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Issues in learning and teaching: blended

In this video UNSW teachers talk about how they use blended learning.
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 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. Yes, so in our first year physics courses, we use blended learning in particular 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’re properly prepared for the lab, they then have a prework 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. I believe when I research about what blended learning is about or what flipped classroom is about, most of the examples I find are, you know, lectures demonstrating how to calculate the mathematical problem, for example, by showing how that is done with their own handwriting under a document camera or on the white board.
I guess the difference the way I do it in my class is that instead of creating the video content, I curate existing video content that I find on YouTube. And I find that students react positively to that because of the– it’s been a very carefully selected and it pertains to our topics. And, obviously, because these videos are also professionally created so they– even if I ask them to watch a one hour video, nobody complains because the video has been produced inside in a very engaging manner. I think when I first started this entire blended learning journey, it was because I realised that there was so much content that we had, but we had an opportunity to give student feedback.
And so we wanted to give them feedback immediately. When they come in week one, whatever they’re learning because the fundamental concepts that we’re starting with. We wanted to give them feedback right at the beginning so that they know they’re actually doing well. So much of what I’ve developed is around giving them feedback and formative assessment. And so in the online space, we do that a lot by doing– using adaptive tutorials, quizzes, and all of those kind of things. But more than that, we also use the forums.
So there’s this thing where students have to answer a question, and they can only see the other students’ responses after they actually answer a question and so, in that way, to create some kind of discussion. The way I actually use a blended environment actually defers in different weeks so sometimes it’s about giving students content upfront and it may be in the form of video or a YouTube video that’s been made by someone else or maybe something I’ve made myself. It may be an adaptive tutorial. And then, in class, we actually go one step ahead. Sometimes, when it’s really important concepts that are difficult for them to understand, I would do it in the class first.
And then in the online environment, we would use that to reinforce what we’ve learned in class. So it’s flexible both ways depending on what the concept is. I use the online environment a lot to give students feedback and to also give them a chance to demonstrate what they’re learning. The students that we have are really high achieving students. And because they are high achieving students, they all want to be challenged all the time.
And so giving them things in the online environment that may be slightly out of what we want to achieve in the course, but it will be something that shows them how it extends beyond this course so things like integrating it with other disciplines like pathology or pharmacology or those kinds of things. So I use the online environment for lots of those kind of things. One of the things that I’ve done with all the courses that I’ve designed in this blended format is not to do too much at the same time. So each year, we’ve done a little bit and changed things, or tweaked things, or developed a different aspect.
So when we first started, it was just about putting some adaptive tutorials on. But as we’ve gone through the different years in an intuitive process with both the blended learning course structure that really is designed around our students and getting them to learn and catering for the diversity that we have so. In what way would I consider my course blended? Blended can mean a variety of things. If you understand blended if your concept– your conceptualisation of blend is mixing in person, in class activities with online activities or online learning, then a lot of the course materials are provided online. It used to just be a physical book.
Now, it’s a– they can still buy the physical book, but can also download the PDF. But there are now also online quizzes that you can do prior to each test, prior to each lecture. I usually find a relevant video either through YouTube or other sources that’s relevant to that lecture so they can learn and hear from other entrepreneurs or other practitioners about the course materials so that when they come to the classroom, they can focus more on actually doing. So they’ve got more digital resources at their fingertips that I’ve curated. I don’t have to create them. All I have to do is curate the most relevant ones.
And then they come to the classroom and are ready to apply what they should be– should have actually learned before coming to the classroom. I use blended learning in my teaching in a number of ways. I think one example where I’ve really done that effectively is in the psychology of music class, where we have, perhaps it’s unusual, but we have lectures face to face, which students attend, and then all of a tutorial activities are delivered online. And that includes some assessments, reading and engaging with material. It involves discussion forums, and it involves submitting summaries of written work that’s been produced as a result of actually attending some– attending labs and doing music listening activities in this case.
Listen to teaching staff at UNSW talk about their experiences with blended learning.

Talking point

  • Consider the many strategies they talk about
  • Identify a strategy that is new to you and post in the comments

Academics in context

Information about the academic staff in this video and their professional contexts may be found in the Academics in context.pdf document.
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