the host educational institution. The broader relevance of our approach to higher level learning in manufacturing education is also discussed.

Keywords: e-Learning, Industry Training, Undergraduate Education, Blended Learning, Learning Synergies

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp.85-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 592.074KB).

Iain Macdonald

Managing Director, Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Iain Macdonald is the Managing Director of the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing at The University of British Columbia, Canada. He holds a BA (Honours) in Marketing from Stirling University, Scotland, and an M.Sc. in technology-supported learning from the University of British Columbia. Over the last five years he has led a number of e-learning projects in Canada and South Africa aimed at both undergraduate and professional learners.

Dr. Philip Evans

Professor, Department of Wood Science, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Dr. Philip Evans is a Professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. He holds a B.Sc (Hons, First Class) and Ph.D. from the University of Wales and has lectured at Dundee Institute of Technology, Scotland and at The Australian National University (ANU). He has held appointments as Director of ANU’s Centre for Science and Engineering of Materials and Director of the UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing. He holds an Adjunct Professorship at The ANU. His research interests include the surface and interfacial properties of wood and the development of novel bio-based materials that can compete effectively with plastics, metals and concrete.

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