Many of my colleagues believe that blended learning is difficult, as it is had to design course content that provides the best opportunities for both only and face to face learning. I have entered this reflection with the aim to explore the possibilities.
Step 1: Make a self-assessment
I started by filling the “Community of Inquiry Educator Survey” provided In: Cleveland-Innes, M. & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to Blended Learning. Burnaby: Commonwealth of Learning. Appendix 1. p.74-77. http://oasis.col.org/bitstream/handle/11599/3095/2018_Cleveland-Innes-Wilton_Guide-to-Blended-Learning.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
I put the survey into a simple google forms to be able to answer and visualise my responses. But the link is open so it could also be used by other teachers: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScbm8BNdhx-qHCdboyZ6jq3w-F5QKl314KTbkjKbv6r1DA3Ug/viewform?usp=sf_link
In my self-assessment I could see that there are weaknesses in all areas. Here are some of the areas for further improvement following Cleveland-Innes, M. & Wilton, D. (2018):
Cognitive presence refers to the knowledge gain in the learning process and it requires for overlapping components of practical inquiry (tiggering events, exploration, integration, resolution).
- Challenge: “Students in my course are not that motivated to explore content-related questions”. I am concerned about finding student’s own drive, motivation and passion for learning. While the course brings different topics that are relevant to the world debates in sociology of law, they are not necessarily connected to the students’ own motivation.
Social Presence is linked to creating communities of inquires, peer to peer learning among students, working together in the learning process. This was the area that was ranked the lowest in the test. Unfortunately, the course I am teaching are only online and they have not managed to create communities of practice or communities of inquire.
- Challenge: Online or face-to-face discussions can help students to develop a sense of collaboration”. This is something I think can be improved by engaging more during the first two weeks of the course in creating groups, by adding online sessions for discussion and using the fish model to create collective discussions.
Teaching presence refers to the role of the teaching in the learning process. It combines and leader and facilitation role, but teacher engagement and present is very important to enable social presence according to research.
- Challenge: “My actions reinforce the development of a sense of community among course participants”. I need to take a more leadership role in the development of some online courses and dare to innovate and try to support the development of learning communities.
An additional element that is not part of the model is Emotional presence. It refers to the expression of feelings and emotions in relation to the learning process. I found this particularly important and related to the motivational aspect. I recently met a group of students that were finishing their master thesis and they joked about the aim of the thesis as to be able to the get a degree. While we all have been tired in the process of writing a thesis and the final weeks, we develop a love hate relation with our topic, I personally feel that emotions are important. I often asked students about what surprised them the most about their findings, I want to find their own voices, their own emotions, feels and have those in the reflection process. Many times, students think that they need to hide those emotions to be more rational and academic, but in doing that their text becomes dry and boring. I think the emotional presence should be brought into the learning process.
Step 2: Investigate the 7 blended learning
- Blended face to face: in this format students are required to attend fae-to-face classes, but many activities are also developed online. This allow for in-depth learning in the classroom.
- Blended online: in this format most of the class is online, but students are requested to attend some face-to-face activities for very concreate things that can only be done in person, such as labs.
- Flipped classroom: in this format students watch the lecture online and come to the classroom for activities where they are the leaders.
- Rotation model: in this format, there are different modules (some online) and students rotate among them.
- Self-blend model: In this model the main class is face to face, but students can also add online course, such as complementary courses.
- Blended MOOCs: in this model students take a MOOC and come to the classroom to complement the learning of the MOOC. In this was students can take lessons from the most prestigious universities in the world and have face to face tutoring to complement it.
- Flexible mode course: it offers all classes and activities in both formats online and face to face and students can choose.
Step 3. Choose and pilot one of the blended models in my course.
I am teaching an online course in which all activities are online. Students get a lesson in written format, they have readings for that lesson, they have to answer to one question in an online discussion forum and at the end of each module, they have to write a 4 page assignment based on a problem and using the literature.
How can I introduce blended learning in this course?
- One option is to have an introduction week, where students come to the classroom and experience different problems that help them to form groups. This could help them to get to know each other and the teacher and be able to better use the online part. This will be like blended online.
- Option two: flipped classroom, having the lessons still online, but allowing students to come to the classroom for group work or practical things such as attending court hearings.
- Option three while it is not blended, it is a more interactive online activity, which switch the discussions from simple forums to zoom meetings and group presentations. In this way students could benefit from more collaborative learning.
All and all, blended learning provides a lot of opportunities, but for some of the courses I have it can be challenging since the students are spread all over the world. Still providing opportunities for synchronous activities could enhance the quality of learning. Another thing that I would love to try is blended MOOCs, since I am a big fan of MOOCs, but thing that they will be better if you could share your leanring experience with those around you. So this is something with great potential, for smaller univeristies, but also for organisaitons.