#BlendKit2014 Module 5 Overview – Quality Assurance in Blended Learning

Module 5: Quality Assurance in Blended Learning

Summary

The chapter this week is lengthy, but gives a realistic view of the challenges with assuring quality in Blended Learning.  When I’m asked what I’m doing to assure quality in eLearning courses on our campus, I ask what we’re doing to assure quality in our face-to-face classes.  If quality in instruction is measurable, isn’t it equally important to assure it in our face-to-face classes?

It’s worth clicking the links in the reading to the various quality standards. Many WA CTC schools are promoting Quality Matters, and even requiring QM certification for online courses. I resist mandates like this for several reasons. The first is that I don’t believe eLearning should be singled out for quality control. Fortunately some schools include face-to-face courses in their quality improvement initiatives.

I also don’t want to be stuck in a long-term relationship with any vendor, especially one that modifies standards, which then requires re-certification and renders purchased publications obsolete.  And I don’t feel comfortable mandating standards that require a significant amount of training when I don’t have the budget to pay instructors for their time.

Most of the standards, including QM, will give you good ideas about how to design a quality course. I think the important thing is to build your own repertoire of these standards so you’re able to apply them within the context of your own teaching. Prioritize the student learning experience as you design your course. Students should enter the online space and know exactly what’s expected of them and what to do next.

I also worry that a heavy focus on quality design could potentially shift priorities so pedagogy/andragogy suffers. Some of the best courses I’ve experienced wouldn’t pass any quality design standards assessment. And some of the most well-designed courses bomb completely when instructors fail to establish a presence in the course and build relationships with students.

In the LWTech eLearning department, we’re always happy to meet with you one-on-one to learn about your needs and help you design a quality course that works with your teaching and learning practice, without sacrificing the personal characteristics that make your course unique.  The benefit to working with us one-on-one, rather than checking things off a list, is that we have deep knowledge and experience with the actual issues that get in the way of student learning. We recognize patterns in support requests, and can help you prevent common issues. We also know success stories across all disciplines and with students who are similar to yours.

Activities

  1. Read and view the module content.
  2. Complete at least one assignment. The DiY assignment this week includes two documents I’m not requiring for the LWTech project. You are welcome to complete them if you think they will contribute to your learning.
  3. Optional: Attend the #BlendKit online session projected live at 10:00 AM in E225 on Monday, May 19th, the live synchronous session in E225 or online Tuesday, May 20th at 4:00 PM, the live synchronous session online Friday, May 23rd at 1:00 PM, or the #BlendKit online session projected live at 10:00 AM in E225 on Tuesday, May 27th.
  4. Recommended: Find time to meet with Jen or Sally for an individual consultation, if you haven’t done so.
  5. Recommended: Check out the Portfolio assignment in the course to make sure you’re preparing what you need to submit by June 2nd.

Tips

If you are unable to meet in person for your one-on-one consultation, we can meet online using Lync.

Housekeeping

I have already paid the Portfolio review fee and submitted the names of all our participants. You do not need to pay the fee to submit your Portfolio.

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#BlendKit2014 You’re Invited: Live Online Web Conference

Please join us online today at 1:00 PST to explore options and opportunities for engaging online learners. As part of our LWTech #BlendKit2014 project, instructor Rob Nyland will share some of his strategies and challenges using online video and discussion.  Together we’ll moderate audience discussion about engaging learners in online environments.

Who: Rob Nyland, Jennifer Dalby, LWTech instructors, and You!

What: Live Online Web Conference – Engaging Online Learners

When: 1:00 to 2:00 PM PST (We know it’s short notice. Spontaneous networked learning is fun!)

Where: Your place. Online. Blackboard Collaborate. Here’s the Participant Reference Guide, if you’re unfamiliar with Blackboard Collaborate.

Why: You value shared learning experiences!

You’ll have a chance to share stories of online learning successes and challenges. You can also share text, images, and links on the whiteboard.

#BlendKit 2014 Module 4 Overview – Blended Content and Assignments

Module 4: Blended Content and Assignments

Summary

The chapter this week describes strategies for organizing your course content and assignments. I’ve struggled to understand the reading for this chapter, so I’ll just paste what I usually include as my intro when I teach a remixed version of this course.

Once you’ve determined your outcomes or objectives and how you will assess students, you can begin incorporating content and assignments. One of the most important points in the reading for this module is to integrate the online and face-to-face experiences. I think the best way to do this is to have a strong structure in your online space to anchor the course. Even if your course is mostly face-to-face, it’s extremely valuable to organize your online space so students feel they have a ‘home’ even when they aren’t in the classroom.

If you’re using Canvas to post grades, you need to make sure you create an Assignment for everything you grade. If you are not collecting the assignment online, you can create a ‘no submission’ assignment, so you have a place to put the grades. Students get very confused if only a few grades are presented online. Use the online space to include links and resources shared in class. It also helps to add a place for students to ask questions, or a discussion board where they can chat and network with each other.

One of the most challenging parts of incorporating Blended Learning, is letting go of content and assignments. I recommend you start with the outline of your course and your objectives and assessments and add in assignments as they fit. If you try to incorporate all the assignments you’ve previously done, you will likely have a bloated course.

One of the best things about Blended Learning is that the asynchronous nature of online spaces allows you to take advantage of ‘Community as Curriculum.’ Unlike face-to-face sessions, online activities allow the students to take time to search for things, think critically, and share them back with the class. Students are often more engaged when they are empowered to bring the content and share their thoughts on their findings. Think about articles and case studies you typically share, and how you might create an assignment where students bring that content, instead.

 

Activities

  1. Read and view the module content.
  2. Complete at least one assignment. The DiY assignment this week includes a ‘Blended Course Integration Chart’ document. This is the first time I’ve seen this, so it’s not part of our own project, but you may want to take a look. You can also submit the Module document.
  3. Optional: Attend the online session live at 10:00 AM in E225 on Monday, May 12th, any of the Adobe Day sessions on Wednesday, May 14th, or the live synchronous session in E225 or online Friday, May 16th at 1:00 PM.
  4. Recommended: Find time to meet with Jen or Sally for an individual consultation, if you haven’t done so.
  5. Recommended: Try searching some of these sites for Open Educational Resources to use in your course.

Tips

If none of the scheduled synchronous group sessions work for you, please let me know so I can find better times. If you are unable to meet in person for your one-on-one consultation, we can meet online using Lync.

Housekeeping

Please make sure to let me know as soon as possible if you don’t believe you’ll complete the project. There’s still time for me to invite other instructors.

#BlendKit2014 Module 3 Overview – Blended Assessments of Learning

Module 3: Blended Assessments of Learning

Summary

The chapter this week introduces a variety of assessment options for blended courses. There are a few areas of online learning where it’s easy to make assumptions about how to transfer face-to-face activities to online activities. I challenge instructors to think beyond the obvious. A classroom lecture isn’t always best replaced with a recorded online lecture. A classroom quiz isn’t always best replaced with an online quiz. Many instructors use quizzes in face-to-face classes as the starting point of a discussion. If you’ve been using quizzes to stimulate classroom discussion, where you debate the correct answers and engage students in thoughtful critical thinking exercises, an online auto-graded quiz might not be the best choice to replace that engaging activity. As you consider blended options, examine your existing assessment practices to evaluate whether those activities truly assess what you desire to assess in your students.

 

Activities

  1. Read and view the module content.
  2. Complete at least one assignment. The DiY assignment this week is to complete one set of Assignment Instructions.
  3. Optional: Attend the online session live at 10:00 AM in E225 on Monday, May 5th, or the faculty-led Flipped Classroom discussion in E225 on Thursday, May 8th at 1:00 PM.
  4. Recommended: Find time to meet with Jen or Sally for an individual consultation, if you haven’t done so.
  5. Recommended: Check out the BYU CTL resource Fourteen Rules to Writing Multiple Choice Questions Consider using strong multiple choice questions for pre-testing and post-testing, or practice quizzes.

Tips

The live sessions on Mondays each week cover content from the previous week.

Housekeeping

Please make sure to let me know as soon as possible if you don’t believe you’ll complete the project. There’s still time for me to invite other instructors.

#BlendKit2014 Description of Project Document Requirements

I have created a separate set of documents for our college participants taking the #BlendKit2014 course. They are similar to those in the course, and designed to achieve the same objectives. The spirit of the course encourages participants to use the documents as inspiration to develop materials that meet individual needs.

For our local project, we’re developing documents that can be shared and reused by other instructors.  Assigning Creative Commons licenses allows instructors to receive attribution for their work. (Our college IP policy gives copyright ownership to the college for any course materials created by instructors while funded by the college.) The documents I’m requiring for the project do not include all those available in the course.

  1. Blueprint – This document is basically an outline of the course. Many instructors already have this information in some format and will simply fill in the form. I created a new version of this because I felt it might be too challenging for some to fit all the necessary text in the graphical representation included with the course materials. (Official course Blueprint document.)
  2. Mix Map – This document gets you thinking about the types of activities you can do online, blended and face-to-face. You might start by filling in things you already do, and then add activities you’ve learned about during the course. If you are enhancing a face-to-face course but not displacing any seat time, you may have fewer online activities than you would if you’re converting a course to a hybrid course where online activities displace classroom activities. I revised the official document, which included a visual diagram, with a simple table format. (Official course MixMap document.)
  3. Schedule – This document is just a simple schedule of the course online and face-to-face sessions. I didn’t revise it much. It can also be included as a component of the syllabus. (Official course Schedule document.)
  4. Syllabus – The Syllabus includes components unique to our college. Instructors should also include protocols, such as those presented in the official course Protocols document. You may include your schedule as part of the Syllabus.
  5. Assignment Instructions – For our project I’m requiring Assignment instructions for a single assignment. Here’s an example of one that’s been filled in. (Official course Assignment Instructions document.)
  6. Module Template – For our project I’m requiring a completed Module Template for a single module in your course. This doesn’t have to be the first module of the course.  (Official course Module Template document.)

These documents count toward the requirements for our college and can be used as submissions for the DiY assignments in the course. (You have to complete a single assignment for each module, and DiY assignments are one of the options each week.) The documents, combined with the course completion badge and a reflection statement, also cover the portfolio requirements. The documents should address the rubric criteria and the reflection statement describes how the documents address the criteria. Participants must score 6 points on the rubric below in order to receive the credential.

portfoliorubric

Portfolio submissions are due to the course by June 2nd, and the completed project documents are due to me by June 6th. I’ll contact participants with instructions for submitting our local documents.

 

#BlendKit2014 Module 2 Overview – Blended Interactions

Module 2: Blended Interactions

Summary

The chapter this week cites survey findings and research studies that support the importance of interactions to engage students in Blended Learning. Interactions can occur between student and instructor, student and fellow students, student and content, and student and external participants.  Online interactions typically require students to take responsibility for their own learning. The chapter mentions the Sugata Mitra ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment. You may wish to search for criticism of the experiment and come to your own conclusions.

Instructors in blended courses often find they are serving a different role than in a face-to-face class. I like to ask instructors to visualize that role and consider a relevant metaphor for teaching. Will you be a guide? Conductor? Concierge? Curator? Here’s a short screencast one of my former students, Bruce Wolcott, created to describe his own teaching metaphor.

This chapter also discusses synchronous and asynchronous interaction. Synchronous activities occur when participants are in the same place at the same time, such as in the classroom or in an online video conference. Asynchronous interaction occurs in the same place, but at different times, like the comments on this blog, or posts in an online discussion.  Both can be effective when appropriately applied. If you’re considering online synchronous interactions, make sure students have clear expectations about their responsibilities to attend. Sometimes students take online or hybrid courses because they are not available to participate at scheduled times.

For this chapter, it’s important to consider your student population and what might work for them. Are there language barriers? Do the students have communication skills to participate in online discussions? Do they have access to the required technology? What interactions can enhance student learning and assessment without technology getting in the way? What guidelines or boundaries must you set for your students to help them interact successfully?

Activities

  1. Read and view the module content.
  2. Complete at least one assignment. (The DiY assignment this week includes a few extras I won’t require. I won’t be asking for a separate Protocols document or Module Interactions Worksheet.)
  3. Optional: Attend the online session live at 10:00 AM in E225 on Monday, April 28th.
  4. Recommended: Find time to meet with Jen or Sally for an individual consultation.
  5. Recommended: Take a look at Boettcher and Conrad’s 10 Best Practices for Teaching Online

Tips

The DiY templates in the course are part of a ‘kit’ to help inspire you to develop your course. It is fine to revise them or create alternatives. The instructor isn’t expecting you to turn in the exact documents. The alternatives I created for this project are fine to submit for the course assignments. You are also welcome to modify them or create your own.

I’ve started collecting links to eLearning tools here on the blog. I’ll be updating this as I find time.

Housekeeping

Files are not due to eLearning until June 6th, but I’m happy to give feedback if you wish to share them with me.  I’ve already seen some great creative interpretations as instructors adapt the documents to meet their own needs.

#BlendKit2014 You Don’t Need to Love it to Learn From it

I’ve spent the past week fielding complaints and confusion about the #BlendKit2014 course. I’m still optimistic this experience can be salvaged. I think it’s important for participants to recognize the course was developed to address an audience with a wide range of experience and expectations. It’s built with flexibility in mind, so students can participate in a way that works best for their learning needs.

Unfortunately, that flexibility favors the experienced online learner who’s used to responsibility for self-directed learning. Participants with limited experience in online courses and communities can feel overwhelmed by the options. The course also addresses an audience from diverse disciplines and institutional structures and service areas. Our own project group within the course is so diverse, I’m working with participants individually to help them find value in the course. This image is a visualization of our participant teaching areas.

wordleblendkit2014Despite the challenges, I believe we can still learn much from the experience. We don’t need to love it to learn from it. Here are some of the ways we can turn our experiences into opportunities to improve our own professional practice.

  • If you find the course instructions confusing, what changes might you make to ensure your own students don’t experience the same in your courses?
  • If you feel overwhelmed by the available choices, how might you limit choices or guide your own students so they have a more positive experience?
  • If you feel the content is irrelevant to your teaching practice, what strategies do you think you could employ in your own courses to make sure you understand your audience and provide them with clear expectations about the course content?
  • If you feel the assignments and assessments don’t contribute to or identify your learning, what can you do in your own courses to ensure assignments and assessments are relevant and students find value in completing them?
  • If you are experiencing issues with technology that impact your ability to successfully participate in the course, how might you build flexibility into your own courses to accommodate for students who experience technical issues?

The best part of experiencing a course that doesn’t meet your expectations or causes you frustration, is that you learn what not to do in your own professional practice.