Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1-18.


Blended learning is an approach to education that provides interaction in both face to face and online learning environments. The authors point out that although the concept of blended learning is not a new one there is still a lack of understanding as to what a blended learning environment entails. Through this literature review, the authors find that four key challenges that need to be addressed when designing a blended learning environment. The article is designed around those four challenges and the ways in which current studies have approached meeting those.

A summary of Key Points

  • 4 Key Challenges
    •  Incorporating flexibility
      • Implied level of control for learners over time, place, path, or pace of learning
      • Challenge emerges during the design of blended learning environments.
    • Facilitate interaction
      • Transactional distance- increase in psychological and communication space
      • Increased transactional distance increases makes interaction more difficult
    • Facilitating students’ learning process
      • Self regulation skills such as organization, discipline, time management, technology, self- efficacy,
    • Fostering an affective learning climate
      • Online interaction can increase isolation of learners
      • Teachers must create a positive learning environment that promotes communication among learners

Design principles

  • When designing blended learning environments it is important to focus on learner control, social interaction, and affective learning climates to increase satisfaction and learning opportunities among teachers and learners.
  • Designers should focus on
    • Providing flexibility and opportunities for learner control
    • Creating an environment that is equipped to encourage social interaction among the learners and teachers, both in and out of content areas
    • Students should feel connected to both the teacher and other learners within the learning community

 Discussion Questions

  • What do the authors mean when they talk about a “redefinition of instruction”?
  • How are blended learning environments in discussed in the study working to facilitate interaction?
  • In what ways did programs work to adjust the learning process?
  • How are blended learning environments in this literature review helping to motivate learners?

 Additional Resources




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