Saturday, January 26, 2008

Background and Purpose of this Blog

This blog is my personal journal of research and resources on hybrid teaching and learning in the university setting. I have been teaching in a variety of college settings for since the mid 90s. I enjoyed teaching face to face (f2f) and experimented with early technology-enhanced online teaching tools, primarily posting course webpages and resource links for my students. In the late 90s, I embraced the "free" options for Blackboard and began to post course materials, quizzes, and discussion questions for my students. When my university purchased their own Blackboard license, I become more engaged in the possibilities of posting make-up classes, online assignments, and discussion. I found that the dropbox and gradebook were convenient for both receiving assignments and sending students feedback. These early web-based course shells were never meant to be hybrid classes in lieu of class seat time. They were simply a convenient way to continue class discussion, share website resources, post materials to avoid printing handouts and resources, and extend communication between me and my students.

In the process of using a web-based instructional course shell to extend learning and communication, I discovered that many of the activities we carried out online were of greater benefit than the typical f2f course lectures, discussions, and group activities. In particular, discussion was typically richer online, with greater evidence of critical thinking and analysis of the reading. Plus - the online discussion was not dominated by just a few. Students who never spoke up in the f2f setting were sharing in-depth, thoughtful responses in the threaded discussion. Many of the courses I teach involve project-based learning. Submitting projects, presentations, and assignments digitally allowed me to give on-going feedback during the week. I no longer took up class time with quizzes, but put them all online. I changed my attitude about quizzes and decided to treat them as "study guides," allowing students to use their texts and the web resources to find help. I still held traditional midterms and finals in class, but I began to move toward more project-based assessments.

I have now developed and taught a number of fully-online classes, as well as hybrid classes in which some online time counted as seat time. I truly believe that students can learn in both onsite and online settings. Some students are most successful in f2f classes, but some are highly motivated and engaged in fully online classes. I think that hybrid classes can offer the best of both worlds. I feel that today's younger students are completely comfortable with online communication through email, text messaging, My Space, Facebook, blogs, Second Life, and the many social possibilities for virtual living, social networking, and online collaborative interactivity. Many of our university students are mature adults returning to school after working in the business world. They appear to be more comfortable with self-directed training models, peer collaboration, and independent learning. Many researchers are discussing the future of higher education and how the "learning space" is changing. This blog is my attempt to organize the ideas of researchers and leaders who propose that hybrid learning is the future of higher education.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

My involvement on this committee has much to do with my own interest in the virtual learning world. I am teaching my first DL class this session; I am really enjoying it, yet, as an instuctor, it is quite an adjustment from an on-site environment.
I also want to ensure that we are working towards a strong hybrid/blended model for the University.
I am looking forward to this endeavor.