Our Teaching Remotely: Shared Experiences panel series recently included one dedicated to blended learning. Panellists included McMaster instructors Rita Cossa, Rashid Abu-Ghazalah and Rosa Da Silva.
All three panellists discussed how they apply blended learning in their teaching. All three panellists taught using a blended learning style before the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to do so during the pandemic in an online environment. Using a blended learning approach requires significant thought around planning and the type of course, as well as being able to adapt if something isn’t working. Before deciding to use a blended approach, instructors should consider the size of the course as smaller courses work better with in-person or synchronous instruction. Instructors should also consider the level of the course, whether the course takes place in the fall or winter term, and the number of international students.
When deciding on using a blended approach, it is essential to consider what part of the course will be online/virtual vs in-person. Consider what aspects of your course would suffer if you moved it online while also making sure that the in-person components are meaningful because, at the end of the day, students will remember the in-person experiences that they had in your course if done right. Material identified as working well using asynchronous delivery was regular lecture content such as theory and concepts. Students would view this material before attending a synchronous/in-person class where questions about content would be answered, applied examples and cases would be covered, and polling questions to ensure student engagement.
Rosa da Silva encouraged instructors to be thoughtful when creating blended learning experiences and not reactive. Blended learning requires storyboarding, consultation with other faculty members and peers, consultations with students, and time to review and revise. Before creating your asynchronous material, you should always ask yourself, what is the story you want to tell?
Rita Cossa (DeGroote School of Business)
Level 1 course:
- 1/3 synchronous. Met once per week using Zoom and TopHat
- Synchronous class 50 minutes to 1.5 hours.
- Highly focused on student engagement.
- Lecture-based podcasts to cover what would usually have been covered in the lecture.
- Would complete work before coming to class
- Synchronous class time is spent on answering questions and getting involved with students (breakout rooms, chat, watching videos, discussing current events, polling questions related to chapter content)
- Always had an agenda and kept the same rhythm of the class.Advice and insights: Keep in mind what students must know vs what is nice to have.
Rashid Abu-Ghazalah (Biotechnology – engineering)
- Pre-recorded lecture videos that are posted online
- Synchronous meeting time for the class with breakout rooms
- Keep rooms random to ensure they get to know different students
- Encourage to use video, if possible
- The instructor goes to the different rooms to check-in and answers questions
- Utilized Echo360 for pre-recorded lectures for closed captioning abilities
- Used a physical blackboard behind to answer questions and solve problems
- Recorded follow-up videos after lectures to explain concepts in more detail
- Advice and insights: labs are more challenging to do online due to equipment constraints. Always keep in mind who your students are and where they are located (time zones)
Rosa da Silva (Biology)
Levl 1 course:
- Textbook material presented before class (asynchronously)
- Synchronous lectures used for review, going through simulations, questions.
- The second lecture was used for clinical application, applying theory to the real world.
- Having applied lectures in-person allows for aha moments that are hard to recreate online.
- Screen time is a real issue. Students do better when they attend in person compared to when they binge-watch lecture material.
- Office hours have been a huge success online, hosted on Microsoft Teams. Encourage students to come check-in and have a coffee with you.
- Advice and insights: Storyboarding is essential; finding the bigger picture and ensuring that themes fit this bigger theme will make the experience more meaningful. Always be thoughtful of what you put online. Putting it online should not harm the experience.