About the Reading task 1 in the EVO2022: Delivering best practices for distance and online and blended courses

I was to choose and read an article and write one paragraph. The one I chose was about the design process of blended learning which turned out to have some sub-articles. They were so interesting that I kept parts of them that resonated with me and wrote a touch more than one paragraph, so I decided to document it here.

I read this article about strategies for teaching blended learning courses

Found this definition here:

Blended learning, which combines face-to-face and online learning activities into a single course.

Blended learning strategies have a lot in common with the Flipped learning approach. At the planning stage, we too think about learning outcomes for students and ask big questions about what it’s in it for the student to learn and then work backwards from how the student will prove they have learnt it. I think the biggest obstacle is having a variety of modalities when it comes to designing your lessons and one of my hurdles is remembering all of these cool apps and website tools I have used over the years to reuse them when it is suitable.

I agree with the fact that you have to decide beforehand if your blended course is an online one with some face2face interaction or if it is a f2f course with some online interaction. I have a class where some students will not be attending face2face classes at all and have some students that will only be attending face2face classes. Here the design of their active learning always need to be well thought out and the choice of deliverables should vary where the use of digital deliverables or digital tools is mandatory.

What resonated with me from this article was the useful list of advice to make careful modality decisions. My biggest hurdle is considering beforehand how much work will be required of me to create each learning activity in comparison to the benefits to the learners. Sometimes I create a learning activity that takes too long to prepare versus the benefits the learners will take from that.

I agree with this: 

“In terms of integration, communication is the key, and I think if we can allow our students to communicate in meaningful ways—both online and face to face—that will help bridge the gap. … If students can understand that the professor is very interested in communication and the social interaction that necessarily has to occur for us to learn, then I think that the students will buy into the fact that they need to be active face to face and online,” Wegmann says.

And this:

“Just because a communication tool or technique is available does not mean that you have to use it, Thompson says. “When you’ve got a solution in search of a problem, that’s probably a bad thing. For example, if instructor X for whatever reason thought that she or he had to ‘have an online discussion’ in a blended course but didn’t really have a sense of why … if there’s no discernible connection between that activity and the learning outcomes, and if it’s not designed particularly well … it will be perceived as meaningless busywork.”

I have incorporated a bulletin board discussion forum in each class and when I started using it as a reflection tool, not all students bought into the idea. Eventually, when they realised it was important to me and not just busywork, they ended up collaborating and sharing their reflections and eventually began to enjoy it.

“Reinforce one modality in the other. Be explicit in making the connections between the two modalities by acknowledging and extending the interaction in each.” 

This is something I do anyway but hadn’t realised that it is so important. It took me time in getting students to do some things online because they feel it’s just busywork. When they understand that firstly, it is important to me and then that I feel it’s important for their own learning to do they get into the habit of doing some online activities more often.

“If you do not carefully think about and implement measures to integrate these two learning modes, students may perceive them as separate contexts that have very little to do with each other or they may consider parts of the course irrelevant or busywork.”

Even though I have been using a digital school platform for the past two years, it has just resonated with me that I do offer blended learning courses at my school. My courses are offered in conjunction with an online school platform which is an integration of an E-Class platform and an LMS. I have seen students (and some parents) consider that the online part of the course was not connected to the face2face part of the course and try to pull out of being part of it. Once they understood that it was part of the course and not just busywork, they eventually came round and made it part of their routine.

I think proper communication is key to its success. I will try to communicate this with my teachers, my students and parents more.

“When the online and face-to-face components complement each other as integrated activities in each setting, there is a clear purpose and students understand the relevance of both modes.”

Yes, a clear purpose makes both modes relevant.

In this reading, Veronica Diaz the associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative gives us some useful pointers on mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t try to convert your course to an online course too because it will turn out to be a “course-and-a-half”.
  • Make sure there is a connection between what you teach in your f2f and what you put for them online.
  • Don’t convert your entire lecture into an online one. No one wants to sit and watch a lecture. these days there are too many distractions.

This article talks about the ADDIE Instructional design process 

(ADDIE which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation.)

I have been slowly moving from curriculum design to Instructional design of all my courses and classes. It is important for administrators and teachers to design in regards to what’s in it for the students than from what I need to teach in this lesson, by this week, by that month. 

Moving towards designing my blended courses will have to be my next step, so this really hit me and decided to document it to further take it in.

In short, ADDIE consists of these below steps:

Analysis:

  • Review prior course evaluations for guidance on where students struggle.
  • Identify the most difficult concepts for students and focus on those.

Design:

  • Create detailed learning objectives. Use strong action verbs and avoid terms like “know,” “understand,” and “learn.”
  • Divide course into F2F and online components.
  • Match learning objectives with technology.

Development

  • Start early – at least a semester, preferably a year, in advance.
  • Create an ideal course then start with the most important elements in the next step.
  • Create a shell with the intention of refining and improving over several semesters.

Implementation

  • Start with a smaller course if possible (summer is a good time).
  • Launch the entire course once completely designed rather than piecemeal.

Evaluation

  • Assessment is critical for course improvement and accreditation.
  • Leverage technology to collect data (think about this in the design stage).
  • Utilize evaluation data to ‘close the loop’ to improve the course for next time.

“Shibley explained how to divide your course content in a way that creates opportunities for learning before class, during class and after class; how to assess student learning; and how to use technology to support learning”

These bullets sum up the design of blended learning:

  • Establish clear learning goals for the topic.
  • Design activities to help students meet the learning goals.
  • Sort the activities into two categories: online and face-to-face.

Found these steps worth highlighting:

 In considering each step, the following questions might help:

  • What do I really want students to learn?
  • How can I ensure that students read the book prior to class?
  • What lower-level activities can student complete online prior to class?
  • What higher-level activities can be accomplished during class?
  • What higher-level activities can students complete after a topic has been discussed face-to-face?
  • Which activities require a grade and which activities will students do because they can immediately see the link to other graded activities?

When talking to administrators, point out that blended learning…

  • impacts the entire institution.
  • offers a learner-centered pedagogy.
  • may integrate with the strategic plan.
  • improves classroom utilization.
  • can help match delivery to academic need.
  • can help fill under-enrolled courses and programs.

When talking to faculty, point out that blended learning….

  • gives them access to new resources.
  • introduces them to online learning.
  • is an opportunity for faculty development and lets them experiment with new pedagogies and techniques.
  • helps meet student expectations and build student skills.
  • allows for more flexible scheduling.
  • retains the face-to-face aspect faculty may cherish.

When talking to students, point out blended learning…

  • meets their expectations for utilizing technology.
  • develops independent learning skills.
  • offers increased flexibility and convenience.
  • provides better access to those with job, family, or distance barriers.
  • helps reduce educational costs.

“Offering blended learning requires more than just setting up an LMS and telling the faculty to integrate it into their curriculum.”

  • “Interactive” looks different. I have found the Google suite to be extremely helpful for interactive work in my HyFlex classroom. I use Google docs, slides, and Jamboard daily to discuss readings and do group activities. I’ve taken to setting up a Google Doc ahead of class with a table of questions for discussion (rows are pre-labeled with student names). I can see exactly who is participating in real time. (Side note: I set up a shared Google Drive for our class. This makes it possible to make new Google Docs or Slides on the fly during class if necessary and have them immediately accessible to all students in the class).
  • Community looks different. I make a conscious effort to speak directly to students attending virtually as well as those in the room. As I see them sign into Zoom, I greet individuals and chat with them. One of my in-person students mentioned how surprising it was to hear me apparently talking to no one before she realized I was speaking to a student on Zoom. She appreciated that the class is not split into “participators” in the classroom and “observers” on Zoom.
  • Group work looks different. I like to use Zoom breakout rooms, but the in-class component adds complexity. I’ve kept my pre-assigned breakout rooms, but I added a fifth breakout room just for in-class students. I manually re-assign this group each day based on who is in class. Those in the classroom can talk directly to each other, making the most of the in-class context.
  • My role with groups looks different. In the classroom, I like to move around and interact with each group. With HyFlex, this is more difficult. I’ve had to give up some control over the groups (I can’t “see” them in the breakout rooms), but I’ve found that the Google collaboration helps me keep tabs on the work they are doing. If I assign each group a Google Slide in a shared slide deck. I can have the slides open on my laptop and can see at a glance which slides the students are looking at and what they are writing. I’ve also built-in more time for each group to report out, and I use that time for the kinds of probing questions I would normally ask during the group work. The whole class benefits from our interactions in ways they probably missed during previous in-person semesters.
  • Connecting with students looks different. After my disappointing first week, I arranged to meet with each of my 25 students individually in 10-minute time slots on Zoom. It made a world of difference in my own attitude. Those short, one-on-one conversations helped restore some of what I was missing in my HyFlex classroom–the opportunity to get to know students and connect with them. I realize not everyone can do this, but perhaps even in larger classes faculty could meet with students in groups of five or six. For me, it was an important way to preserve one part of teaching I find most satisfying.

These readings were really valuable, and I explicitly the kept parts I feel have helped me come to understand the ideas behind blended learning. hopefully, over time these principles and guidance will become ingrained in my work more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s