Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blended Interactions

One sentence summary

The success of blended learning is dependent on three things: active learning and engagement in F2F classes, active learning and engagement in online classes, and the integration between the two.


After reading Understanding Blended Learning it was time to dig into the details of designing student interaction in a course. The game design metaphor best described the tension between minimal and structured guidance: too little scaffolding leaves students lost and disengaged but too much scaffolding feels school-like and procedural. 

I think back years ago to a Teacher Education class in which a professor gave student teachers rules on how to behave professionally in the K-12 classroom. Although the rules were an attempt to ensure that students followed necessary state requirements (e.g. privacy, safety), they seemed overly procedural and minimized student (teacher) independence in decision-taking. 

I did not know the distinction between cMOOCs and xMOOCs so that section was helpful. A FutureLearn course on Social Media and Analytics that I participated in was an xMOOC so having that experience was good. 

A Slideshare on Demystifying MOOCs

I thought of the Atelier learning model developed by John Seely Brown and in addition to blogs thought of ePortfolios and video art as other possible digital environments, especially when sharing is part of the process.

I found Clarence Fisher’s Online Communities for Learning (PDF) a great resource for planning and developing communities. The focus is not on the technology but there are many available tools: Twitter, discussions, online collaboration through Google Docs to name a few. But plan carefully before implementing! 

Getting Started
  • Create a discussion and ask students to review the syllabus and respond with what they hope to learn from the course.
  • Have students participate in writing their personal goals so they are more engaged in their decision-making.
For further reading see Faculty Focus: A learner-center syllabus helps set the tone for learning

The section Construct Assignments That Encourage Expression provides many ideas for guiding students through interacting in a course:
  • Have students express themselves to different audiences (peers, supervisors, outside professionals, in-class, public) so they know how to prepare accordingly. 
  • What are the resources for their personal expressions: ePortfolio, blog, podcast, presentations, videos? If they are working in groups: wiki, online collaboration space, shared presentation space. What about an group environment that allows annotation, highlighting and tagging such as or . Many of these tools are used outside a learning management system so ensuring that students have the necessary technology skills for their personal or group work is essential. 
  • Why express themselves? A point that can easily be overlooked when planning for student motivation and engagement. Including samples of student work as they improve continuously from course to course can help raise higher expectations for students.  
  • Students need guidelines through clear instructions (visually helps!), policies on academic integrity and plagiarism. Examples help clarify for students about plagiarism. 
  • Prompt, substantive feedback is crucial to students. New inline annotation tools such as SpeedGrader in Canvas facilitates such feedback, automating the mechanical process so that instructors can focus on context and substance of their comments. 
Most important takeaways
  • Apply technology advantages from MOOCs: Lessen dependency on physical presence in the classroom and apply technology to assign traditionally based responsibilities (e.g. group leadership)
  • Challenges when learners are in control: how will they know what they need to know and how will they cohesively organize fragmented and distribution information (like a textbook)
  • Student interaction is an essential part of designing an online course and should be embedded in learning objectives before curating, developing, and uploading resources.
  • Consider a hybrid course over fully online even when there are only two F2F sessions — course launch with important expectations and modeling and closure. “This will improve students’ abilities to express themselves freely to peers.
My favorite quote

“Blended learning, in all its various representations, has as its fundamental premise a simple idea: link the best technological solutions for teaching and learning with the best human resources…. encourag[ing] the development of highly interactive and collaborative activities that can be accomplished only by a faculty member in a mediated setting.”

Helpful links


  1. Another interesting take on MOOCS is Mike Rose's book: Why School? He argues that MOOCS were designed for democratic reasons, but are still creating a hierarchy of schools (Ivy League MOOCS are presented as the best education people could have) and they are effective with the type of student who has strong individual learning skills, free time, and the drive to seek out education outside of traditional venues (which means that this student is usually not working class and has already a strong educational background behind him/her).

  2. Very Useful information Thank you !!
    #TWB_ #Blended #Learning is delivered through the high impact high-intensity ILT training combined with the low-intensity sustainable intervention. This allows for thousands of trainees to be trained with the same effectiveness at the same time. TWB_ Blended Learning | TWB_Certifications


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