3 Strategies for Blending On-Campus and Online Teaching
by Stephanie Klenzendorf, M.Ed., on May 23, 2020 11:23:31 PM
As campuses announce their intentions to return to face-to-face instruction or remain online-only next semester, many professors are reflecting on the past couple of months as they prepare for an uncertain fall. For students who may be immunocompromised or do not want to risk exposure to COVID-19, the next school year will likely include a blend of online and on-campus courses, otherwise known as Blended Synchronous Learning. One of the major concerns expressed by student end of semester surveys this year was the lack of motivation and engagement in their online courses compared to when their classes met in person.
Here are a few points to consider as you are designing a course that can keep students engaged and educated whether they are physically in the classroom, learning from home, or some combination of the two.
1. Focus on the Learning Outcomes
No matter how you’re teaching your course next fall, the course objectives will matter more than the delivery format. While it would be a mistake to just keep on doing what you’ve always done with some or all students watching from home, your course will still need to be designed so that learning outcomes are clearly defined with opportunities for active learning. A well-planned lecture can be instrumental in explaining the material, but encouraging regular student contribution will help students gain a better understanding of the course objectives. The automatic grouping feature and the student ask and vote forum within Squarecap provide easy ways to accomplish this from any setting. Use these tools to regularly identify the focus of the learning and discussion so that students know exactly what they should be getting from your time together.
2. Make Small Adjustments to Existing Lesson Plans
While it would be much simpler to plan a course that will be completely online or entirely face-to-face, the reality is that most schools will not announce closures until they absolutely need to. Take this time to review your learning activities, making small adjustments to reduce the friction for yourself later in the fall. Some activities may need to be heavily modified or replaced, but many will need only small adjustments to tailor the experience to remote students. For example, in a physics classroom, a teacher might have students work on problems and write them on a whiteboard in pairs. Students who are synchronous but at home can write them on a piece of paper and post to a discussion board or email to the professor in real-time. Asynchronous students will be able to do the same activity on their own time, with perhaps an additional step where they explain HOW they solved the problem so that they can reflect on their own process.
3. Choose the Appropriate Technology
Whether or not technology was used at the beginning of the semester, many professors found the need to quickly evaluate and adopt tools that can help deliver a full learning experience in any setting. Those who were already set up with classroom engagement sites like Squarecap reported an easier transition, as they could better track student attendance and progress during both synchronous and asynchronous meetings. Also, take the time to ask your campus which web conferencing technologies are available to you and how they can be used to teach both remote and face-to-face students in the same class. Pre-recorded lectures are a great way to teach students remotely and can also be used to implement flipped classroom techniques if classes continue to meet on campus.
Finding balance between in-person and online courses next semester will certainly be challenging as we adapt to this new educational environment. However, taking the time to set up a flexible blending learning design will ultimately make your life easier as things change this semester and will provide your students with the opportunity to succeed no matter what their circumstances.