In the Blendkit 2014 MOOC this week, the work is focused on integrating the online and face-to-face (f2f) portions of the course. It is key that the two complement and build on each other. However, it is the instructor at the f2f level that must be most prepared to do that integration. The online course is typically set up and structured so all students, regardless of instructor, are provided with the same resources and assessments. It’s what happens in the classroom that should be the focus of the blended learning instructor training. Many adjunct instructors are professionals with little to no educational background (outside of what they themselves experienced in college). They must be taught and mentored how to recognize what concepts need more focus in the classroom and what to do to address them. By working in conjunction with the online course, particularly using formative assessments, the instructor can identify these concepts ahead of time. It’s those activities that are done in the classroom that must be targeted in the training. What groups activities can be done to get students working and discussing those items that they struggled with? It is in the classroom where the flexibility and individualization of learning can occur within the blended learning environment. Having a mentor/instructional coach work with the instructor/s on a weekly basis to do the planning of the weekly classes could be extremely beneficial that first time the instructor teaches the class and then regular check ins after that. Meeting with the instructors of these blended courses as a small group may also be very helpful to everyone involved as they could develop a professional learning community, mimicking what they are trying to do in their courses. Course visits to evaluate how the activities are going would also be important by the mentors as well as the other instructors. This way the students and the instructor are receiving the optimum educational experience and the full integration of both online and f2f components of blended learning is achieved.
After attending this week’s webinar for BlendKit2014 (a MOOC course on blended learning), I was struck by a comment made about focusing on the interaction rather than the content when designing these types of courses. As I only design online courses at the moment, I think we can do a better job by focusing on the same things. Our process has SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) first providing unit overviews and objectives, then readings and resources, and finally assignments. I have worked to map course outcomes to unit objectives to assignments so there are no disconnects and the course is fluid and cohesive. I’m wondering if the readings/resources step should come after providing assignments since I agree that the focus should be on interaction whether student-student, student-instructor, or student-content. If we can design rich assessments of the learning objectives we can then focus efforts on finding the most useful resources for those assessments, using them as guideposts along the way. For the concrete sequential person I am, course design is challenging my “big picture” perspective and getting me out of the details and more into the planning – which is where it should be, especially in the beginning. The details will take care of themselves once that big picture blueprint is in place.