Blended learning captured my interest as a relatively new educator. Being a millennium yuppie makes me naturally susceptible to technologically engaged activities. Hence, I’ve developed strong interests on learning and advocating teaching with technology.
Dreaming… More interactive learning in the Philippines!
In an effort to understand “blending” further, I joined an open online course popularly known as BlendKit in Canvas Network. Thank you to the BlendKit Team from University of Central Florida!
For its first week, I learned the basic ideas that revolves around blended courses. There are so many things I’ve learned, and I would like to emphasize these 4 general ideas.
1. Blended Learning is more than just adding an online component to a traditional course
A blended course is designed to get the best of both face-to-face and online interactions. Hybrid class is another way to call it. Some activities are conducted within class, while some are delivered online.
Blended learning is a combination of online and traditional learning, but It is not as simple as setting up a course in a Learning Management System (LMS). Moreover, LMS is just one of the many prerequisites needed in blended learning. Blending requires proper knowledge and planning. The effectiveness of instruction is still a big part of its core, only that instruction is delivered on multiple platforms.
Personally, I would like to differentiate blended learning from web-assisted learning based on the extent of tools used online. That is, I think that a blended class uses the online environment to extend and/or mimic the basic elements of a traditional class – assessment, content and interaction.
2. Designing a Blended Class is a controlled and iterative process.
Enthusiasm might result to “over design”. The design process should be aligned with the learning objectives of the course. Don’t get too excited! The convenience of online technology does not justify having excessive class works or class materials. (hehe.) The choice of which elements to bring online depends on what is necessary and what is currently doable.
Designing a good blended course takes time. Hence, teachers should take it one step at a time. Start simple. Explore. Blend.
For starters like me, it is expected that we will not be able to do all things as planned, as we are still learning the tools and discovering our own best strategies. Hence, blending a course is really an iterative process. Nevertheless, blended learning promises a lot of fun and a better learning environment, which makes designing a fulfilling challenge. Both teachers and students will definitely gain something good in the process.
3. A Well-Designed Blended Class enjoys the benefits of both traditional and online learning.
As a “newbie blender”, I can think of several intuitive advantages of blending!
- We still get all the advantages of teaching a traditional course through the face-to-face meetings.
- We also still get all the advantages of a web-assisted class – file sharing, student management, grade books etc – through the online tools.
- Student-to-teacher and student-to-student interactions may be enhanced through communication technologies.
- Student learning is extended wherever and whenever just like an online class.
- Pace of learning may also be personalized or individualized as in an online class.
In my stat software class, blending tools allow me to manage the paces of my students in solving problems. I use the online environment to automate certain tasks, such as providing another practice problem, giving clues, and/or providing the right answers. On the other hand, I use my opportunities in a face-to-face setting to emphasize on common mistakes, and baseline ideas. Moreover, if a student wasn’t able to try all the problems in class, he/she could still continue at home without losing the “secondhand” assistance online tools provide. In addition, they can ask me in our next face-to-face meeting for further discussion.
- Teachers may be able to get more feedback from students. as not all are comfortable communicating in a face-to-face environment.
- A Learning Management System (LMS) usually has analytic features which may allow us to easily gauge who among our students need more assistance.
- A LMS usually has an analytic tool for evaluating the discrimination level and/or difficulty level of certain structured online quizzes. This allows teachers to examine their assessment tools.
- The online environment extends and encourages collaborative learning beyond classroom. On top of that, online tools may allow the teacher to monitor and further assist such collaborative efforts.
- Teachers may also use the online environment to provide interactive self-assessment tools. These materials may help in retaining and transferring learning.
4. Experience is the best teacher for designing a blended class.
Trying and practicing are the best ways of learning how to design a blended class. It is only through experience that we, teachers, will be able to see the special considerations our class needs. Designing a blended course involves re-conceptualizing traditional learning tools. Hence, the design strategy varies across disciplines as how traditional strategies vary.
Practice Blending! Be a “Teacher-Blender”!