Blended learning entails more than simply replacing class time with online course elements or supplementing an online course with face-to-face meetings. To be successful, the online and face-to-face modes need to be integrated by taking into account the learning objectives and the affordances of each mode and deliberately linking what occurs in each mode.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Online instructors face the challenges of keeping a course up to date, engaging students, and maintaining integrity. Having students generate some of the course content can address all three of these challenges.
Curriculum changes or differences of opinion about what should be taught and how it should be taught can create tension in any department. And the budget situation in many departments can add fuel to the fire. Jon Bloch, chair of sociology at Southern Connecticut State University, offers the following points to keep in mind to help manage these conflicts:
When looking to improve your online course, you may be tempted to do a complete redesign—start over and change nearly everything. Before you do that, consider an incremental approach that uses action research to continuously improve your course. This will enable you to make progress without discarding effective course elements or taking on the inordinate amount of work involved in a redesign.
Nate Cottle, professor of human environmental sciences at the University of Central Oklahoma, uses the process approach to learning as delineated by William Horton (2006) in his online and blended courses. Cottle spoke to Online Classroom about using this model. “Learning isn’t something that has to be confined to the classroom, and so as I teach blended classes, I think the more I can involve the students in learning and the more contexts I can involve them in, the more they’re going to learn,” he said. “The idea is to get them to slowly digest the information in different ways and to engage in different activities so that by the time the course comes to an end, they can apply the knowledge they have learned. That’s the ultimate goal: to get them to be in a state where they can apply the knowledge.”
Student retention is an ongoing challenge to online educators. While there is great variation in retention rates across programs and institutions, online retention rates tend to be significantly lower than those in the face-to-face environment. However, not all online educators struggle with student retention. Kari Frisch, a communications professor at Central Lakes College, has consistent retention rates of around 95 percent in her online courses, which include interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, mass communication, and online social networking. In an interview with Online Classroom, Frisch talked about the factors that she believes help her achieve such high retention rates.
Ongoing problems within a department can have profound consequences, including difficulty in recruiting and retaining faculty and students, loss of funding, and even program termination. While the health of a department cannot be the responsibility of a single person, the department chair plays a pivotal role in getting departments out of trouble and maintaining a healthy, positive direction.
As an instructional designer and online instructor at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville, Dionne Thorne has worked with many instructors as they develop their online courses. Based on this experience, she offers the following advice on the course design process:
The design of your course pages can have a significant effect on the learning experience in your online course. Good design can draw students in, help them comprehend the information the first time they read it, and enable them to easily retrieve information, says Sheree Webb, an instructional designer at Tyler Junior College.