One of the things I’ve learned is that designing a blended course is a controlled process. Lack of proper planning and appropriate understanding of “blending” may result to excessive work and unnecessary stress. Control is much needed in effectively translating an educator’s enthusiasm to an interactive blended course. In deciding which class elements to put online, it is ideal that teachers follow a two-step process. First, establish an ideal and familiar learning strategy, which, for most of us, is an interactive face-to-face and student collaborative learning. Then, systematically analyzed which elements of the “lesson plan” can be delivered online or in multiple platforms.
There’s no consensus on what makes a good design strategy for blended learning. Nevertheless, It is still important to have clear learning objectives. The learning objectives should guide the process of designing support and assessment tools, whether it is virtual or physical.
BlendKit 2015 sited a work by Carman listing down basic elements or “key ingredients” in an online or traditional mode of instruction.
- Life Events – synchronous instructor-led events
- example: traditional lectures, scheduled chat sessions, video conferences etc.
- Self-Paced Learning – activities or experiences that a student completes on his/her own time
- example: video lectures, internet or CD ROM based tutorials, podcasts, interactive online quizzes etc.
- Collaboration – activities where learners discuss or create with each other
- example: WIKI, discussion threads, peer evaluations etc.
- Assessment – elements that measure the extent of learning
- example: traditional quizzes or tests, narrative feedback, blogs etc.
- Support Materials – resources that aids learning retention or transfer
- example: references, ebooks or books, FAQ forums etc.
With proper context and purpose in mind, an educator may design an effective blended course by mixing different components of the key ingredients. Moreover, the key ingredients are somehow in line with my previous blog entry (basic functions students need in a courseware mobile app).
Sharing personal experience
I don’t have any formal background in teaching. My educational background provided me the learning content, while I mostly rely on trials and experience for designing instruction. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to learn how to effectively “flip” my class.
The design process is iterative with constant redesign and reevaluation.
I started with baseline web assisted strategies, where I use our CMS mostly for sharing materials and collecting assignments. By the end of a semester, I evaluate my strategy and make a list of online tools I could try next time. After evaluation, I add new “key ingredients” in the online learning environment and I usually restructure the course pages. The design-and-redesign process continues until optimal benefits are gained from both face-to-face and online interactions. I also try to keep a decent documentation for sharing purposes.
After about 2-3 terms, most of my classes are becoming more blended. I’ve already included social interaction tools (e.g. forums) and self-paced learning formats (e.g. interactive quizzes, illustrative notes etc.).
Finally… Designing a blended course requires an open mind.
It is important that we are WILLING and ABLE to see new possibilities that an online environment can offer. It will be hard to design and implement a blended class, if we let our minds be fixated by the overwhelming familiarity of traditional classes.
THINK OUT OF THE BOX!
PLAN. DESIGN. EVALUATE. BLEND.
(source: BlendKit 2015)