Blended Learning, Part 2

8 Tips for Implementing Blended Learning in Higher Ed

Blended courses are gaining traction in higher education. In 2015, 42.3 percent of academic officers said the blended format held more promise than online courses (Allen, Seaman, Poulin, & Straut, 2016, p. 31). If you’re considering implementing blended learning in your program or higher ed institution, here are lessons I’ve learned from Spring Arbor University’s launch of a blended nursing program.

1: Start with the why.

Before investing time and resources, determine why you’re offering blended courses. Are you jumping on an educational bandwagon? Are you offering it because it’s new and innovative? Or are you meeting a need in the marketplace?

At SAU, we offer the RN-MSN program in the blended format. Students are typically practicing RNs who work 12-hour shifts while balancing family and other responsibilities. They don’t want to spend hours in a face-to-face classroom but they don’t want a completely online program. Blended learning makes sense for them.

2: Speak the same language.

As an institution, define blended versus face-to-face versus online learning. If you establish terms and criteria, it helps reduce confusion because people are talking about the same thing.

Oftentimes an instructor will contact our design team because they want to create an online course. When we ask a few questions, however, we realize the instructor really wants a web-enhanced face-to-face class. Having clear terms helps determine the format and how it should be designed.

3: Create a process.

You’ve established the why and the what. Now determine the how.

Establish criteria to determine whether a course can be offered in a blended format. Is it being offered in a blended format to accommodate the instructor’s busy schedule? Or is it for sound pedagogical reasons? Who makes the decision to make it a blended course? Is there a process that needs to be followed within certain deadlines so everything is set for financial aid or the registrar’s office? Does a blended course require help from your institution’s instructional design team (if you have one)?

At SAU, for example, we use a rubric to determine whether to offer an on-campus class in the blended format. Find a process that works for you and stick to it!

4: Spread the word.

Make sure your recruiters, advisers, and other relevant people have a basic understanding of blended learning. If they don’t know what it is, how can they accurately communicate it to students? It’s not fair to students who sign up for a blended program thinking it’s 70 percent face-to-face and 30 percent online only to discover it’s just the opposite once they begin.

Communicate clearly and communicate often.

5: Don’t neglect the administrative end.

Make sure it’s set up with the registrar’s office. How will blended courses be transcripted? When students register for a class, it needs to be clear they’re signing up for a blended versus a traditional face-to-face class or online class. This step reduces student frustrations and administrative headaches.

Years ago, a co-worker took an online class and later discovered she was required to come to the main campus (which was hours away) to take the final exam in person. She was angry and rightly so. If it’s a blended course, make sure it’s listed that way.

6: Set an attendance policy.

Blended courses are unique because you have students attending both online and face-to-face. Some students may blow off the face-to-face classes and/or some of the online weeks. In online courses, attendance typically is recorded when a student completes assignments and interacts with the learning management system.

Why is this important? Financial aid! Say it with me again: Financial aid! If students aren’t attending classes, they lose financial aid. Very important.

Create a clear attendance policy that is communicated in the student handbook and in the syllabus so students know what’s expected.

7: Set students up for success.

Studies show many students experience anxiety and stress about using technology to complete online coursework. To help students, SAU requires attendance of a blended orientation before they begin the program. The orientation is designed like a blended course. Students complete coursework online so they become familiar with the learning management system and then they meet face-to-face to wrap up the orientation.  In a future post, I’ll discuss the orientation design in detail.

8: Set instructors up for success.

While instructors are content matter experts, they may be novices when it comes to blended learning. Instructors shouldn’t waste valuable face-to-face time lecturing from a PowerPoint. Instead, classroom time should be engaging, interactive, and collaborative. Spend time on group activities, presentations, guest speakers, etc.

Figure out a plan for faculty training so instructors and students have a great experience in the blended format.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything?

Hit the comment button and share lessons you’ve learned when launching blended courses.

References

Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., Poulin, R., & Straut, T. T. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States. Newburyport, MA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC. Retrieved from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/read/online-report-card-tracking-online-education-united-states-2015/

author-susan

Journey of a Teacher

Even though it was decades ago, I vividly remember my first high school science classroom. I was right out of college and totally terrified. My professors opened a new world for me, and I wanted more than anything to step into that classroom and show students the beauty of what I had learned. If God gifted you with the heart of a teacher, you understand what I am talking about. I conquered my fear, walked into that classroom, and enthusiastically started my journey of a teacher.

Sometimes on life’s long road it is helpful to pause and reflect on the journey. Marcina Wiederkehr in her book Behold Your Life: A Pilgrimage Through Your Memories (2000) encourages us to reflect on our memories so we can move into the future with new wisdom and strength. As I look back and reflect on my journey of a teacher, two memories surge to the surface.

The first memory is my growing awareness that no two classrooms of students are the same—each classroom has its own personality and characteristics. If I was going to be an effective teacher I couldn’t always do things the same way.

I needed to change along with my students. I needed new strategies.

The second memory is the realization that in my classroom, I was the novice. My students were growing up in a world that was dramatically different than the one I knew. The students arriving in my classroom only knew of a world with computers—the internet, smartphones, Google, and cloud technology swiftly following.

I was not the expert in everything—I was ignorant too. I needed a teacher.

But in my journey, the one constant was my heart of a teacher with its love of learning. And I still want more than anything to share the beauty of what I have learned.

If you have been on the teacher’s journey, I am confident you relate to the transformational insights I shared about my own personal journey. I am also assured of your love of learning.

The truth is we all need new strategies. We find ourselves novices in many areas, and we need a teacher. This is why the eLearning team is taking time to create this blog. It is our attempt to come along side you to provide tips, strategies, and information that might be helpful as you continue your journey of a teacher.

Welcome to Model eLearning.

author-gary

Course Development: It’s not magic

It’s tempting (and common) for members of the academic community to think that converting a face-to-face course to an online or blended course produces a special brand of magic. It’s just not true.

After building over 100 online courses, I have come to believe that the process is anything but magic! Of course, I’m always looking for that one spectacular experience…but honestly—even if it is spectacular—it involves hard work.

It is good old-fashioned respect and communication that seems to be the magic—not the new 5-week format, the online portfolio, or the 5-star learning management system. Of course technology needs to be there and work well, but it’s the human involvement that makes it sparkle. The next time you face a course development, incorporate these five tips for success!

1 Mutual Trust

Can you begin with mutual trust? The instructional designer (ID) and subject matter expert (SME) are often placed together without introduction or a previous working relationship. If you are starting from scratch—work hard on establishing trust. Believe that your partner knows what they are talking about, and decide to listen and consider their contributions seriously.

2 Establish Clear Guidelines

Can you define the project? Do you both understand the back story? What kind of course is it? What purpose will it serve? When will it be running and who will be taking it? Talk openly about what you know. The SME often has more information than the ID, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Come together to understand exactly the project’s parameters. Before you begin, take the necessary time to get clarification from others if needed.

3 Workable Time Frame

You must develop a workable time frame for both ID and SME. Melding two demanding work schedules can be problematic. Be open about the time you have to give to the project. Is it better to do it all in one week or spread it out over a few months? Then, acknowledge that circumstances out of your control may impact your plan. Consider several options before landing on a schedule and agree to go all in.

4 Communication

Why is it that we never talk about how we’re going to talk about it? In your very first encounter, establish communication paths. There are many paths to take today—choose one or two. Keeping communication lines clear and accessible in one place is important. Will you text, email, instant message, or make phone calls? Will you schedule face-to-face or virtual meetings? Make a plan for communication that respects comfort and accessibility.

5 Use Web Tools

Keep things manageable by using Web tools for sharing information. Email attachments are a default information-sharing tool—but other options can work much smoother. Think tools like Google Drive, BOX, Trello, and Dropbox. A web tool gives you both access to the same filing cabinet, at any time of day or night. Decide on one and use it.

So the next time you are told that converting a face-to-face course to an online or blended course requires a quick wave of the magic technology wand, take a deep breath, because you know it isn’t so!

It takes good old-fashioned respect, trust, and intentional communication to make the project shine.

And well, everyone else will think it’s magic.

author-gwen

 

Blended Learning, Part 1

Effective blended learning doesn’t happen by accident; it happens by design. When done well, it can be a powerful learning environment. When done poorly, it can be a frustrating mess for students, instructors, and administrators.

As the instructional designer for SAU’s new blended RN-MSN program, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on implementing this format. In a series of posts, I’ll discuss some practical tips you can use when designing blended courses.

In this first post, I’ll give a quick overview of blending learning.

Blended learning and what it means

The blended format is touted as the “best of both worlds” because it provides the flexibility of online learning while enabling face-to-face interaction and social support for students. Well-designed blended learning courses are not only effective in terms of learning outcomes, but they rank high on ratings of satisfaction with students and instructors.

In a blended format, the face-to-face and online components are integrated pieces of a course. Some definitions focus on percentages—that is, the percentage of content that is delivered online versus face-to-face. Other definitions focus on the integration of face-to-face and online learning experiences.

In online courses, 80 percent or more of the content is delivered online. In blended courses, 30 to 80 percent of the content is delivered online.

You say hybrid, I say blended

You’ll often see the terms blended and hybrid used interchangeably. They basically mean the same thing. I prefer the term blended instead of hybrid. Why?

  • Hybrid implies the face-to-face and online components are two separate distinct aspects of a course.
  • Blended implies the face-to-face and online components are integrated parts of a course.

Instead of thinking in terms of the online classroom and the face-to-face classroom, think of the course’s learning outcomes and how the two components can work together to provide the best possible learning environment for students.

Another way to look at it…

When designing blended courses, I find it helpful to think in terms of informational versus transformational learning. What do I mean by that?

  • Informational learning mainly happens outside of the face-to-face classroom. It’s reading, watching videos, and taking quizzes.
  • Transformational learning happens in the face-to-face classroom. It’s taking the information you’ve learned and applying it, so you’re transformed by what you’ve learned.

What does that look like?

In a nursing theory course, students read, watch videos, and take online quizzes about different theories and theorists. In the face-to-face class, students work in groups and apply the theories to case studies. They take information (facts about nursing theories) and critically think through how to apply this information to real-world situations.

What do you think? Does blended learning live up to the hype?

In my next post, I’ll share 8 tips for implementing blended courses in higher ed.

author-susan