I have had numerous opportunities to create and facilitate blended learning activities and classes, and have built these up for colleagues over the years. In order to facilitate healthy, reflective thinking….and a sense of community, the organizers have asked that we weekly blog in response to the readings and activities of the week. This point is the first…in hopefully what will be an extended series of posts as I take some time to reflect on blended and hybrid learning environments. I also will be using the materials in this course as we build materials and scale up resources for our Instructional Technology and Digital Media Literacy program.
This week’s prompt is titled, What will my blend be? In building up the prompt for this week, the organizers posed two questions to ponder:
- Is it most helpful to think of blended learning as an online enhancement to a face-to-face learning environment, a face-to-face enhancement to an online learning environment, or as something else entirely?
- In what ways can blended learning courses be considered the “best of both worlds” (i.e., face-to-face and online)? What could make blended learning the “worst of both worlds?”
My “blend” or approach to hybrid learning environments is often framed by the same way that I think about mixed methods research. I would like to have equal, representative parts of quantitative and qualitative research…just as I would like to have equal parts of online and face-to-face (F2F) learning. However in the final end product, usually this is not the case. I think there are two reasons why it ultimately doesn’t end up as a perfect balance.
The first of these is the comfort level of students and faculty. Some faculty members, teachers and even students are more or less comfortable with the inclusion of online learning elements into a traditional F2F class. I try to authentically embed online discussions, journals, or group collaborative activities into a F2F for the express purpose of extending the discussion beyond the classroom walls and time limits. With my pre-service teachers, this is many times the first time they’ve thought about (or even used) some of these ICT tools and their place in the classroom. The learning curve is sometimes steep…but always beneficial.
The second of these is the physical orientation of the classroom and section meetings. Even though we would like to have a powerful blend of online and F2F learning…but (for now) the physical nature of the classroom and the human being gets in the way. Students sign up for, or are assigned to F2F, traditional classes…and they expect to receive that when they show up. Student may also sign up for online classes…and get quite upset if you suggest a F2F meeting or two to clear up issues, maintain community, etc.
As technological use in education and society becomes more pervasive we may quickly start using online learning and mobile tools to extend our learning beyond the classroom walls.