Tag Archives: Blended delivery

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.

A new age dawns

It is easy to think from my perspective that technology has always been there, for a large portion of the population it has. My job would not exist if it were not for technology as I am a technology mentor and professional presenter of everything elearning. I remember when I first started working (all those years ago) and suggested that I would like to do some training on computers for my professional development. My boss at the time was sceptical as he really didn’t see the trend catching on but let me do it anyway, fortunately for me that professional development has become a lifelong career.

Technology is now everywhere almost insidious with how it has wriggled into every aspect of our daily lives, but the real trick for educationalists is to know how to harness technology to augment teaching and learning for the betterment of students.

In certain situations the use of technology can be harnessed for teaching the theory behind a topic. However, in the VET sector (and any other sector for that matter) there are just times when for safety reasons the learner needs to have a teacher, trainer mentor or workplace supervisor standing with them to see that they are safe.

Students need to be mentored physically for dangerous jobs. Morguefile image by Sergey81 http://mrg.bz/07ac96
Students need to be mentored physically for dangerous jobs.
Morguefile image by Sergey81 http://mrg.bz/07ac96

For instance the very first time a student uses a metal lathe should not be after they are watched a video created by their tutor then move out unsupervised into a workplace to work on the equipment. It is a recipe for disaster, that being said in a well-constructed course then a student will has the skills and abilities (thanks to working with a teacher/trainer/mentor etc) to achieve a physical component of assessment.

The most is important thought for teacher and learner alike in this new age is that everyone must become lifelong learners. Admittedly this can be confronting for some, but being open to learn from anyone is a very important skills set to obtain. In reflection of what has been happening in the VET sector in WA over the past few years, to be honest, this is not always the case. Some lecturers have their “happy place” and do not like to be challenged or even asked to move outside of their comfort zone to improve their teaching for the betterment of students. Yes there is a requirement that VET trainers all must have a certain amount of professional development a year, but nothing stops them from walking into a room signing on the role then sitting there doing nothing. They get the credit for attending but no actual learning.

This is not to say that there are some very good practitioners who are doing amazing blended and technology enhanced lessons. I myself when I was a VET lecturer had to foresight to let my students help “take control” of their learning.

Morguefile image by Arundo http://mrg.bz/848126
Morguefile image by Arundo http://mrg.bz/848126

I was training education assistants in a face-to-face environment who were due to go out on their block placement, the students had heard that I also trained online and begged me to setup an online site that they could stay in contact with each other for support throughout their placement. I was dubious but set it up and sat back to watch what would happen. Many students posted in what was happening and the positives of their placement, others posted up questions for help finally other posted up problems they needed help with. Not one topic was not course related and the students became a very close knitted group who managed together (with the help of myself) to get through their placements and secure jobs. The highlight was that this group did over 1000 discussion forum postings, all on topic and all supportive in nature when required within a 3 month period. These student were all seen as “technology challenged” by other trainers, but took to this system like ducks to water because they had the support of not only myself but of my students as well.

It is said that everything old is new again perhaps it is true of this new paradigm. After all we are adjusting our mindset to view things in a different way, much like when any major new system or way of thinking is introduced. We are in the settling period, but eventually education will catch-up to everyday life.

The future is bright. Morguefile image by Sergey81 http://mrg.bz/b1de09
The future is bright.
Morguefile image by Sergey81 http://mrg.bz/b1de09

The superhighway is at our doorstep and as long as we have the imagination and the willingness to grasp hold and be willing to learn the really the future is a bright one, maybe so bright you have to wear shades.

Less screen more green – an adventure in blended delivery and games

Less screen more green flickr photo shared by CMIMMJYT under a Creative Commons (BY) licence
flickr photo shared by CMIMMJYT under a Creative Commons (BY) licence

I am fortunate enough to work with VET professionals to develop and implement methods for using elearning as part of a blended delivery program. It’s always a challenge when putting together a professional development session to ensure that there is a good blend of theory and hands on work to ensure that the participants go away with a solid understanding of the content of the session and how to use that content in their specific context.

I was asked recently to put together a blended delivery session that would engage TAFE lecturers from a variety of portfolios for Polytechnic West lecturers from Balga and Thornlie campuses. I really wanted to build a blended delivery session that made participants use personal learning networks, technology and had a game based element to it. What evolved was a very interesting and well received session that was engaging and really made the participants understand that technology can support all training packages.

The brief outline of the session was “So you are keen to engage your online students but do not like the thought of just getting them to sit at a computer. This face-to-face session will work through ways to motivate your online students to ‘experience’ the real world and not to rely just on spoon fed online information.” Being held on two campuses I made sure that sessions ran as close to concurrent as possible as my co-presenter and I wanted to split the participants into small groups with the groups being a mix of representatives from both campuses. The participants were placed in teams prior to the session commencing – based on the roll, however the groups mix was  tweaked in the session when it became apparent on the Thornlie campus that we had a mix from a third campus.

Participants began the session in a computer lab at both campuses with a short presentation and briefing from me and my co-presenter about what we were going to do in the session and the key learning objectives. The participants were then given a physical live task to perform at each campus, and needed to work as a group across both sites to achieve the end goal. Participants were given access to a virtual meeting room space in Blackboard Collaborate and could also use mobile devices to communicate with the other site. The workshop ended back at each “basecamp” for debrief and to un-pack the learning from the activity.

It was important to make the physical activity an authentic learning activity which was a learner centric learning design that supports a higher level of learning by participants. I used a mix of both synchronous – Blackboard Collaborate and asynchronous – sms messaging and Google documents, which enabled collaborative learning (Laurillard, 2008). This supported a dynamic learner centric learning process for the participants (Herrington & Parker, 2013), which is essential for adult learners.

As the professional development was for adult learners who benefit from real-world relevance (Herrington, Reeves, Oliver and Woo, 2004) the live physical activity linked to the Employability Skills Occupational Health and Safety area of training packages as well as a ‘get to know the campuses’ orientation. This ensured that the participants were not doing an activity just for the sake of it and could see the context in that related to training packages and their training.

The activity was a Scavenger Hunt around the two campuses with focus questions that the groups had to work together to answer, within a 40 minute time frame. Cunningly the Scavenger Hunt was designed so that general knowledge would take them so far and they actually had to physically move around the two campuses to get the information to complete the questions.

The teams firstly had access in the physical classroom to Blackboard Collaborate and worked through as much as they could together and formulated a plan of action; they identified what questions might relate to each campus and then worked out a way to chat to each other outside the class. Some of the mobile technologies teams used were: sms messages, Facebook instant messages, Twitter and one team setup a Google document live to add findings to. During the session I acted as an instructor, a guide and an evaluator (Hanghøj, 2013) to enable to participants success in game play and facilitated groups through to a successful conclusion of the activity.

Once they had collated the answers they nominated a team member to fill out a survey monkey quiz that replicated the scavenger hunt questions, which enabled the two presenters live to demonstrate how the answers and statistics show in this system. The team then had to email the presenters that they had finished. Two prizes were awarded:

  1. First team finished
  2. Team with most correct answers

The participants thoroughly enjoyed the game element to the session and as part of the session debrief unpacked how this type of activity could inform their future training. The blended element of the delivery, though technically challenging having two big groups online working at the same time, it was extremely rewarding for the participants.

Participant guide – Less screen more green

 

References

Hanghøj, T. (2013). Game-based teaching: Practices, roles, and pedagogies. In S. de Freitas, M. Ott, M. Popescu, & I. Stanescu (Eds.) New pedagogical approaches in game enhanced learning: Curriculum integration (pp. 81-101). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-3950-8.ch005

Herrington, J., & Parker, J. (2013). Emerging technologies as cognitive tools for authentic learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 607-615. doi:10.1111/bjet.12048

Herrington, J., Reeves, T., Oliver, R., & Woo, Y. (2004). Designing authentic activities in web-based courses. Journal of Computing In Higher Education, 16(1), 3-29. doi:10.1007/bf02960280 Retrieved from http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/article/10.1007/BF02960280

Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 5-20. doi:10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2