Technological advances, growing disciplinary knowledge bases, and a changing student population have fueled many changes over the last 200 years in what the college classroom looks like. As faculty members, we are no longer limited to the four walls of the classroom and a chalkboard. Now we can connect with our students inside the classroom, in virtual space, asynchronously, synchronously, while on campus or our homes, while at a conference, and more. My absolute favorite format to teach in is the blended course scheduled for a minimum of 75 minutes twice a week.
Blended courses are “courses that integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner” (Picciano, 2009, p. 8 as cited in Linder, 2018, p. 3). Within this definition, scholars still disagree on the ratio for integrating online with traditional time although one suggestion is for a blended course to deliver 30-79% of the content online.
The most recent blended course I taught was an integrated statistics and research methods course taught over a two-semester sequence. This course is required for psychology majors. It is a three-credit course scheduled to meet once per week. All sections of the course utilized a common text and were required to have the same final project; a completed research project from each student. (Note that this course was not taught at IUB.)
In order to be effective, blended courses must be intentionally designed to integrate the in-class and out of class components. I began with the same backward design approach I utilize in designing traditional courses, and while the learning outcomes and final assignment were the same, the fun part was identifying how to create the best learning environment to help the students achieve these outcomes utilizing all of the resources at my disposal.
This lead to a course design where we did not meet face-to-face each week, but when we did, we used the time as a focused workshop. On-line course components included weekly responses to the assigned reading, an annotated bibliography on a research article of their choice using the method or technique for the week, supplemental videos, graphics, readings, etc., peer review activities, and learning activities designed to address statistical content or map out aspects of their research project. In-class components included demonstrations, additional explanation of content students still had questions on, guided exercises on research project milestones, peer and instructor feedback on this work, research presentations, and individual work time with the instructor providing individual assistance.
With the expansion of ways students can get content, delivery of information is not always the best use of the short amount of time students have with the faculty member in class. It’s often helping students know what to do with that content and creating spaces to wrestle with it with others. Designing blended courses necessitates reflecting on what we can give the student that they can’t easily get elsewhere. If you are interested in learning more about blended courses, register for the upcoming workshop and keynote with SoTL speaker Katie Linder*, or contact CITL for an individual consultation.