Education is a discipline prone to buzz words. Unlike some of them blended learning has stuck around, and it would seem that we are now at a point where everyone agrees that blending is what we should be doing. Given that an LMS such as Moodle or Blackboard is now a standard feature of university study, all courses are blended, more or less. All students have access to lecture recordings and teaching materials online, but there is an increasing awareness that we need to go further. The question is, where to next?
I work in a large university, and the conversations I am having lately tell me that there is a lot of confusion out there about what blended learning means in an LMS world. There is also a degree of anxiety about what the next step will mean for teachers, and how much work it will entail. In order to alleviate some of this anxiety, it is important to make sure that we are all speaking the same language when it comes to blended learning.
Traditional university courses deliver face to face training where students attend on campus for peer motivation, lectures and tutorials, social collaboration and a range of other factors including the Uni bar! For those of us who lived on campus in the 80’s or 90’s it can be hard to accept that changing any of this is a good idea.
Change is coming, however, whether we like it or not. The evolving university landscape features a variety of delivery modes. Ask any teacher about their first week’s attendance and they can tell you that the lecture is under threat. As a new generation of internet savvy students and clients seek solutions to their individual circumstances; course delivery must become broader than just face to face. Rather than lamenting, we need to bring everyone on board.
How can we approach online course design that speaks a common language – one which includes and empowers the teacher? For me there are three possible categories framed around the student experience:
- Online Blended
- Workshop Blended
- Face to Face Blended
So what is ‘Blended’? On the surface, that question is relatively easy to answer – a combination or face to face and online delivery. Again, many would argue we are already doing this. ‘I have a lecture – just record it and put it online; job done’. Not so fast…. You are forgetting the student experience. There is magic in the face to face guided experience and a video recording of this simply is not the same. Putting text book readings online is helpful, but it takes the institutional expert out of the picture, and this is not something that most students want. Also, we know that people learn by doing – if the tutorial space is also online, how do we make this an active learning environment?
The array of possibilities and technologies is daunting. To make it less so, I propose a check list for academics who want to engage their students online, but are unsure where to start.
CHOOSE YOUR ONLINE EXPERIENCE is an experience selection process aimed at building a better language around crafting blended learning.
This way, the academic can choose an experience type from the top menu, and then simply tick the items they might like to include in their blended course. The idea is that we start a conversation in the same language so that collaboration is easier.
Each experience type has a list of activities which fall into four sub categories, to help target the student experience;
- Content focus
- Learner choice
- Learner creation
- Social communication
Typically, a traditional Face to Face Blended course may have only a few items ticked and an Online Blended many, but this not need be the case if a particular tool dominates the pedagogy of the course design. Online video courses are an example of this. That said a good online course will use a variety of tools approaches to engage student activity online.
Just as good pedagogy does not target a single learning style, a broad selection of online experiences will set your student up for success and move them toward mastery. If you’re a about to blend a course try the checklist this today and you will be well on your way to creating a rich blended experience.