Tag Archives: professional_development

Don Quixote 1 Windmills 0

Some days, working in ed tech can feel defeating. (Can I have an amen?)

Don Quixote - Tilting at windmillsYou feel a bit like technology’s version of Don Quixote – valiantly fighting against the monsters of poor course design and disengagement that apparently no one else can see. And, of course, you’re dragging poor Sancho Panza, your instructional designer, along on your crazed quest. (You can almost feel them whisper about your insane strategic plans as they just look at you like you’ve grown a second or third head in that staff meeting during your presentation, right?)

And then there are those times they’ve begged and begged for training, so you plan all sorts of wonderful interactive sessions to engage your audience in the wonderful world of instructional technology, and you get this kind of crowd:

empty audience

So why do we do it? What’s the pay off?

Because every once in a while, something sticks. Every once in a while, you accidentally, or on purpose, stumble across the right phrasing, the right serendipitous moment, the 2+2=4 thing, and the light bulb goes on, and progress inches forward. And it feels amazing.

It happened this week for me working with one faculty member helping her to better understand how to use her face-to-face versus online time in her hybrid evening class. She’d been struggling to fit all her content in, when she’d never struggled teaching it traditionally.

We talked about the fact that it was a 5 credit class – traditionally that would mean 5 contact hours + an additional 5-10 hours of homework.

Then I explained how in a hybrid class we need to think not in terms of contact hours, but in learning activity hours. So in her case, she would have 2 learning activity hours face-to-face with the students and 3 learning activity hours online with them, and then the students still had 5-10 hours of homework. Sancho added tips for building the activities to interweave them between the online and face-to-face modalities.

Wham! I could almost see the wheels turning in her mind as she realized that the online portion of her class wasn’t idea light bulbsupposed to be the homework – that homework was in addition. And her students would come prepared to class if she created assignments this way.  She was suddenly freed to add more in, and assign the homework she’d been feeling guilty about. We’d found the way to explain the concept that clicked for her this time. She was excited to review her class with this new lens to see it through. It was a real win.

Maybe this will work with some other faculty.

Maybe they’ll show up.

Don Quixote 1  Windmills 0


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Semantics Matter


In a recent conversation with a faculty member, she expressed her dissatisfaction with the hybrid modality of teaching.  She spoke of her expectations that students would come to class prepared with the material already viewed, and yet they never did.  As I left her office, I puzzled over her comments…what did the fact that it was a hybrid modality have to do with expecting students to come to class having already viewed/read some content? Students in all modalities skip homework now and again. Then I realized what she was saying.  She was talking about a flipped classroom.

This very experienced faculty member spoke as though the terms hybrid and flipped were synonymous. Yikes! No wonder she was frustrated.  I bet her students were, too.

The list of professional development areas that could be deemed “opportunities for Lisa to create some training” is lengthy at my school, and I haven’t been on the job here long enough to make much of a dent.  As the eLearning guru responsible for fully online courses and all the training that comes with those, I am ashamed to say the poor little hybrid modality just keeps getting put on the back burner. Maybe my instructional designer can get to it? Ha ha. I’m sure he is thinking the same thing about me. Sigh.

Clearly, the time has come to focus some energies toward getting our faculty up-to-speed on this pedagogical mashup, so I am at least going to take the time to write the definitions here.  Professional development activity to be developed later. Sometime. I promise. Scout’s honor. (Even though I wasn’t a scout).

Here is how I define the differences in web-enhanced, hybrid, flipped, and online teaching.

Web-enhanced: A web-enhanced class makes use of Internet-based content or digital tools but doesn’t reduce any seat time in the class.  Examples might include instructors putting homework in a learning management system, requiring students to use the Internet for research papers, or using a publisher’s textbook simulation software for homework.

Hybrid/Blended: A hybrid course is one where some of the teaching is online and some is done face-to-face (f2f).  Seat time is reduced. For example, a class that normally meets 5 days per week, would, as a hybrid, meet 3 days per week, and have 2 days’ worth of activities online.

In a discussion with my eLearning colleagues around the state, it was our consensus that hybrid classes should generally meet somewhere between 40-60% in person with the remainder online. Hybrid courses should have teaching and learning activities in both the f2f and online modalities to equal what a full time f2f student would do for the same credits.  Unfortunately, since many educators get thrown into this mode with little pedagogical training of how it differs from traditional teaching, they end up filling their f2f time with lecture and online time with what otherwise would have been homework.

Flipped: Flipping a class, on the other hand, does not require that the class be hybrid or even have an online component at all (though using a learning management system helps for after-hours access to content). A flipped class simply means the passive elements of instruction are moved to homework status, and interactive elements take place with the instructor.  So students view lectures or watch videos or read assigned content at home prior to activities based on this content in class.  Students come to class prepared for hands on class activities.  Their homework is actually “pre-work”.

A flipped classroom takes some training for students to get used to and practice for them to see the benefit of coming to class prepared. Instructors also need to make sure to use the in-class time well.  Simply re-lecturing over the content flipped from the night before is wasting opportunity. Good flipped instructors take advantage of in-class time for simulations, role play, debate, peer/group work, reinforcement of difficult concepts, labs, review, and other active and engaged learning activities.

You can have a flipped, hybrid class.  In fact, I would encourage it.  But, it won’t happen by itself.  This structure needs to be laid out on Day 1.  It needs to be explained to students.  It needs to be reinforced in the course outline, calendar, and assignment due dates.  The flipped material needs to be assigned with due dates, too – even though they won’t be graded. This will help students see it in the learning management system (look for an option for non-graded assignments and then assign a due date).

It’s really important that you use the assigned pre-work the very next day in class – otherwise students will view it as busy work that doesn’t really need to be done.  Your flipped assignments will lose all legitimacy.  Try reinforcing students coming to class having done the pre-work by having low stakes (but graded) entry tasks pertaining to the pre-work like a 2 question quiz or turning in a 3×5 card answering a prompt on the board like “Tell me 5 important points about last night’s lecture.”  If you hold these kinds of entry tasks the first 4 or 5 times you meet following a flipped assignment, your students will get the idea that you actually use the pre-work material you post, and that it is important they do the work ahead of time and come to class prepared.

Online: So what about classes that are fully online but have proctored tests? Are they really hybrid instead? I would say no unless they begin to reach that 40% threshold.  But I would caution you to provide plenty of options for students when requiring online students to be in a defined physical place at a defined physical time.  Students take online classes primarily because of the convenience of not having to come to campus – due to work conflicts, day care issues, actual distance from the campus, or a myriad of other reasons. When we start requiring online students to come to campus for testing on our schedule, we are undermining both the spirit and intent of distance learning in serving this group of students. Consider making provisions for options like online proctoring where for a fee, students can be monitored via their own webcam or allow students to arrange for proctoring in their own community at a local high school, community college, or public library with a pre-defined set of parameters with which you feel comfortable.

Do I have it right? Have I left out some vital element that makes flipped or hybrid work? Do you already have the perfect professional development for my faculty? (Can I borrow it? Jk…maybe)

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