Just got back from the very sunny, blue sky, Sunshine state of Florida after attending the OLC (Online Learning Consortium) there in Orlando with over 2000 participants from around the world.
Disney Dolphin Hotel – Where the conference is every year
With Floridian friendship and many new colleagues in the field of online and blended learning there were some juicy bits to be had, experiences from the field and hopefully ideas for our future strategies.
First up was a panel discussion on ”Blended Learning from Design to Evaluation” led by the charismatic Dr. Norm Vaughan from Mount Royal University Canada (who is by the way going to be here at KTH for a few seminars in the spring, watch this space…..)
- On the panel was our own colleague from KTH Dr Stefan Stenbom as well as,
- Laura Zhou, Hong Kong Polytechnic University,
- Mr David MacDonald University of Ottawa, Canada,
- Esmarie Strydom, North-West University, South Africa
- Mr John Milne, Massey University, New Zealand,
- Aline Reali, University of Sao Carlos, Brazil and
- Mark Brown, Dublin City University, Ireland.
The panel discussed and highlighted the benefits, challenges, strategies and lessons learned from their own faculty development initiatives for blended learning.
Here is a summary of what was said by each University.
- Positive feelings in creating new ideas to redesign teaching & learning
- Some acquired more positive attitudes towards technology
- The Faculty felt that the professional development has an impact on students learning
- Flexible learning opportunities
- Creating smaller communities of practice
- Getting students engaged
- Faculty motivation
- Resource requirement
- Misconceptions of Blended Learning
- Change Management – Institution readiness
- Set realistic targets
- Always remember all stakeholders
- Get some examples of best practices
- Provide variation of support offered
- And Listen
Ron Bleed, the former Vice Chancellor of Information Technologies at Maricopa College, argues that the definition “Blended learning is often defined as the combination of face-to-face and online learning (Sharpe et al., 2006; Williams, 2002)” is not actually a sufficient definition for blended learning as it simply implies “bolting” technology onto a traditional course, using technology as an add-on to teach a difficult concept, or adding supplemental information. He suggests that blended learning should be viewed as an opportunity to redesign how courses are developed, scheduled, and delivered through a combination of physical and virtual instruction: “bricks and clicks” (Bleed, 2001). Joining the best features of in-class teaching with the best features of online learning that promote active, self-directed learning opportunities with added flexibility should be the goal of this redesigned approach (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; Littlejohn & Pegler, 2007; Norberg, Dziuban, Moskal, 2011).
Another session I attended was called “Reviewing our Digital Pedagogy Workshop for faculty: success & future improvements”. Dr Kelly Keane was the presenter and is an assistant professor of Educational Technology at Loyola University Maryland. She teaches graduate level educational technology courses to practicing teachers and her teaching style is based in active and collaborative learning.
Their Institution offered a 2-week digital pedagogy workshop for faculty who were interested in converting a traditional course to the hybrid/blended or online environment. The faculty that were chosen each received a $2500 stipend, which obviously helped along the way, from the University’s Office of Academic Affairs and Technology Services. The workshop occurred over two weeks and support was provided by instructional designers (A role that is not recognised yet in Swedish Universities) and faculty experienced with instructional technologies.
Workshop sessions occurred on campus as well as in a synchronous online environment, where participants received experience in the live sessions from both a student and teacher perspective. Daily instruction was organized around the Understanding by Design process (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) and the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000)
Their Success stories of the 2 week workshop:
- Pedagogy driving tool selection – Instead of saying this how to use the blog, the questions were more in the lines of what do you want to do? And what do you want your students to be able to do?
- Asynchronous and synchronous sessions for the workshop – A good balance of face to face & Online workshops over the 2-week period.
- The participants connected with many “experts” – Experienced Faculty, Instructional designers, Instructional video developers
- Flexibility of the workshops – Prior to the workshop they had asked the participants about their technical skills so they could choose which grouping they wanted to be in according to their experiences.
- Providing them with the student perspective of learning by being a student themselves
- After the workshop a formation of a professional learning community was built, to me a very important aspect in Blended Learning course development
Their lessons learned and future improvements was that they wanted to have more examples of courses that were already built by other faculty that they could look at and more time to develop more modules as they only had time to redevelop one module during the whole 2 week workshop.
So if we are to move forward in helping our faculty and initiate strategies for Blended Learning course development, then we have to really have a good plan in place, a group of resources that can support in many different aspects not only technological support but also instructional support, time & motivation for the faculty to do this and last but by no mean least (and probably the most complex and challenging in our Swedish Universities), communicating to the leaders the importance of Change Management.
It’s that simple…..
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