Best Practices for Designing Blended Courses

Course design is key          

  • Start by writing student-centred learning outcomes -- these can influence the environment of the content delivery and learning activities and how these are connected together and assessed (online or face-to-face). 
  • Align the learning outcomes, learning activities and assessments. CTE Teaching Tip: Course Design
  • Create a course outline with a course schedule that clearly communicates when and where students will engage with content and learning activities. Blended learning requires the development of self-directed learning and time management skills so students need to know what the expectations and deadlines are. CTE Teaching Tip: Creating Course Outlines

Employ "thoughtful integration"

  • Consider what you will do, and what your students will do. Blended courses are most effective when online and face-to-face activities are engaging and challenging and complement each other.  
  • Avoid the temptation of creating a course and half. Just adding online activities to a traditional course will increase the workload for students. Creating a blended course should be viewed as a complete redesign where the time and place of each component is carefully selected. CTE Teaching Tip: Aligning Outcomes, Assessments, and Instruction

Create a clear structure

  • One structure that works well for blended courses includes four components: pre-work, a readiness activity, in-class, and post work:

    • Pre-work: this includes activities students complete before the in-class session. These activities are typically online and may be required or optional.

    • Readiness activity: this may be a quiz, reflection, or other activity to ensure students have completed the pre-work and are ready for class. These activities are typically required and may be graded or ungraded. 

    • In-class: this includes the in-person activities and instructional strategies.

    • Post-work: this includes work students complete following the in-class session to help them prepare for later assessments.

  • You can use LEARN Course Templates to support this structure, specifically see the blended weekly introduction template 

Choose instructional strategies and learning activities carefully

  • Instructional strategies and learning activities contribute to the achievement of the desired learning outcomes so they should be chosen to support the learning outcomes and engage learners.
  • Student-student, student-instructor, and student-content interactions are all important components in learning. Varied interactions and prompt feedback from both the instructor and peers can help keep students engaged both in the classroom and online.
  • Active learning has been shown to be more effective for promoting deep understanding and retention of concepts. Instructional strategies such as flipping the classroom can help your students learn more effectively. CTE Teaching Tip: Planning a Flipped Class
  • Discussions, laboratory work, field trips, group work, online activities and lectures -- these can all be part of blended learning.

Use learning technologies

  • Consider what is to be accomplished by using learning technologies in the classroom or online: for example, dissemination of course content, group work, peer assessment, question facilitation, fostering community. Additionally, choose a technology that fits your level of technical expertise and supports your objectives.
    • Educational Technology Hub: provides information on the centrally-supported educational technologies, features and functionality, how to get started, and where to get support.


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact. 


See the related CTE Teaching Tips:


  • McGee, P. & Reis, A. (2012). Blended Course Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7-22.

teaching tips This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Best Practices for Designing Blended Courses. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.