Each week I am required to write a post for my EDUC 5105 class, so I thought I would take the time to reflect on the Supporting Active Learning in a Large, Blended Intro Course talk I attended.
The talk was given by Catherine Anderson (linguistic prof at McMaster) and Katrina Espanol-Miller (instructional designer at McMaster). Catherine teaches a 1A03 and 1AA3 course, both of which are first year undergraduate classes with 300-600 students.
The talk started by discussion the transition from a face-to-face class to a blended-learning course. One of the first things they did was to transition tutorials to an online environment, which allowed for a consistent student experience. This removed the varied quality of TAs, allowed for students to complete tutorial items at “same” time, synchronized learning activities with lectures, allowed sharing of TA resources with other departments, etc.
While the blended learning transition was beneficial, it also added a number of challenges. Examples they listed were that students may be disengaged, there is less accountability, some students may fall behind, and there are a diverse variety of student needs and abilities that may not be met by an online course.
That all said, there were three main goals of the course redesign:
- To improve quality and consistency of student experience (video modules, active-learning exercises in class)
- To provide added opportunities for engagement (active learning discussion, forums)
- To scaffold progress through course (checklists, quizzes, clickers)
To continue active engagement and continued learning, the students had to do the following outside of the classes they had:
- Complete a weekly checklist
- Watch embedded video/voiceover
- Take an optional self-assessment quiz
- Complete a weekly quizC
- Complete textbook readings & exercises
Videos and voice-overs consisted of Catherine talking, while text and animations were edited in. Keynote was also recorded via a screen capture program, and Catherine provided a voice over to guide students through it/explain what was being show. This was all eventually hosted on a faculty YouTube channel.
The weekly quiz consisted of a large question bank, where questions were randomized within topics. Students were given a 30-hour windows during the week to complete a quiz, and each quiz was wort 3% of their mark. The best 7 out of the 10 taken quizzes were used in the students final grade.
While in class, students were given iClicker questions that were based on quiz outcomes. If the class got a certain question/topic incorrect in the online quizzes, then time would be spent in class covering that information. In-class work also consisted of brief lectures to reinforce, clarify, and extend information.
Feedback from the class indicated that the video modules and iClicker quizzes made them feel engaged, while reception to the online discussion board was lukewarm. Feedback also indicates that the online checklists and weekly quizzes helped the students keep on track, while textbook exercises did not,
As for grade results,there are no discernible difference between the face-to-face and the blended course so far.
I thought this last bit of information on grade results was interesting, as it corresponds with existing research (Kazu & Demirkil, 2014, p.85). It also left me wondering why we, as educators, continue to create these blended courses. For all the work that is done to create them, and the time spent adapting current classes to a blended-model, we don’t see any actual benefit to the student academically. It’s something to consider when going forth in my role as a educator. Do I really need to create a blended course when an existing face-to-face class will do? It would be worthwhile to research this further, and see if and how grades are affected by blended learning.
Kazu, I., & Demirkol, M. (2014). Effect of Blended Learning Environment Model on High School Students’ Academic Achievement. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 13(1), 78-87.