There is so much to think about when designing your course, that it is often easy to overlook the nuances that different groups of students present. In this section, we’ll look at some considerations you may want to look at if teaching in a blended format to the following groups of students: first year undergraduates; STEM and non-STEM students, and large classes.

First-year undergraduate: Teamwork

For first-year undergraduate students, working with strangers in group tasks can be challenging. They can encounter additional challenges if they are required to meet online and have difficulty with the logistics of organising and attending meetings using web conferencing tools. It is therefore recommended to provide students with a series of training sessions throughout a course so that they can build their confidence and have positive experiences as teammates (Wang & Rasmussen, 2020).

Some options for building cohesion in a team are to plan for community-building activities and encourage students to seek feedback from each other and to share their concerns and stresses in an effort to develop empathy. Students should also learn how to build on teammates’ ideas and to work with their various strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives (Wang & Rasmussen, 2020).

Students might also need guidance regarding logistics (Wang & Rasmussen, 2020). They may need to learn how to use digital calendars to schedule meetings, how to send invitations to teammates, how to write a realistic meeting agenda, how to stay focused on the agenda items during the meetings and stay within time limits. Additionally, students may need to learn how to manage absences from meetings. The larger the size of the group, the less likely all members will be available for all meetings. In groups of five students or more, it should be expected that one or two people will be absent at any given meeting. Consequently, students will need to work with the teammates who are present at meetings and plan for catching up the absentees.

A realistic way to provide training to students is to distribute it throughout the course and to provide feedback or Q&A sessions. Assign one or two reflections for students to think about teamwork and their own contribution. It has been shown to be beneficial to make some meetings or training sessions compulsory and to mark students for attendance (Wang & Rasmussen, 2020). For example, students might get top attendance marks for participating in 4 out of 5 meetings. An additional method to consider in supporting students is to have colleagues or students review your instructions and expectations before making them official. That way, you’ll have an opportunity to revise them to make them explicit and clear.

STEM and non-STEM students: Hybrid learning environments

Students can have different experiences using a LMS based on whether they are in a STEM field or not. Owston et al. (2020) found that STEM students performed better in online and blended courses than non-STEM students. It was suggested that STEM students may be more accustomed to hierarchical and highly structured learning environments. Therefore, in non-STEM courses, it is recommended to provide detailed guidance to students on how to navigate a LMS and to use it for their benefit. For example, you might record a video showing where to find major components of the course such as the syllabus, assignment schedule, course content, and reading or resource list. You might also explain how students can make the most out of discussion boards, quizzes, and other educational tools used in your course.

Despite STEM students having a tendency to perform better in online portions of courses, they tend to evaluate this type of learning more poorly than non-STEM students. It can be worth explaining to students that, although they might perceive a learning experience negatively does not mean that they are performing poorly. Similarly, just because students might perceive online or blended learning as a positive experience does not mean that they are attaining the learning objectives. Rather, focus on whether they are on track for attaining the course goals or not.

Blended learning in large classes

Material that is intended for students to take in passively (readings, videos, etc.) should be done online, outside of class time. Students can review readings and replay recordings as needed, with in-class time used for active learning strategies -the topic of our next section!

 

References

Owston, R., York, D.N., Malhotra, T., & Sitthiworachart, J. (2020). Blended learning in STEM and non-STEM courses: How do student performance and perceptions compare? Online Learning, 24(3), 203-221. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i3.2151

Wang, Q., & Rasmussen, A. (2020). CO-VID-EO: Resilient hybrid learning strategies to explicitly teach team skills in undergraduate students. Authorea Preprints.

 

 

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Blended Teaching: A Guide for Applying Flexible Practices during COVID-19 by Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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