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designing blended courses
Blended learning has gone from being an interesting new hybrid of traditional and online courses to being an expected part of American education. When the Sloan Consortium last studied blended learning in 2007, it found “a lot of room for growth” in the market for blended courses. It found “consumer preference for online and blended delivery far exceeds reported experience,” indicating that demand was ahead of supply at that point.
Featuring six articles dedicated to blended learning and six articles on the flipped classroom, this free report provides an inside look at how faculty are using these approaches to reshape the college classroom.
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.
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.”
Blended learning does not simply involve shifting portions of face-to-face instruction online. Ultimately, a blended course will require reconceptualization of the entire learning process. That’s where ADDIE comes in.
The ADDIE method is an acronym that stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. It is a critically important tool for designing blended courses.
The discussion board in Kathleen Lowney’s large blended (or hybrid) section of introduction to sociology at Valdosta State University wasn’t serving its intended purpose of engaging learners with the content and preparing them for face-to-face class sessions. She tried dividing the students into smaller discussion groups of 50 and then 20, and the results were the same: the weaker students waited until the last minute and essentially repeated what the better students had posted previously. When she replaced the public discussions with private journals, the quality of students’ posts improved, as did their grades.
Introductory courses are packed with content. Teachers struggle to get through it during class; students struggle to master it outside of class. Too often learning consists of memorizing material that’s used on the exam but not retained long after. Faculty know they should use more strategies that engage students, but those approaches take time and, in most courses, that’s in very short supply.
Blended learning course design entails more than simply converting content for online delivery or finding ways to supplement an existing face-to-face course. Ideally, designing a blended course would begin with identifying learning outcomes and topics, creating assignments and activities, determining how interaction will occur, and selecting the technologies to best achieve those learning outcomes. However, a variety of constraints often affect the way blended courses are developed, which can compromise their quality.
Blended learning course design, a deliberate combination of face-to-face and online learning, requires a shift in thinking in what it means to teach and what it means to learn.