The Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts conferences grew out of a Next Generation Learning Challenges Wave I grant to study blended learning (i.e., a combination of online and in-class instruction) as a means of improving student learning outcomes in a liberal arts college setting. Prior research had shown that students learned more, were more engaged in, and were more satisfied with blended courses than with courses that were wholly online or wholly classroom-based. However, all of the studies had been conducted at large universities and community colleges, and it was unclear whether the value and benefits would translate to the smaller, more intimate setting of a liberal arts college. Our research has shown that blended learning does have much to offer liberal arts faculty and students, not only in terms of improving learning outcomes but also supporting the close faculty-student relationships and the engaging pedagogical approaches that are the hallmark of a liberal arts education.
The conferences remain a forum where liberal arts college faculty and instructional support staff who are experimenting with various forms of blended learning can share share resources, techniques, and findings. Our working definition of "blended learning" is quite broad, encompassing courses or approaches in which: a) students get feedback on their learning outside of the classroom through computer-based resources or activities and b) that computer-based component informs or alters how the instructor uses class time.