Blended learning and pedagogical innovation: supporting teaching staff in higher education institutions

by Laure Englebert & Esther Durin, IHECS, Belgium.

In March 2021, the Haute École Galilée, specifically the Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales, initiated a research project with the support of the Fonds de Financement de la Recherche en Haute École (Wallonia-Brussels Federation). The project concluded on May 31, 2023. This research-action project was driven by a broader reflection that emerged in higher education in the early 2000s regarding the progressive digitization of society and its implications for institutions and education. It was also prompted by an emergency situation – the Covid-19 crisis and the confinement measures during the first semester of 2020 -which abruptly confronted higher education institutions with the challenges of remote learning.

The project had dual objectives. From a scientific standpoint, it aimed to solidify the initial conceptualizations of blended learning instructional framework and establish a transdisciplinary research field encompassing educational sciences, information-communication sciences, and language sciences. From a societal and political perspective, the project aimed to offer practical support to teaching staff and higher education institutions in the process of blended learning and innovation in their teaching practices. The research findings will be utilized to adapt the tested techno-pedagogical support program, translating it into recommendations and a practical guide.

More specifically, the project proposed to experiment with a support program for higher education teaching staff in implementing a blended learning instructional framework. It sought to assess the impact of this system on staff’ teaching experiences and the learning experiences of their students. Our methodology primarily relied on qualitative approaches, such as semi-structured interviews, focus groups and diaries. The research was conducted across various departments at the Haute École Galilée, aiming to test the blended learning programme across different teaching types and disciplinary fields.

The analysis of the focus groups allowed us to define a program format that catered for the needs and constraints of higher education teaching staff. The program was structured in three stages:

1. An introductory evening

2. Three intensive days following the Hackathon model

3. Individual project coaching

The pedagogical engineering of the Hackathon itself comprised several phases:

1. Problem definition – using the “five whys” method to identify underlying issues of identified problems.

2. Identifying the nature of pedagogical innovation – participants were guided to identify elements in the 14 components of HYSUP hybridization (Burton et al., 2014) and motivational factors (Viau, 2009) that could address their problems they identified in the first phase.

3. Pedagogical conception and planning – teaching staff were invited to design content, organise resources, plan activities, and select technological tools to facilitate and support learning (Henri, Compte, and Charlier, 2017, p.17-18), while adhering to the principle of constructive curriculum alignment (Biggs, 1996).

4. Design of the pedagogical innovation prototype.

5. Pitch: Pecha Kucha presentation (

Our focus here is on the formative process and pedagogical development of teaching staff, rather than the final teaching product they create. With this in mind, we aimed to understand how the techno-pedagogical support provided to teaching staff, as described in the previous steps, influences their representations of blended learning and their professional development. Our analysis centres on the changing perceptions of blended learning, highlighting four inherent tensions in the process.

Two key moments sparked cognitive conflicts: the problematization exercise and constructive curriculum alignment principle in the conception phase. Analysis of the data shows that these pivotal moments enabled teaching staff to transform their initial representations and arrive at new ones. This phenomenon was observed based on four identified variables/tensions in the diaries of teaching staff:

1. Motivations for hybridization: pragmatic vs. pedagogical

Initially, the majority of participants were motivated by pragmatic factors such as dealing with high student numbers, diverse student levels, and absenteeism. However, throughout the program, this motivation evolved into a more pedagogical focus, related to the teaching staff’s own system and challenges.

2. Learner-centred posture vs. teacher-centred posture (Trigwell and Prosser, 1996, p.80)

The support program enabled teachers to shift from a teacher-centred strategy aimed at transmitting knowledge to a student-centred strategy aimed at challenging students’ preconceptions.

3. Articulation of content, pedagogy, and technology (Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK model)

Initially, teaching staff were more concerned with technical issues rather than pedagogical aspects. However, through the two pivotal moments, a greater integration of disciplinary, pedagogical, and technical considerations developed.

4. Changing expectations of support, transitioning from a passive, wait-and-see role to a genuine partnership-based conception of the support’s role (Champion, Kiel, and McLendon, 1990; Poumay, 2011).


The Hype research project clearly demonstrates how the design of a pedagogical support program can influence the pedagogical development of teaching staff. The results also confirm that there is no direct causal link between technological innovation and pedagogical innovation (Bernard & Fluckiger, 2019). While a correlation between the four tensions analysed has been demonstrated, further research should explore how these tensions influence each other.

Editor’s note: We are delighted to have Laure as a speaker for Media & Learning 2023: Where pedagogy meets media which will take place 20-21 June in Leuven, Belgium.


Laure Englebert, IHECS, Belgium