Blending and flipping – not just for cooking

In recent years “blended delivery” has become a catch phrase with many in the VET sector saying that they are doing this, but really have no actual understanding fo what blended delivery is.

Blended delivery requires that the instructor takes time to carefully creates an instruction plan that will leverage the affordances of various technology to support and augment face-to-face training. The beauty of blended delivery is that it can incorporate “Flipped Learning” and moves the focus from teachers to student to student learning, which can form some of the most powerful learning experiences.

Though student to student interaction can form powerful learning experiences it is still critical that a teacher, who can take the form of a facilitator, is still involved to guide the learning.

In recent years I have been teaching a block of professional development that is aligned to the Certificate IV TAE unit Facilitating Online. The cohort is often distanced by location so I take great pains to ensure a face to face component (synchronous sessions) fortnightly. During this the students present on the topic of the week to their fellow students, and manage the discussion forums. This is critical as it enable peer-to-peer learning and then I cover what-ever has been left out of the students presentations. Each student suffers nerves, though each of them are seasoned professionals from the VET sector who present training daily to students.

The reason behind this methodology is to give all students the ability to use various technologies. Of course the students are heavily mentored through the whole presentation process to ensure as little stress as possible.

At the commencement of each week I post a video that provides content, in a short humorous style along with readings and activities. This is the content that all students are expected to have reviewed prior to the virtual class. I set these expectations at the start of the course and have the students complete a class code of conduct to ensure that they understand what both their peer and I want.

Due to the remoteness and connectivity issues for some of my students I have had to ensure that all the course is designed in such a way that it will display on minimum bandwidth. Also for accessibility concerns all videos are also close captioned.

I take seriously the need for students all to have a voice, even the quietest has amazing insights to offer, and this teaching approach has worked well in having our wall-flowers step up and takes charge in a non-threatening environment.

This Facilitate elearning is based around problem centered instruction and uses the first principles outlined by Merril (2002).

Designing and working with students online can often be seen (incorrectly) as an easy option that does not require much effort on behalf of the trainer. Senior management often has this skewed view of online learning. It is often hard, especially if you are using a blended option.

Recently our team in the Government agency I work for have taken the challenge that all our conferences and professional learning events will be delivered in a blended option. This means that we live stream key sessions at all events. I am not going to say it was easy at the beinginning it was horrid, however, in our third year of doing this means it is now second nature and we are able to provide valuable learning opportunities to people all over Australia who may not have been able to attend otherwise.

This is taking blended to a whole different lever as we do not just stream the sessions, but if there is small group work being done in the session then this will be replicated in the virtual classroom so that our online attendees have a full and rich learning experience.

It has meant that we now also have a fleet of laptops, professional cameras, microphones and hand held devices that are needed to run events. However that being said my sessions that I stream are run with a laptop and my webcam, simple and effective. We do stress anyone can do what we do, and you do not need a Hollywood budget either.

This approach has been flawed with some of the senior management from RTOs not fully understanding the concept. But with dedication and perseverance the joy of blended will be adopted on a wider scale by many other organisations as we now run sessions on how to run a blended event.

21st Century skills such as problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, communication and collaboration as all key and need careful scaffolding and mapping to ensure that both the digital work blends with the face-to-face work for all formal and informal activities and assessments within a course. By being flexible with the more traditional teaching course material and giving students the reason to up-skill themselves quickly to ensure they can pass on information accurately to a learning cohort means that going for the flip and using a blended approach provides  a more personalised approach to instuction, gets students buy-in and more inportantly utilises technology to augment the training (Roblyer, 2013).

References

Jonson, J. (2014). Blended learning and technology integration. YouTube. Retrieved April 29, 2014 fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD8AUfGsCKg

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instructionEducational Technology Research and Development, 50 (3), 43-59.

Michalowski, A. (2014). Planning for blended learning environments and measuring progress. Youtube. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fuak_YiZs5s

Morrison, D. (2013). Why online courses [really] need an instructional design strategy. Online learning insights. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from http://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/why-online-courses-really-need-an-instructional-design-strategy/

Roblyer, M. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

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