I’m using blending learning in my teaching little by little. So I first started exploring blended learning by integrating some videos into the lecture activities in my Translation courses. And then I started exploring the use and the effectiveness of the flipped classroom in the lecture that I have, using videos, related readings, and linked assignments that are online. I then could link both the online and in-class activities together quite explicitly and be able to draw upon the strengths that each mode has and to be able to articulate this then to the students, so that they are aware of the benefits of both and also we are aware as a team of the limitations and possible miscommunications of each then.
I think each mode brings with it some challenges, but also some strengths. I think overall, a combination has worked quite well in my teaching context, being able to draw upon the rich value of the face-to-face interaction in the traditional face-to-face lectures and some of the tutorials, but then being able to overcome the limitations of the face-to-face. For my teaching context, that’s essentially around time and space restrictions, being able to deal with all languages in a limited amount of time, in a limited amount of space. And the online activities really allow us to overcome these limitations.
The online activities in my teaching context allow me to show students how to engage with video content, with other types of industry material, with texts, with online resources, and so on. All of this, especially the how-to aspect, couldn’t be done in a face-to-face way. And I feel that one mode in this sense really compliments the other. So in our first year Physics courses, we use blended learning and particularly with the labs.
Before the students come to the lab, they have a video to watch showing them the theory behind the lab exercise they’re going to be doing, and then also introducing them to the equipment and how it works so that when they come to the lab they don’t feel overwhelmed by the equipment and how does it relate. To make sure that they are properly prepared for the lab, they then have a pre-work lab test which is on Moodle and this counts as 25% of their lab mark. So in total, that’s 5% of the course mark, so not a very high weighting. But that’s enough to get them to do it.
And we found this has made a big difference in how prepared the students come for the lab. So we also have discussion forums and things on the course Moodle site so that students have the opportunity to answer questions. The teaching context that I like to work with is primarily with lab practice. So I can teach across different contexts– for example, lectures, tutorials, practical settings. But what we just experienced today was a practical lesson that included blended aspects of resources and other types of methods that we use in the lab to engage students into thinking and doing research practice.
So today’s lab was really a hybrid or a blended lab where we use some demonstration type of hands on equipment and technologies as well as a virtual lab, and the two dovetail and work together to reinforce concepts, research concepts for students. I use blended learning for most of my courses now. This came from a couple of years ago, introducing it and just finding the students loved it. I loved it. It worked really well. The way that I use blended learning is by setting up a series of podcasts or sometimes video interviews, and then having a whole lot of material there that the students can explore at their own pace. Some of it necessary, some of it’s optional.
This kind of gives a springboard for wider research that I encourage through class activities and through tutorial activities. Some of the benefits of this is the students can go at their own pace. They can explore just the things that interest them the most once they’ve got the core theoretical or technical knowledge. It also means that I’m able to go out, especially with things like media courses that involve sound for film or sound for games or scoring composition, there’s people out there that are working in this field every day that have a lot of knowledge to impart.
And it’s really excellent to be able to go and interview some of these people and bring that back within the wider framework of the course. And doing stuff online makes this feel really natural and seamless. I also use online teaching a lot. I’ve started that 12 years ago. So I started doing online before it was that popular, I suppose. And I did it because I had less time in timetabled activities. When I first came in to teach my subject, which is Bio Statistics and Evidence-based Practice, there wasn’t much timetabled activities for it. So I was forced into putting a lot of stuff online. And since then I’ve sort of got that to a blended state.
So there’s a lot of stuff online that students can look at when they’re at home, when they come back to a topic, maybe for studying, ready for an exam. So they’re revising and they think I don’t quite understand that, they can go back to it. They don’t have to go through a whole lecture to find something. It’s in the online tutorial. And they also can actually use it in the practical classes. So that’s been a really good way of combining the concepts with the practical and allowing them to learn in that way. It was interesting because it was the FULT programme which enabled me to think I can use online.
And I did that, but with the FULT training as well, I also then experienced discovering that it wasn’t working because I’d learned how to do a little bit of evaluation of my own. And in discovering that it wasn’t working, I realised that I had to link the two a bit more directly and have more face-to-face time. So the difficulty of blending is the balance. It’s making sure that you have enough. The students are ready, so they’re ready to actually engage with the online or the practical experience, and that they have enough support in doing that. So scaffolding of your concepts can help.
But also for me, it was trial and error, I must admit, over couple of years, trying to work out how much those students needed, practical sessions, how much online they could deal with and how that worked together. The feedback from online sessions showed that they wanted more face-to-face discussion. These are difficult concepts. They really needed to talk with someone, someone who wasn’t a peer, someone who knew what the answers were or what this was about and could give them good examples. So it was a case of making a balance.