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Thoughts on Adding Technology to Blend Courses

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By in Content Development, Course Redesign, IMPACT, Musings on Technology on .

This Spring, I made a decision to enroll in a Blended Learning course sponsored by EDUCAUSE called “Becoming a Blended Learning Designer”. This MOOC requires participants to complete the course in six weeks, and during that time participate in discussions, blogging, and readings.

As I went through the readings for the first week of the class, two lines stuck out to me:

“Blended learning is not simply adding an online component to a face-to-face course.  Technology in a course should be used wisely – to facilitate student learning.”  (Thompson, 2015, p. 7)

I’ve seen cases all too often where faculty members try to add technology in to the course because they’re trying to meet a need.  They know they should be adding technology but they’re looking to add something that may not always be the most practical or the most appropriate for their class.  Some instructors I have worked with have looked to using the LMS to replace in-class quizzes, for example.  Great idea in theory, but they were not prepared for some of the variables:

  • Students trying to use smartphones or tablets to take the quiz (when the LMS doesn’t necessarily support this well)
  • Students taking the quiz with other students
  • Students using their notes/books for the quiz

The instructors in these cases were thinking it would be simple to replace their low-stakes quizzes with ones that could simply be taken online. But they wanted a full replication of the in-class experience, one that mitigated “cheating” (or as some prefer to call it, “collaboration”).

For me the first part of a blended learning course is determining which parts should go online, and which should not.  It should be a careful, deliberate process that seeks to allow technology to assist in teaching, not trying to force technology into a role that faculty may regret later.

If you are looking to redevelop your class, consider applying for the IMPACT program by visiting http://www.purdue.edu/impact. If you know what tools you want to use and need help getting those tools integrated into your class, contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist

Citations:

Thompson, K. (ed.). (2015).  BlendKit Reader (2nd Ed.).  Retrieved from https://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course-blendkit-reader-chapter-1/

How is Student-Centered Instruction Different than Traditional Instruction?

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By in Classroom, Content Development, Course Redesign, IMPACT, Professional Development, Uncategorized on .

Student-centered learning looks at where students are when they enter the classroom and attempts to customize teaching to allow students some freedom in choosing how to learn. This kind of teaching allows instructors to free themselves from the traditional lecture and allows them to change the learning space to one that best fits the needs of the student. Students are led to what they need to know instead of listening to someone tell them and they can become actively engaged in their learning.

What has been for some, a liberating style of teaching and learning, frees instructors by allowing them to lead the adventure instead of dispensing it. It is not unusual for instructors to struggle with the transition in the beginning and many feel as if they are giving up some control, which is not inaccurate. However, giving up some control allows students to become actively engaged. Learning can reach new heights without limit. More focus is often put on the quality of students questions instead of the quality of their answers. Higher order thinking skills are engaged since students are able to keep moving towards a goal, work together, ask questions and build on what they know. According to John Dewey in his book entitled How We Think, he notes deep thinking takes time and cannot be expected to happen when prompt answers are required (Dewey,1910). Student-centered learning allows students to make those higher order connections by giving students time to explore and be actively involved in their learning.

This change in the dynamic of the classroom can often intimidate those new to the process, but I liken it to a typical lab experience often seen as a normal part of many lecture courses. That shift instructors feel when they go from lecture-based courses to a lab class is the shift they are referring to in student-centered instruction, switching from dispenser to facilitator and learners going from passive to active learning. Most of the instructor’s work happens before the lab begins with perhaps a pre-lab, setting up the equipment, making sure students stay on task by outlining lab report requirements and having students turn in documentation showing what they have done. This is student-centered learning. The instructor set up the experience and then sits back and let them experience it. There is no lecturing during a lab, yet students learn. Learning through active engagement helps students better relate what they are doing to what they already know resulting in higher levels of retention and comprehension (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

Although not a new concept, some may struggle with the shift to the student-centered approach. Taking this familiar concept and applying it to the lecture part of a course is something many might find foreign. Many others have found it worth their time in making the transformation in everything they teach because many students are more engaged and respond much better to being an active participant in their learning. Other students though who were counting on putting in seat time for another lecture series while chatting on their phone, napping or doing other things have been found to resist the expectation they engage.  Each instructor needs to decide what is best for their learners, but keep in mind there is no one right way to create a student-centered environment. Your subject material, student population, and personal comfort level should all be taken into consideration.

The IMPACT Program at Purdue University provides resources and support for instructors to redesign their course in a student-centered way. The comfort level of the faculty member is of utmost importance and nothing is imposed without the instructor initiating the desire for change.

On April 10th, IMPACT will be hosting Eric Mazur who will be talking about how he transformed his course from lecture to student-centered. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend.

 

References

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers.

Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think. New York: D.C. Heath & CO.

Related Links and Articles:

http://www.purdue.edu/impact/

http://www.teachthought.com/learning/4-principles-student-centered-learning/

http://www.teachthought.com/technology/10-tools-student-centered-creative-expression/

http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/learner-centered-pedagogy-fear-losing-control/

http://www.teachthought.com/learning/metacognition-50-questions-help-students-think-think/

IMPACT FLCs: What are they all about?

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By in Course Redesign, IMPACT, Professional Development on .

Recently, as a presenter at the 2014 AECT International Convention: Learning, Design, and Technology, I shared information about being a support staff member for the IMPACT (Instruction Matters Purdue Academic Course Transformation) program in the presentation: Designing Instruction to Create Systematic Change: A Designer’s Perspective1. IMPACT is a Purdue Provost’s initiative facilitated through the collaborative efforts of the Center of Instructional Excellence (CIE), Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), University Libraries, Discovery Learning Resource Center (DLRC), and Purdue Extended Campus (PEC). Using research findings on sound student-centered teaching and learning practices, over 100 faculty have redesigned their courses enhancing student learning, competence, and confidence. After 4 years, IMPACT has transformed over 90 courses changing the learning environment for over 25,000 students. Attendees were quite interested and impressed with the emerging results of Purdue University’s IMPACT program.2

One of the goals of IMPACT is to: form Faculty Learning Communities (FLC) as instruments for faculty exploration, collaboration, learning, development and contributions to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.3 FLCs began to emerge in higher education the late 1970’s and ‘80s as groups of faculty and professional staff explored strategies to improve instruction and student performance. In 2001 Miami University was awarded a FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education) grant, Developing Faculty Learning Communities to Transform Campus Culture for Learning. Working with several other partner universities, the results of this FIPSE grant showed the structure of the FLC to be one that led to successful change.

The FIPSE project identified 30 components of an FLCP (Faculty Learning Community Programs). Evidence collected shows that FLCs encourage and support faculty investigation, implementation, assessment, and adoption of new (to them) approaches such as involving appropriate technology, active learning, inclusive classrooms, and revised curricula. In addition, FLCs provide for the developmental needs of important cohorts of faculty who have been affected by change, isolation, fragmentation, and stress. Evidence shows FLCPs enhance undergraduate learning by increasing faculty interest, practice, and expertise in teaching by providing safe, supportive, multidisciplinary communities in which faculty can investigate and take risks. Another project goal was to foster scholarly teaching and SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). This was achieved by involving FLC participants in a sequence of developmental steps, starting with investigating the literature and culminating in a refereed presentation or publication.4

My experiences as support team member of IMPACT FLCs mirror the results of this FIPSE grant. Over the past four years the actual structure of the Support Team has taken several forms. In the current structure, the Support Team works with a small group of faculty, usually two to four. The Support Team is made up of members from the various units and consists of a “Primary” support team member, who acts as the main contact for the faculty member, and one or more “Secondary” support team members. All support team members participate with faculty in the semester long FLC sessions which serve as the foundation for the faculty development phase of the program. The support team members frequently assist in guiding the small group discussions that takes place during the weekly FLC sessions. These structured FLC sessions are designed to introduce faculty to research-based teaching and learning practices. Some of the topics covered during the FLC sessions include:

  • models utilized in the redesigned courses that include: blended learning models, supplemental approaches in which face-to-face courses are supplemented with online components, flipped models, and fully online models
  • pedagogies and principles, such as, strategies for incorporating group work, team based learning, problem-based learning, informed learning, Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (1987), the principles of backward course design,
  • and, exploration of possible topics for SoTL projects, including the development of a research question.

In the actual redesign process, the support team members provide a variety of roles dependent upon their area of expertise, for example: pedagogy, technology, information literacy, research and many other areas. Most groups of faculty and support team members also meet weekly or biweekly during this semester. Typically this semester is followed by a more individualized phase of the program, again usually taking place over a semester. This is frequently when faculty actually redesign their courses. The support team members remain engaged with the faculty members during the subsequent pilot phase, and often several semesters later while the course is continuing to evolve. In some cases, support team members become involved in SoTL projects with the faculty members.

This course redesign program is a true commitment for support team members and faculty alike. Many institutions have course redesign programs; however, Purdue University’s IMPACT program is a cross-disciplinary effort that touches courses in all academic colleges and schools throughout the university. This unique collaboration of support team members from a variety of units and small groups of faculty in the FLC contributes to the positive systematic changes in the learning environments that are occurring on the Purdue University campus.

Resources

1Designing Instruction to Create Systematic Change: A Designer’s Perspective http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/idcpres/26.

2IMPACT Report 2014 http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/impactreps/4/.

3IMPACT website http://www.purdue.edu/impact/

4Miami University FIPSE Grant http://fipsedatabase.ed.gov/fipse/grantshow.cfm?grantNumber=P116B010714

Feedback: “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-“

By in Classroom, Course Redesign, General Education, Student Behavior on .

I took a cohort program for my master’s and had the same instructor for 4 or 5 courses. Each assignment was an essay. On every essay I got exactly the same feedback – absolutely no comments on grammar or specific ideas, but rather the generic “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-.“ To this day, I have no idea on why “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-“ rather than “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A+“ (which the student who sat next to me always got). (This feedback was especially sad when considering that this was a masters in adult learning. But that’s another story.)

Feedback to students can guide students, but in different ways. Here I would like to focus on three types of feedback: Feed back, feed forward and feed up (not to be confused with “fed up” – which is what I was in my master’s program).

Feed back, up and forward

  • Feed forward (FF) – feedback that explains how to improve future assignments

Feedforward provides suggestions for the next assignment

  • Feedback (FB) – ipsative feedback on current compared to past performance

Feedback compares past and current assignments

  • Feed up (FU) – feedback that explains why this (the assignment or assignment details) is important

Gives info on why the assignment is important

 

If we identify our purpose(s) when we provide feedback, we can support students in learning and applying from both the assignment and the feedback!

Essay examples:

FF – “Organizing your essay will help your readers. If you follow the sequence of what is asked in the assignment this will help you both ensure that you cover all elements and organize your thoughts more.”

FB – “On your last assignment I noted that you changed ‘voice’ often. Here you are consistent and your essay is much easier to read because of it!”

FU – “You do not seem to have a firm grasp on the differences between the behaviorist and constructivist theories. Understanding this is important because workplaces will want you to develop training based on these.”

Multiple choice exam examples:

FF – “In order to improve your performance on the upcoming [assignment/exam/group project], please review the [notes and materials/resources] posted in Blackboard.” (Purdue ITaP, 2013)

FB – “You are doing a better job studying. Your improvement is great!”

FU – “Understanding the basics of Excel which we cover here will be critical to your success in your accounting class.”

Here’s the whole model:

full model

(Somewhat based on Hughes, 2012)

Is feedback important?

I remember the feedback I got 15 years ago in my master’s program because it was so bad. It did not inspire me or help me improve.

Good feedback may not be as memorable long term, but research has shown that it can help students improve not only what they know, but how to study and how to apply their learnings.

Passing note on Passnote:

By the way, writing appropriate feedback can be hard. At Purdue, we created Passnote to help. This is a very easy-to-use tool which has a selection of feedback notes which you can select and edit to make your feedback to each student individualized! And you don’t have to download or sign-in to use it. Take a look: http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/

References

Hughes, G. (2012). Ipsative assessment: comparison with past performance. Higher Education Academy Workshop and Seminar Series 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbarg/OU_workshop_files/TWO37-GH.pdf

Purdue ITaP. (2013). PassNote. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/