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Category: Learning Online

Takeaways from Camosun’s First Blended Learning Conversation Café

On November 4th, 2021, a group of 20 Camosun faculty and staff got together for a conversation about blended learning – what works well, what can be challenging, and what are some solutions and considerations. I wanted to share with you some of the key takeaways from these conversations.

First, however, here is Camosun’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL)’s current working definition of Blended Learning:

A form of hybrid learning which blends in-person and online instruction and where all students generally follow the same mix of online and in-person activities. In some cases, particularly when traditionally in-person courses are moved to a blended model, online activities may replace some in-person activities. This practice is variously referred to as blended, hybrid, or mixed mode, and has important consequences for scheduling and registration procedures.

The first question we posed for open discussion was: What are the best bits (tools and strategies) from your online teaching experience during the pivot that you want to or are carrying forward this year when teaching in-person or in a blended environment?

Leveraging existing and supported tools (for example, in Camosun’s case, D2L tools). These tools provide both transparency around how learners are being assessed, as well as organization and consistency for both learners and instructors.

Providing learners with multiple content modes (text, images, audio, video). Content like this can be reviewed as many times as learners need to. Videos or audio could contain interviews or discussions between subject matter experts, allowing learners to listen to two seasoned readers modelling critical analysis, discussion, exploration of material.

Providing learners with the opportunity to work on content before coming to an in-person class discussion, problem-solving activity based on the content, or question and answer session, in a flipped classroom model.

Designing activities so that they can be done at home in case students can’t come to class (which is definitely an issue these days when students and instructors cannot come to class if they are sick.)

Bringing in guest speakers, either live into the classroom via videoconferencing, or via videos embedded in a course site.

Having learners create content to share and discuss with their colleagues, for example creating a short video outlining an assignment, checking their understanding of the assignment and explaining their work, why they know what they know and what they’ve learned, or having student teams use discussion boards to share their work with other teams.

In smaller groups, we then discussed the following questions: How could a blended delivery model support your students? What do we need to consider? What might be the challenges of a blended learning model? Potential solutions?

Benefits

Blended learning can make education more accessible, encouraging Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and recognizing the diversity of learners and instructors including the diversity of preferred modes of learning/teaching. It can accommodate students who prefer to learn on their own but also students who don’t have the best access to technology and provide flexibility for instructors and students with busy lives.

Blended learning can add options for students who are perhaps reluctant to speak in an in-person class, who need more time to consider questions before volunteering answers, thus broadening course participation, creating more opportunities for interaction, and supporting more collaborative learning.

Blended learning aligns with student expectations and the skills and experience needed in the current (often blended/ always technology assisted) work environment.

Challenges

As an institution we need to create/use consistent definitions for terminology – online, synchronous, blended, asynchronous – as well as acknowledging the different perspectives of students, faculty, institutional services, and administration around these terms.

Because it can be labour intensive to develop a good online or blended course, we need to provide faculty with funding and/or release as well as dedicated support. There can be a steep learning curve for faculty and students both for teaching/learning online and for using the technology. And additionally, access to technology and support can be limited for some students meaning that some aspects of the online component of a blended course may not be available to them.

We need to consider decision-making processes when deciding to run a course in a blended format. Faculty need the ability to structure the classes to what is best for student learning while recognizing the complexities of scheduling logistics between online and on-campus can be tough.

We need to reflect on changing technologies and institutional attachment to specific platforms and software, while ensuring those platforms don’t define our pedagogy but rather support what we need for teaching and learning.

We need to manage learner expectations by ensuring they understand that online courses or course components are not necessarily self-paced, and that the flexibility afforded by blended learning options may require learners to learn additional time management skills.

What’s next?

The participants in our conversation café are looking forward to continuing the conversations next term, and in the meantime, we in CETL will be sharing the key takeaways with our CETL team and leadership at the college, along with some recommendations for future discussion.

Want to know more about how we in CETL are supporting Blended Learning at Camosun? Contact Emily Schudel (schudele@camosun.ca)

The old normal is gone, and it’s time to embrace the new

“After decades of procrastination, higher education has finally been spurred, by the necessity of the COVID-19 pandemic, to enter the 21st century and offer online courses tailored to the needs of the synergistic digital economy for non-traditional students across a spectrum of ages and career stages.

However, we worry that the forced migration to online education could end up as a threat to further progress unless change-resistant nostalgia for the historic model is replaced by a strategic response geared toward and welcoming future evolution.”

(From: The 60-year curriculum: A strategic response to a crisis. See: “The future of higher education” below.)

In other words, we can do it, we just proved it, so let’s keep on doing what we have learned we can do for our students!!

The future of higher education

 Many have embraced the challenge of pivoting to remote working and teaching as an opportunity. We have shown how nimble we can be – it has forced us to adapt, and take risks. Everything we’ve learned is going to be useful for the future. Now is not the time to stop the learning curve, especially if we envision a future that is more accessible and flexible. CETL and the Camosun Teaching and Learning Council both met recently to reflect on lessons learned from the Covid pivot, and to look forward to what may be possible going forward. Themes that emerged were: “spirit of exploration, importance of quality teaching for learning, learning from each other, accessibility/flexibility, and the importance of connection.” Read more here

 Additional resources on the future of higher education:

 Conflicted thoughts about September Nexus: Camosun’s Student Voice

Beth Cougler Blom: Design to Engage – new Book!

Beth Cougler Blom is a learning designer/teacher/facilitator/consultant who has worked in post-secondary education, as well as the government and community organizations, most notably for me with BCcampus and Royal Roads, for over 20 years.

If you are looking for strategies around designing and facilitating learning, check out her new book, “Design to Engage: “a “how to” book that will help you become an effective designer and facilitator of learning events. You will:

  • learn about facilitation roles and responsibilities
  • discover what good learning experiences look like
  • plan for and design effective learning events using practical, straightforward design strategies
  • raise your awareness about how to create inclusive, comfortable environments.”

I am looking forward to reading her book myself soon, and recommend you find out more at Beth Cougler Blom’s website!

 

 

Re-post from the TRU Digital Detox

Seems a bit lazy, but I thought this was definitely worth the re-post (or re-blog, whatever you call it – let’s call it sharing!)

In this week’s Digital Detox post (if you don’t know about the Digital Detox, check it out), Dr. Brenna Clarke Grey talks about e-proctoring in a post aptly called E-proctoring Sucks, So Why Won’t It Go Away?

The thing I appreciate the most about her post is her comment that while she does think cheating is a problem, she thinks “it’s largely a structural problem, not an individual one,” which I completely agree with.  Automatically assuming students are going to cheat online and forcing them into invasive proctoring solutions is not addressing the larger issue(s) – we need to examine why students cheat (and yes, there are many, many reasons) and think about our institutional role in pushing them there.

So, I encourage you to check out Dr. Clarke Grey’s post, and join in on the discussion!

Digital Detox #3: E-proctoring Sucks, So Why Won’t It Go Away?

Facilitating Learning Online: Summary of Defining Online Community Discussion

So, right now I am co-facilitating the Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Fundamentals course at Camosun.  And this first week our participants had a full plate of orienting themselves to the online FLO environment, learning how to make video introductions, learning about their co-participants, AND engaging in a couple of lively discussions around online community.

I thought I would take a moment to share a summary/synthesis of the conversation in the Defining Online Community discussion, which was one of their activities this week, as well as add a few additional optional resources you may want to explore.

Some common ideas that leapt out at me in the discussions around what online community is:

  • Conversation/communication
  • Participation and interaction
  • Supportiveness, comfort, safety, trust
  • Co-operation, contributing, and sharing (shared knowledge space)
  • Co-creation and collaboration
  • Growing circle of knowledge/building of knowledge (peer to peer learning)
  • Interconnecting/convergence
  • Common interest, purpose, working together to meet common goals
  • Inclusiveness and belonging, connection
  • Diversity of people coming together to build knowledge (not bound by geography/fewer borders)
  • Mix of learning and social

Certainly, like any community, online community is about all these things. The question then becomes how do we create an online community with/for our learners that helps them balance the benefits of an online learning community with the pitfalls of being too connected (leading to exhaustion and stress), or feeling isolate and disconnected, or just having too many choices you don’t know where to turn.

I don’t have easy answers to this. Some participants talked about starting small – both with the amount of technology you use, and also with the kinds of activities you integrate (i.e., a lot of online group work can lead to stress, both from an exhausted by being online all the time perspective, and a trust perspective if you are thrown too soon into a large group project.) I am always happy to talk more about strategies, and have developed some that I present in my Creating Community Online workshop.  If anyone would like more information about this workshop, drop me an email (schudele@camosun.ca).

To close this summary/synthesis, I would like to give you some optional readings on online community specific to the online classroom space.

I hope you all have a great long weekend!

Emily

Some Resources to Help Students Learning Online

Looking for resources for your students with tips for learning online? Wondering where to send students to find support at Camosun College? We have some resources for you!

First, check out a collection of links for students on our Tutorials site.

Here you will find links to the Student Learning Success Guides put together by Camosun’s Learning Skills which includes tips for remote learning, stress management, and time management. Also, a link to Online Learning at Camosun College, which contains information about what kind of technologies students should have, and how to access it.

In addition, if you are wondering how students can access Office 365, the link for this is on this page as well as the link to Student Technical Support. You will also find direct links to Student Affairs and the Centre for Accessible Learning at Camosun.

If there are other links you would like us to include on this page, email Emily Schudel.

Looking for resources specific to learning online?  Check out Kwantlen College’s open textbook Learning to Learn Online,  or eCampus Ontario’s identically named Learning to Learn Online which was co-written by students, for students!

And finally, more for you as online instructors, also from eCampus Ontario, a chapter from their open textbook Remote Teaching: A Practical Guide with Tools, Tips, and Techniques called Helping Students Become Effective Online Learners with some strategies you can try yourself.