Contributed by: Ms. Elham Arabi – Learning and Development Specialist, ETP
Blended learning, a student-centered instructional approach which combines face-to-face and online activities, is becoming increasingly popular. A well-designed blended course, grounded in sound pedagogical theories can offer students flexibility and opportunities for independent as well as collaborative learning , leading to improved learning.
Implementing blended learning requires more than a shift in delivery modes. Apart from the technical aspect of managing a Learning Management System (LMS), preparation of engaging learning materials (by developers), and effective instruction (by instructors) play a major role in alleviating students’ concerns and enhancing their learning experience.
Here are four tips for blended course instructors:
1) Orientate Students – Students used to traditional teaching may find the switch to blended learning overwhelming or challenging if they are not given proper guidance. Hence, it is good to talk to students about blended learning in the first class, even though university may have run student orientation. Students should be assured that this change of instruction is beneficial for them. Online materials support their learning and they can have better access to learning resources, and course materials. In addition, they can interact more with their instructors and fellow students. Students can also develop skills in time management, critical thinking, and problem solving.
2) Create Scaffolding Strategies – It is an erroneous assumption that seminars, online materials, and assignments on their own are sufficient for students to master new or abstract content, and achieve the course learning outcomes. It is important that instructors provide a supportive environment for students. Instructors can utilize different strategies to scaffold student learning.
Here are some examples of scaffolding strategies:
- Provide a pathway or route for your students, which outline the course structure and progression of activities. Creating mind maps based on the concepts covered in online materials and using it in class to refresh their memories before starting off with activities is one method.
- Share rubrics or marking schemes right from the start to help students assess their own progress.
- Use more case studies, examples/samples, and stories to bridge students’ prior knowledge to a new concept.
- Engage students in more cooperative or group activities.
- Provide procedural guidelines for their assignments, so they can use as a guide when working independently. Procedural guidelines are concrete references students can use to complete new and complex assignments (Johnston & Cooper, 1997)
- Point your students to worthy sources, and
- Improve metacognitive development by getting your students to evaluate their own learning. They can write learning logs and post them in the discussion board or blogs.
3) Align Your Classroom Sessions with Online Lessons – It is of utmost importance what you teach in class is directly in relevance to what is presented online. For instance, provision of online materials and resources before lesson helps to tap into students’ prior knowledge. When in class, getting your students to share their ideas about the concepts covered online would be more engaging than repeating the material. You can also refer to reflection questions in the online materials. Showing more examples or samples for complex concepts, clarifying what they might not have learned well, and giving quizzes or activities to ensure their understanding of the concepts are some other strategies. Lastly, end your class with revision of interrelated concepts in online and face-to-face sessions.
4) Encourage Multiple Forms of Communication – One of the factors leading to students’ anxiety in blended courses is reduced face-to-face interaction. Students assume that this means less interaction with their instructor. However, this belief is unfounded. In fact, students are likely to have more interaction with their instructors or classmates as they can choose environment they are more comfortable in. They can interact both in class and online through discussion boards, or emails. Do make your expectations and suggestions on multimodal communication clear to students right from the start.
Overall, it is important to plan the blend in blended learning and carry out appropriate learning activities that allow for meaningful integration of online and face-to face learning.
Reference: Johnston, S. & Cooper, J. (1997). Supporting Student Success Through Scaffolding, Vol. 9, No. 3. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/