Blended Learning Classroom Guidance


Converting to Online Teaching
A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions


By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA



The terms flipped classroom, active learning, and blended learning have been kicked around for a number of years, sometimes with great fanfare. One of the outcomes of our partnership with edX is that we have studied research results on effective teaching techniques. Relative to teaching on campus our conclusion is unequivocal, blended learning formats are far more effective. The content is much stickier!

For example, the 2019 Impact Report from edX states: “edX and our partners have unlocked the power of blended learning – when on-campus learning happens both on-line and in person. Blended learning has been shown to improve learning outcomes. In one case, pass rates in a blended learning course delivered on the edX platform jumped to 91%, compared to a 59% pass rate in the traditional face-to-face class.”

So, what is blended learning? Blended Learning combines classroom learning with online learning. Setting the context, for a campus class, we assign various activities for the learners to prepare before class so that class time can be an active learning environment.

Active learning is an instructional approach that engages students in the material they are learning through problem-solving activities, writing assignments, group discussion, reflection activities, and any other task which promotes critical thinking about the subject. Active learning requires that students do something which develops their skills.  This is a substantial shift from traditional classroom teaching models, passive learning, where the teacher provides information which the students dutifully record. Active learning shifts the focus of learning activity to the learner: what the learner does, what the learner thinks, and how the learner behaves. It uses all three learning-style preferences; visual, auditory, and particularly kinesthetic.

A key component of blended learning is shifting the transmission and absorption of basic course information from classroom lecture delivery to homework by the students.  Students may be given assignments before class which include videos to watch, voice-over PowerPoint slide decks, readings, problem sets, Google searches for information, pearl diving essays, etc. Short quizzes or knowledge checks, which must be completed before in-person class sessions, encourage the learner to be prepared for class.  Use of your learning management system (LMS) (we use Canvas) supports simple administration of these pre-class activities.

When the class does meet in person, the instructor goes from sage-on-the-stage, traditional lecture model to being a facilitator of active learning for the students.  Students are prepared and ready to ask questions for understanding rather than hearing course content for the first time in class.  This shifts the focus of the instructors’ interactions with students to discussion, application, clarification, workshops and peer collaborations, making the learning stickier, easier to remember and apply, for the students. Blended classrooms are naturally student-centered; the instructor is the guide to learning for students, and the students are actively tasked with their own learning.  The blended learning model also builds on the opportunity for students to learn from each other and to coach their peers, provide feedback and execute group projects.

Many experienced and effective teachers, who are used to the “sage-on-the-stage” lecture method, have trouble even imagining how to make the switch to a blended classroom.  One benefit for teachers, however, is that blended learning removes the relentless requirement of repeating (teaching the same basic content each semester) which frees up valuable faculty time for other activities.  Rather, teachers can record short lessons on core content for students to review in advance and use class time to answer questions.  Students learn to apply the content from experienced teachers. These short videos are also valuable to the students because they are able to work at their own pace, reviewing videos on more difficult topics while moving on from ones they found easier to master.  The inclusion of quick knowledge checks in the pre-work, provides feedback and motivation for students as they master new content.

There is one more reason to move to a blended course design…


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles by the Director of the University of Maryland’s Project Management Center for Excellence provides information and advice for converting from traditional in-person classes to online teaching, based on their experience before and during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

How to cite this paper: Cable, J. H. (2020). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions – Blended Learning Classroom Guidance, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Cable-converting-to-teaching-online-5-blended-learning.pdf



About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/




  1. […] This article appeared in PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September 2020. […]

  2. […] This article appeared in PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September 2020. […]

  3. […] Read John Cable’s article in the September edition of PM World Journal, Blended Learning Classroom Guidance. […]

  4. […] [1] Cable, J. H. (2020). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators… […]

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