SpaceX Starship SN11 prototype at Boca Chica, Texas (2021).

The fourth topic of the ONL 211 course was focused on designing for online and blended learning environment.

There are two ways to approach this: a course can be taught online and in-person in parallel or a course can be taught by switching in between online and in-person teaching. Personally, being a teacher in relatively small courses (10-40 students), I fing the first way – simultaneous online and in-person teaching – ineffective and too difficult to organize. It would make sense for much bigger courses. Technical execution of teaching in this mixed environment is critical and it’s just not worthwhile to invest the effort. The second way – switching in between in-person and online teaching – on the other hand is something that I would like to test in the coming semesters. The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic can be put into good use combining them with the much-missed elements of direct in-person interaction.

A course I’m planning for Fall 2021 has indeed both these elements. We will combine traditional “desk reviews” with online reviews and discussions. Both have benefits:

Desk reviews and in-person group meetings and critiques help make the group better integrated. We will learn more directly from each other: how do different people interact, what is their “style” of communicating, what do they pay attention to and what not? These observations will be helpful during online sessions – they provide necessary context for dealing with people in a more meaningful way. In-person sessions will introduce more in-between-the-lines type of elements to learning: body language, gestures, etc.

Online teaching on the other hand has both practical benefits and advantages in communicating the core substance of our courses. Practical benefits include huge efficiency gains in scheduling: when you don’t commute or wait for your turn you can literally get more done in the same time. No traffic jams or corridor talks that will consume the time you should be producing. Content related benefits are equally important: you can observe a review from the setting you choose with a device of your choise wearing whatever you prefer and what makes you comfortable. You can skip parts that are not relevant and go strecht for example without being rude. It brings a completely new level of focus and personal choise to enforce learning.

Here are the three models of blended learning as presented by Cleveland-Innes, M. and Wilton, D. in their 2018 Guide to Blended Learning:

Cleveland-Innes, M. & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to Blended Learning. Burnaby: Commonwealth of Learning.

Designing for online and blended learning