Below are some of my design ideas for a client as I reconstruct postsecondary courses to be blended. However, I would also use many of these principles and approaches when creating online learning.
Blended Learning Design
My ideas for course design use a number of principles, theories, and approaches for learning and teaching. These are listed below.
Adult Learners: Adults are presumed to be self-directed learners who wish to draw on their experience and have choice in their learning, such as choice of activities, attendance, task outcomes, and presentation styles. While this is difficult to administer all the time, flexibility is appreciated by students. Adult learners also need learning to have relevance to their lives.
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle: This theory implies there are four basic ways to learn: through experience, reflection, abstract thinking, and experimentation. Creating learning that has students experience something engages them. Then allowing them to reflect and decipher what they have experienced gives them the ability to construct their own understanding. At this point, a teachable moment emerges and lessons can be delivered that share abstract concepts and facts, after which point students can experiment within an activity. From my experience, good results come from attempting to use this cycle of learning within activities, modules, and/or entire courses.
Clara Davies, University of Leeds
Constructivism: Following the previous learning theory, current practices suggest students should construct their own understanding while drawing on their past experience and knowledge. This strengthens learning more than memorizing information. It also personalizes it. Providing flexibility in how students need to learn (i.e. orally, through drawing, via web tools. etc) enhances self construction of knowledge.
Active Learning: Active rather than passive learning is important. Students need to participate and experiment with the topic at hand. This provides deeper versus surface learning.
Self-Directed Learning: Many of the activities I construct are not graded but instead are used to practice and experiment with the lesson at hand. Most are conducted in class, which will motivate students to complete the activities. There are some activities that are assigned to complete after class. It is assumed students are mostly motivated by graded assignments, therefore encourage them to engage with the activities in order to learn the material, which will be tested at a later time. The activities are designed to be understandable, navigable, and enjoyable.
Open-Book Evaluations: Except for the final exam, all assignments and quizzes are designed as open-book assessments. The instructor can change this to closed-book. In the open-book quizzes students will need to solve problems and answer short essay questions that requires using their developed knowledge from previous lessons. They will not be able to find the answers easily in the textbook, but rather use it to refer to equations, graph examples, data, and key information. The reason for this approach is that in the workplace students will have access to resources and information to solve problems and perform their jobs. Training them how to engage in tasks and make decisions while creatively using resources is vital. If applicable, they could use their laptop for stored information and/or accessing web-based resources.
Blended Learning: Courses are specifically designed to be blended which entails seamlessly blending face-to-face lessons with those online. Students are encouraged to bring and use laptops in class. Each module uses web-based resources in the classroom and continues with activities in the online learning platform. This platform becomes an extension of the classroom where students are actively engaging and not merely locating resources or grades posted by the instructor. As well, electronic resources are used in each module such as online periodicals, websites, blogs, bookmarks, quizzes, answer keys, interactive graphing, and gaming.
Information Literacy Skills: Students are taught about the safety of their personal information when registering for freeware or free accounts online, such as graphic design programs or web hosting. As well, through out the course they are guided on copyright infringement issues when using others’ work, such as text and images. These are important skills to learn for the workplace and to be socially responsible citizens.
Other Needs: The needs and goals of the institution, school, and department are considered in the design, as are the demographics and goals of potential students.
Teaching Needs: The teaching style of instructors are considered and alternatives for instruction are given for each module. Considering the varying teaching styles of instructors, the modules and activities are designed not to be overly prescriptive but allow for lessons to be modified.
Lesson Planning: Additionally, it is important to be prepared before class by creating lesson plans. As well, only the instructor will know during the lesson if students are understanding or struggling with concepts and calculations. If needed, modify the modules and activities to revisit problem areas. This would require rescheduling some activities that cover the necessary learning objectives.