I integrated online learning early in my career, but by my own admission, I had no real clear cut objective. As much as I hate to admit this, to be completely honest, I used the computer and educational websites merely as a "filler" activity while I worked on remedial skills with the students in need of that extra attention. While I am sure this practice was of no detriment to the majority of my class, I was not implementing a blended learning approach correctly. I rationalized my misuse of these tools by telling myself, "well, some exposure to technology is better than none at all." My "time filler" approach lacked any real structure or meaning. I began to ask myself if this was the best use of time in order to achieve student growth. At the time, I wasn't sure if the children were even learning because the software I used did not provide data to track student growth. It was game over - literally. Maya Angelou once said, "When you know better, you do better". A decade and tremendous advances in technology later, I certainly hope I know better. Under the umbrella of alternative education in which I work, I'm not equipped with an online credit recovery program, a computer based test prep program, and I have the availability of Think Through Math at my disposal, the commonality among these three is the ability to tailor a program around the needs of my students. I found some wonderful tips for successful blended learning at: https:http://blended.online.ucf.edu/ The Blended Learning Tool Kit - a service provided by the University of Central Florida.
Student Success Strategies
The following student success strategies are derived from faculty experiences at the University of Central Florida, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and checklists provided by Simmons College. Of course, the teacher must adapt these suggestions to meet his/her needs. I.e., The syllabus will probably be discussed in class along with teacher/student expectations (to what degree will depend will depend on the age of the student and class objectives; tutorial, invention, class credit, etc.)
Use a button, link or announcement to give students an obvious place to start in the online portion of your course. You should include:
- Location of the syllabus
- Support materials included how to get help
- How the online course is organized and the sequence of your learning activities
Your syllabus needs to be modified for the blended format. Some items to consider are:
- Provide an expanded description of the course along with the catalog description
- Describe your blended format and rationale for using it
- Cover the extended work period expected at home that results from reduced classroom hours
- Cover your expectations of students such as expectation to complete the reading assignments prior to class because you will be expanding on the content rather than covering the reading
- Describe the relationship between the face-to-face classroom and online activities
- Provide a printer-friendly schedule that includes assignments and due dates
Create an orientation to your course. An online orientation can be included as part of the Getting Started section or make the orientation part in your first class meeting. Some items to include in your orientation:
- How to log into the course (face-to-face orientations)
- "Walk" through the sequence of weekly/unit activities
- Print out the syllabus, support materials, how to find grades, where to turn in assignment, etc.
- Point out assignment lists, due dates, rubrics, etc.
Getting Started Module
Generally, the first week of class required time for technology issues (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002). One way to quickly identify issues with the tools in your course is to create low risk assignment using these tools. For example, create an introductory discussion and ask students to introduce themselves. This assignment tests students' ability to use the discussion tool and starts the class socialization.
Students are more successful working together when they know each other (Ayock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002) and the socialization process progresses faster in a face-to-face environment. Therefore, use the first face-to-face classroom meeting to start student socialization.
Tips for Success
Give students tips on how to succeed in your course. For example, log-in to your course at a minimum of three times per week.
Provide regular opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency with the course content.
Provide regular and timely feedback to students, and when appropriate, give them opportunities to correct their work.
Hopefully, your institution as instructions on how to use the tools in your course management system (CMS) and you can point your students to these instructions. If not, you need to write clear instructions for the tools used in your course. Also, you need instructions for common issued encountered by students such as resetting passwords.
Communication Policies or Protocols
Provide your communication policies for classroom and online. Your policies should include methods of communication such as email for personal communication. To avoid answering the same question for every student, use public communication tools such as discussions to communicate with the entire class. You might have a discussion topic to post questions to the professor. Be sure to address "tone" in electronic communication and netiquette. If grammar and spelling are important, make sure to include them in your policies.
Your students may need help with time management skills. Younger students tend to have difficulty managing their time and keeping up with assignments. One the other hand, adult learners are often overcommitted between family and job responsibilities. Here are a few tips to help with time management:
- Log your daily activities for a week so your discussions in time management are grounded in your experience (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002)
- Provide a printer-friendly schedule with all assignments and due dates
- Use announcements, calendars, or periodic messages as reminders of due dates
- Use adaptive release tools to open and close content to keep students on track
- For graduate courses, consider reopening all the content and allowing students to work ahead. For assignment like discussions, students may post their initial comment in advance but need to return to the discussion when the rest of the class is present.
Provide links to academic resources on your campus such as the writing center, library, bookstore, computer store, student support services, etc.
Provide links to your institution's help desk, tutorials, instructions, frequently asked questions, etc.