Short Bio

Ruth Boelens

In 2013, Ruth obtained her Master degree in Educational Sciences at Ghent University. Afterwards, she successfully completed the teacher training program. Since November 2014 she is working on her PhD project at the department of Educational Studies at Ghent University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Bram De Wever. Her PhD project is situated within the ALO! project, and focuses on effective course design for blended learning environments in adult education. In particular, she focuses on adult learners with a background in vocational and technical secondary education enrolled in pre-service teacher training.

Research Interests

  • Blended learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Educational design research
  • Teacher training
  • Adult education


ALO! Project: Adult Learners Online

The project 'Adult Learners Online! Blended and Online Learning in Adult Education and Training' (ALO!) has a four-fold mission:

  1. To improve the quality of online and blended learning in adult education through the use of a continuous quality improvement framework;
  2. To analyze the current online and blended learning design and to provide guidelines for a better (optimal) learning environment for the specific learner groups both at the course level and programme level;
  3. To research the individual and social background of adult learners and their (non-) participation in online and blended learning and to analyze the key variables that affect their participation and learning and social outcomes in online and blended learning;
  4. To develop and validate teacher professional development models in order to improve the quality of online and blended learning.

Ruth's PhD project contributes to the second goal or mission: the development of guidelines (at course level) to design a blended learning environment.


Boelens, R., Voet, M., & De Wever, B. (2018). The design of blended learning in response to student diversity in higher education: Instructors' views and use of differentiated instruction in blended learning. Computers & Education, 120, 197-212. doi:

The implementation of blended learning in higher education is increasing, often with the aim to offer flexibility in terms of time and place to a diverse student population. However, specific attention for the diversity of this group, and how to cater individual needs, is still scarce. Therefore, this study explores instructors' strategies for and beliefs about differentiated instruction in blended learning, together with how the differences between instructors can be explained. A total of 20 instructors working in two adult education centers participated in semi-structured interviews focusing on their (a) use of strategies for differentiated instruction, and (b) beliefs about designing blended learning to address student diversity. The findings reveal that the most commonly used differentiated instruction strategy in a blended learning context was providing students with additional support throughout product development. In addition, three instructor profiles about designing blended learning to address student diversity emerged from the data: (1) disregard: instructors considered no additional support in the blended learning arrangements to match students' needs, (2) adaptation: instructors believed that increased support in the existing blended learning arrangements was sufficient to match students' needs, and (3) transformation: instructors thought that blended learning arrangements should be designed in a completely different way, and be tailored to the characteristics of the students. The results show that half of the instructors considered a transformation of their blended learning arrangements in response to student diversity. Furthermore, instructors' beliefs appear to be strongly connected to the organization and trajectory in which they work. A major implication of these findings is that professional support focusing on instructors' beliefs is of crucial importance to unlock blended learning's full potential. As such, it is important for organizations to develop a clear stance on this issue, which pays explicit attention to responding to learners' needs in blended learning contexts.

Instructional activities; blended learning; educational technology; course design; teaching strategies


Voet, M., Gielen, M., Boelens, R., & De Wever, B. (2017). Using feedback requests to actively involve assessees in peer assessment: Effects on the assessor's feedback content and assessee' s agreement with feedback. European Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

Criticizing the common approach of supporting peer assessment through providing assessors with an explication of assessment criteria, recent insights on peer assessment call for support focusing on assessees, who often assume a passive role of receivers of feedback. Feedback requests, which require assessees to formulate their specific needs for feedback, have therefore been put forward as an alternative to supporting peer assessment, even though there is little known about their exact impact on feedback. Operationalizing effective feedback as feedback that (1) elaborates on the evaluation and (2) to which the receiver is agreeable, the present study examines how these two variables are affected by feedback requests, compared to an explanation of assessment criteria in the form of a content checklist. Situated against the backdrop of a writing task for 125 first-year students in an educational studies program at university, the study uses a 2 x 2 factorial design that resulted in four conditions: a control, feedback request, content checklist, and combination condition. The results underline the importance of taking message length into account when studying the effects of support for peer assessment. Although feedback requests did not have an impact on the raw number of elaborations, the proportio n of informative elaborations within feedback messages was significantly higher in conditions that used a feedback request. In other words, it appears that the feedback request stimulated students to write more focused messages. In comparison with feedback content, the use of a feedback request did, however, not have a significant effect on agreement with feedback

peer assessment, feedback request, feedback content, agreement with feedback


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. doi:

The design of blended learning environments brings with it four key challenges: (1) incorporating flexibility, (2) stimulating interaction, (3) facilitating students’ learning processes, and (4) fostering an affective learning climate. Seeing that attempts to resolve these challenges are fragmented across the literature, a systematic review was performed. Starting from 640 sources, 20 studies on the design of blended learning environments were selected through a staged procedure based on the guidelines of the PRISMA statement, using predefined selection criteria. For each study, the instructional activities for dealing with these four challenges were analyzed by two coders. The results show that few studies offer learners control over the realization of the blend. Social interaction is generally stimulated through introductory face-to-face meetings, while personalization and monitoring of students’ learning progress is commonly organized through online instructional activities. Finally, little attention is paid to instructional activities that foster an affective learning climate.

Instructional activities; blended learning; educational technology; course design


Boelens, R., De Wever, B., Rosseel, Y., Verstraete, A. G., & Derese, A. (2015). What are the most important tasks of tutors during the tutorials in hybrid problem-based learning curricula? BMC Medical Education, 15(1), 84. doi:10.1186/s12909-015-0368-4.

Background: In problem-based learning, a tutor, the quality of the problems and group functioning play a central role in stimulating student learning. This study is conducted in a hybrid medical curriculum where problem-based learning is one of the pedagogical approaches. The aim of this study was to examine which tutor tasks are the most important during the tutorial sessions and thus should be promoted in hybrid (and in maybe all) problem-based learning curricula in higher education. Methods: A student (N = 333) questionnaire was used to obtain data about the problem-based learning process, combined with the achievement score of the students on a multiple-choice exam. Structural equation modeling was used to test the fit of different models (two existing models and a new simplified model) representing the factors of interest and their relationships, in order to determine which tutor characteristics are the most important in the present study. Results: A new simplified model is presented, which demonstrates that stimulation of active and self-directed learning by tutors enhances the perceived case quality and the perceived group functioning. There was no significant effect between the stimulation of collaborative learning and perceived group functioning. In addition, group functioning was not a significant predictor for achievement. Conclusions: We found that stimulating active and self-directed learning are perceived as tutors' most important tasks with regard to perceived case quality and group functioning. It is necessary to train and teach tutors how they can stimulate active and self-directed learning by students.

Problem-based learning, Tutor roles


Boelens, R., Van Laer, S., De Wever, B., Elen, J. (2015). Blended learning in adult education: towards a definition of blended learning. Project report.

Oliver and Trigwell (2005) argue that the term blended learning remains unclear and ill-defined. It means different things to different people, which illustrates its widely untapped potential (Driscoll, 2002). Despite this, of the above described definitions, perhaps the most common interpretation is the one about the blend of online and offline learning. Keeping these two assumptions in mind (ill-defined concept and mostly defined as the mix of on- and offline instruction), we chose to define the term blended learning as: 'learning that happens in an instructional context which is characterized by a deliberate combination of online and classroom-based interventions to instigate and support learning. Learning happening in purely online or purely classroom-based instructional settings is excluded'. The effective integration of both components depends on context factors such as learning goals, target group, size of the target group, and/or content.

Blended learning


Workshops (Dutch)

Blended learning: stap voor stap ontwerpen (augustus 2017)


  • Taalunie Zomercursus Nederlands. Taal, cultuur en beroep.
  • Universitair Centrum voor Talenonderwijs, Universiteit Gent.
  • Doelstellingen.

  • Het concept blended learning verduidelijken.
  • Participanten een bril geven om naar hun eigen lesontwerp te kijken.
  • Participanten een beeld geven hoe ze technologie kunnen inzetten om het leren te ondersteunen.
  • Downloads.

    Blended: ontwerpen als eerste stap (april 2017)


  • Intro cursus herontwerpen (Jan Elen)
  • Plenair gedeelte (Ruth Boelens & Stijn Van Laer)
  • Uitdieping in kleine groepen
  • Groep 1: Studenten aanzetten tot reflectie in blended leeromgevingen (Stijn Van Laer)
  • Groep 2: Samenwerkend leren in blended leeromgevingen (Ruth Boelens)
  • Plenaire afsluiting met terugkoppeling uit uitdiepingssessies (Bram De Wever)
  • Downloads.

    Memberships and affiliations