With #BlendKit2015 (an online class) about to close, I’ve realized that UP has to improve on several things in order to advance blended learning or interactive learning in general.
Here are the 4 Ps we need to LEVEL UP for more interactive learning in Diliman!
1. Prerequisites –
This refers to the physical and cultural prerequisites of institutionalizing blended or other interactive learning models.
Based on #BlendKit2015, UP has a long way to go in terms of institutional readiness for blended learning. (check out the prime indicators of readiness in this link.)
People should understand both benefits and precautions of different learning models. Most importantly, teachers should have access to technology (and stable tech. support) and must have the capacity to use it effectively. Thus, the University has to exert further effort on faculty development more than just technological availability. Workshops like “Teaching Effectiveness Course” in context of blended learning would help in enlightening more teachers about the benefits of “flipping” a class. Moreover, we have venues of learning the tools, but we don’t have enough venues for learning the best practices and applications of such tools.
Nevertheless, The good thing is that I think we already have the tools and services needed (an LMS, multimedia services etc.), though there’s still so much to do in other aspects.
In my opinion, our main hurdle is that most teachers have learned what their teaching in a traditional set up. Moreover, most teachers are hired mostly for their expertise in the field and not necessarily based on teaching capacity. Hence, more likely teachers are not well aware of the different teaching innovations. In addition, I think our beloved academic institution needs to make more investments on specialized infrastructure and technology and to be more vocal on its plans and intents with regards to interactive learning.
2. Perspective –
We need to align our perspectives on interactive learning. For instance, there’s no universal definition for blended learning, but it is important to instill to teachers and administrators that a blended model does not merely add technology to face-to-face interaction (or lectures). Simply put, we need to envision a common goal, so that services will be properly directed.
In addition, I believe that there’s a need to unlearn some existing practices and relearn from outside perspective. For my case, I took online classes to enlighten me on what blended learning is and how I and my students will benefit from it. Moreover, I think the DILC needs more “teacher inputs” to evaluate the relevance and impact of their featured services and products.
Having said that, there’s a also need to establish the relevance and impact of existing services (like Iskweri, Iskpace, Pages.UPD etc.) to teaching and learning. It seems that the DILC team is strong on developing applications, webpages and multimedia services, but is weak on making that connection with interactive learning. We should aim for more tools that could improve student-to-student or student-to-teacher interactions, more than just having more applications or web services. Moreover, they should deliver the true potential of the services they offer. All of that requires a “correct” perspective on relevant matters.
In addition, I think there’s a need to review and overhaul the perception of success. We need to look at new measures of success. For the case of UVLe, it should not just be about having more course pages, but more about having interactive course pages. We already have enough course creators and many user-teachers, but how many of them are course designers or teacher-designers. For the case of helpdesk, it is not just about being able to reply on tickets within 24 hours, but also being able to promptly provide solutions and adequate assistance.
Overall, it all starts with having a proper understanding of interactive learning (or technology in education) and setting up a common goal.
3. Packaging –
Change in perspective shall imply change in packaging a.k.a. re-branding of services. Reprioritization between multimedia services and learning-relevant services should be done. DILC should rise as an Interactive Learning Center more than just a Multimedia Services Center. Obviously, there’s a need for “plating”. The services should visually attract teachers and learners, besides having an informative content. Good thing is that I think aesthetic is one of the things being worked out recently (check DILC website and UVLe.) Nevertheless, there are still few bumps to smooth in that aspect. Also, the tools should be intuitive in terms of navigation and design.There should also be consistency and thorough review of the individuality of the services and products.
Mishaps in perception may result to faulty presentation (eventually, ineffective publicity). Hence, target “audiences” often misunderstand the true potential of the products and services. In my opinion, there’s so much untapped potential in the interactive learning services of UP. Most of such disconnect, between services and outcomes, are more likely due to the way the interactive learning center present their services.
Take UVLe as an example. In my opinion, most of the current pages in UVLe (university virtual learning environment) are not well accustomed to a blended set up and are more likely not interactive (e.g. students merely go there to download files or lecture notes). Unfortunately, it seems that most are not even qualified to be labelled as a learning space or learning environment, despite us proudly calling the web tool as a VLE or CMS (course management system). We need to perceive UVLe not as a mere file or media sharing site but as an extension of classroom learning. It is not about “paperless way of teaching” or “an academic alternative to e-groups”. It should be centered on promoting online or blended modes of teaching. Even better, we have to promote UVLe with higher goals, such as having more reusable class modules and/or open classes for student support.
Similarly, consistency in perspective and promotion should also be improved on other services. For instance, Conference.UPD is more of a conference management system (like EasyChair.org) than a conference site builder.
4. Promotions –
Definitely, effective communication will play a vital role. There’s a need for a more aggressive promotion, besides having stronger brand equity. All the services and initiative will be wasted if we cannot bring the idea in the classrooms or faculty rooms.
BlendKit 2015 is an open online course offered by University of Central Florida in Canvas Network. The class is about designing a blended learning environment.