Training the Blended Learning Instructor

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.

The Power of Feedback

I received permission to share this from an instructor in one of my training courses:

In sixth grade, I was not only very short, but spindly and uncoordinated. My least favorite class was gym, where the teacher was one of those stereotypical “drill sergeant” types. One day we girls were playing softball outside while the boys’ gym class exercised nearby. I was up to bat. I quickly made two strikes and then hit the ball so weakly that it was immediately picked up. I never made it to first base. In a disgusted tone that I can still hear in my head, my instructor loudly berated me as the puniest, weakest little thing she’d ever seen in her life

I felt completely humiliated. I was sure that everyone, including the boys, was laughing at me. As a result, I found ways to avoid taking my turn at bat (or participating in almost any organized sport) throughout my years at school. I never improved at softball, for example, and avoid team sports to this day.

For those of you that work in a role where you have to judge the performance of others, be it at a school or in an office building, please be extremely conscious of the impact of your words.  There can be far reaching and extremely damaging results.  Just think of how a positive and constructive response could have made a difference for this person in the other direction.

Have you ever had feedback that was particularly damaging or uplifting in your life?

Synchronous Online Meetings

Sometimes there is a need or desire to hold a synchronous session in an online course.   For instance, students may want to get together live to work on a group project or the teacher wants to have a live discussion about a current event or a particularly difficult concept.  There are many tools out there to meet these various needs.  Check out this post from “On Teaching Online” that explores Live (Synchronous) Meeting Systems Tools.  It does not address Google+ Hangouts which is another popular informal video conferencing tool.

Have you used anything else that the article does not mention?  Was it effective?

Building Connection with Discussion Boards

I am reading the book The Relationship Cure by John Gottman in order to better understand relationship building.  I just started it but it already has made me think about how this applies directly to building community in online courses.  He talks about the bid, a request for emotional connection.  When someone replies to your discussion board post with a post that is meant to generate further interaction with you, he/she is trying to make a connection with you and/or your thinking.  To ignore it is to deny a bid for connection which can deteriorate the learning community’s effectiveness.  I suggest that students and teachers subscribe to their discussion boards so no one misses that bid.  In the online community of learning, it could lead to great insights into the topics being explored and make the community more supportive of each other’s learning and need for connection.

How do you encourage community building in your discussion boards?

Online Discussion Participation

To get the most of an online discussion, there are things that the instructor needs to do and there are guidelines for the participant as well.  Here is a short yet informative list of guidelines to use when participating in an online discussion forum.  I particularly like the one about jotting down notes as you read other posts so you can prepare better for your responses.