Research has shown that students are engaged and receive better achievements in blended learning. A good portion of this is due to the online component. It allows to self-direct learning, allowing them to control their pace, preferences, and learning path. Because the internet has so many resources, it can almost literally accommodate every learner’s preference, level, and pace. I liked the way Jen Jonson (2014) explained how a teacher can apply blended learning: students research assignments online and demonstrate and document their learning through an online activity such as a discussion board. Teachers can then review this and use class time for remediation or do more advanced work related to the topic. A key to blended learning is combining the online activities with the offline to add depth to students’ learning. Some may argue that if students research a topic online that would be considered the online aspect of it. Yes it is, except that teachers should require students to take it a step further and apply that learning to practice and demonstrate it to show to someone else (Jonson). That medium is usually through a learning management system.
Thought from this perspective, the process of blended learning would be easy for a faculty member to grasp but the difficulty they have is putting it into practice; they have trouble connecting the online with the offline activities (Kaleta, Garnham, & Aycock, 2006). One reason is the lack of experience in learning technologies. This was evident from the number of the websites that discuss topics on professional development for teachers. Also the classmates who took EDTECH 522 was further evidence of this need. All (including myself) were teachers, instructional designers, and technology integration specialist taking a course on how to teach online. One article stated that the biggest difficulty was getting teachers to commit to learn and use new technology (Intentional futures, 2016). For instructors new to technology, a simple model would be the best approach to gradually develop their skills. Based on attending courses as a student, the model used by Boise State is simple yet effective. They use a few tools consistently in many of their classes to allow students to become very familiar with the learning process. From a teacher’s perspective it allows them to regularly practice the tools to build their comfort level, which could then lead to using the tool in more creative ways. Understanding the tools will be an essential important step. This will likely take some time and so this will likely mean setting up a program to monitor technology use and to provide regular support. The technology will be critical because without technology and online presence, it will be impossible for them to connect the online with the offline activities.
This also means that faculty should understand the online learning environment. Part of this will occur as they practice using the tool. But I recall reading one article that said many of the teachers use the online environment to post announcements and to store and manage student data. This would indicate that the F2F is their primary method for instructions and the online is somewhat a secondary option. So the key is get them to change this belief and practice. One way to do this would be to get them to teach online as their primary mode and use the F2F as the secondary mode—perhaps have them test it out for two weeks out of a month. This was how I learned the potential and the benefits for teaching online. There were times when there was some discomfort and unfamiliarity but with proper training and preparations a teacher could reduce many of these bumps.
Intentionalfuturescom. (2016). Instructional design in higher education. Retrieved 11 August, 2016, from http://intentionalfutures.com/reports/instructional_design/
Jonson, J. (2014). Blended learning and technology integration. Retrieved 11 August, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD8AUfGsCKg
Kaleta, R., Garnham, C., & Aycock, A. (2006). Hybrid courses: Obstacles and solutions for faculty and students. 19th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. Retrieved 11 August, 2016, from http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/resource_library/proceedings/03_72.pdf