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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 email@example.com.
Thompson, K. (ed.). (2015). BlendKit Reader (2nd Ed.). Retrieved from https://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course-blendkit-reader-chapter-1/
A frequent question that comes up is what the difference is and how to decide which tool to use for activities in a course – discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or journals. The tools are similar in some ways, allowing students to post text and other materials, but do operate in ways that make them more useful for some course activities than others. The following is a brief description of each and some examples of when to use each in a course.
- a communication tool that that allows individuals to collaborate with others through posting or answering questions
- topic centered
- frequently used as a supplement to in-class activities
o class discussion
o class debate
o peer review
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/boards.html
- a web site that shares an individual’s or group’s log of events, insights or opinions; from the words web log
- author centered
- frequently used as a place to reflect
o course learning reflection
o resource review
o record of research activities
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/blogs.html
- a web page that allows a group of users to create and modify pages easily and quickly; from the Hawaiian words Wiki wiki meaning quick
- content/document centered
- frequently used as a collaborative space
o group projects
o group writing assignments
o planning events and activities
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/wikis.html
Debbie Runshe, Educational Technologist
Diagrams have been adapted and made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike Creative Commons License from Worsham, D. (2007, June 27). Blogs and discussion boards – What’s the difference? Wisconsin Union Blend. [Weblog post].
Recently, a faculty member commented to one of my colleagues and I that Blackboard was simply “too much” for things he wanted to do within his course. That got me thinking as to why someone might consider Blackboard Learn to be a tool that might be excessive for specific needs.
Blackboard Learn offers to faculty a rich set of tools – but what happens when a faculty member does not want to use the clear majority of those tools? What if a faculty member only wants a place to place their syllabus and course schedule, content for students to read, upload an occasional video, and so forth? Does a faculty member have an option for a simpler way to get course content to students at Purdue?
The answer is yes – the Confluence Wiki.
While it might seem odd that a wiki could be an alterative to Blackboard, the Confluence Wiki can perform many of the same functions for faculty that a traditional LMS would be able to provide. Confluence offers the following for faculty:
- On-Demand Course Creation: Unlike Blackboard, where course sites are created automatically, faculty may create their course’s space (site) in Confluence on demand by using the Space Creation application located at http://www.purdue.edu/apps/Confluence. This will automatically create a space on Confluence for the class and enroll all students and instructors in the class into the newly created Confluence space.
- Automatic Enrollment Management: When a space is created using our Space Creation application, as noted before all students and instructors will be added to the newly created space. In addition, as students add or drop the class, those changes are reflected in the Confluence space.
- Content Management: Faculty can easily upload documents and images to Confluence, and then quickly replace those documents with up-to-date versions. For example, if the course syllabus changes, a new syllabus can be uploaded and replace the existing file. Additionally, web links to other sites and to multimedia may also be included in Confluence.
- Flexibility: A Confluence space can be very simple (one or two pages with all the content needed) to highly complex, depending on needs.
- Privacy: Academic spaces in Confluence are only accessible to those enrolled in the course; they are not accessible by the public.
There are a few features Confluence does not have that is important to note. First, Confluence does not offer integrated homework submission and quizzes/exams, like Blackboard. Faculty who want to offer online exams (such as pre- or post- assessments) would be able to use Qualtrics and survey panels within the Qualtrics tool to control assessment delivery.
Also, Confluence does not offer an electronic gradebook, which would require students to track their own grades. Additionally, while Confluence does offer the ability for students to comment on pages, there is no threaded discussion board available like what is available in Blackboard.
One other concern would be that if Confluence is used instead of Blackboard Learn, students will need to be directed to Confluence to access course content. In this case it is recommended that any instructor using Confluence provide directions to students in class on how to access the Confluence site and make the site a favorite, so the site is quickly accessible after login.
Although there are these concerns, the Confluence Wiki does provide a great amount of flexibility on how the online portion of a course can be set up. As much (or as little) information can be made available to students as desired.
While Blackboard Learn has many tools that faculty may wish to use in their teaching, there may be a desire for something that simply does not do everything that Blackboard can do, and that’s where Confluence can assist. An example “course” in Confluence has been created at https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/confcourse/Confluence+for+Courses+Demonstration+Home to provide some ideas on how Confluence may be used as an alternative to Blackboard.
For more information about using Confluence as an alternative to Blackboard, or adding wikis to your course, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.