As educators, we need to lead the way and design our pedagogical approaches for the students we have, not the students we wish we had. This requires approaches that are responsive, inclusive, adaptive, challenging, and compassionate. And it requires that institutions find more creative ways to support teachers and prepare them for the work of teaching. This is not a theoretical exercise — it is a practical one.
Source: Sara Goldrick-Rab and Jesse Stommel – The Chronicle of Higher Education
In 2019, the Learning Enhancement team (LET) in the College of Science, Engineering & Health (SEH) has embarked on an innovative transformation project, which aims to embed scaffolded improvements across identified Programs via a Blended Learning Pilot. This Pilot will deliver digital transformation and improve educational outcomes for at least 3000 students in some of the largest programs in our College. It will build staff capability in delivering a digitally enhanced curriculum and create exemplars from a range of STEMM disciplines. Integral to this Pilot, is an evaluation process that will embed a sustainable framework for program transformation at pace and scale throughout the year, to 2020 and beyond.
The Pilot aligns with these RMIT Program Principles: 3 – Assessments are authentic and driven by learning outcomes, 4 – Learning activities have purpose, 5 – Learning resources are relevant and up-to-date/contemporary, 6 – Technology tools allow best-in-class blended learning experiences, 7- Industry relevance and contemporary practice are central, 8 – Social interactions are integral and designed for learning.
How do we ‘define’ Blended Learning?
Blended Learning is often used synonymously with other terms such as open learning, distance learning, student-centred learning, self-directed learning, resource-based learning, e-learning, independent learning, flexible learning, mobile learning and so on. This list itself is not exhaustive and within any mode of education, there may be elements of blended and flexible modes of delivery. Researching through a list of widely-used definitions, two ‘universal’ characteristics of Blended Learning can be seen: 1) it necessarily includes face-to-face teaching & learning and, 2) one or more types of technology. While there is consensus that (1) and (2) are merged, combined or blended, most authors either omit the manner of this combination or seem to wrestle with being able to pinpoint the modus operandi of this combination. Garrison and Vaughan (2008) refer to this combination as a “thoughtful infusion”, Torrisi-Steele (2011) calls it “harmonious integration” and there are those in the tradition of Allen, Seaman and Garrett (2007) who attempt a more precise or mathematical operationalisation of this combination by specifying the ratio of on-line to face-to-face investment in time or content i.e. 30% online to 70% face-to-face. Finally, Partridge, Ponting and McCay (2011) place the delivery of Blended Learning Courses on a continuum, “between fully online and fully face-to-face”. The lack of a widely-accepted definition of Blended Learning leads to educators adopting their own definitions and then designing their courses informed and led by their definitions (Alammary, Sheard & Carbone, 2014).
Against this complex backdrop, the SEH Blended Learning Pilot considers Blended Learning to be a “thoughtful infusion” of F2F and online modes, i.e. Blended Learning is the additional opportunities afforded by technology for students to extend their learning on a given topic outside and beyond of class time.
Engage, Connect, Consolidate and Assess
The Pilot process is informed by design thinking and aims for co-creation between academic developers, the learning design team and academic staff. It follows a 5-phase approach of 1- kick-off, 2- analysis, 3- design, 4- development and 5- delivery. At phases 1 & 2, courses are analysed and an initial current state report is produced integrating Canvas Elements and Program Principles. These reports inform phase 3 where a course mapping workshop produces a course map. These explore the needs of the diverse student groups and complexities teaching staff face in meeting the needs of their students. Course maps have included new strategies for engaging, connecting, consolidating knowledge and assessing students, such as:
- Ditching the exam for authentic assessment
- Ditching paid textbook for OERs
- Using synchronous and asynchronous communication tools to engage students
- Increase feedback from students on their understanding of course content, muddiest point and active learning in lectures
- Using the blank walls of the lecture theatre to get students out of their seats and engage in active learning
- Exploring a range of Web 2.0 tools for interactive summative tasks.
- Pre-recording key concepts to free up lecture time for problem solving
- Making a connection in tutorials to content covered in lectures.
Semester 1 ‘Superstars’: Watch this Space!
|PHYS2070||Moved lectures to online chunked activities and key concepts in Canvas.
Transformed F2F time to enable students and staff to work together as a community of inquiry.
|The co-creation of a working robot helps students to understand complex concepts. Students will be encouraged to use Instagram to share the development of their robots.||Chunking
Community of Inquiry
|ONPS2135||Replaced lectures with workshops and discussions, by presenting previous lecture material as online pre-recorded mini modules.||Transformed assessment enabling students to play a role in determining the assessment that they think is more suitable to their needs and interests. Personalised assessment feedback provided to students via various mediums.||Pre-class activities
Personalised assessment & feedback
|COSC1182/1183||Integrated OERs to supplement existing textbook.
Trialling team-based learning application Intedashboard in tutorials to enable students to work on problems related to weekly lecture.
Introducing student response system Mentimeter in lectures to gauge student understanding/misconceptions. Setup Canvas Reading List.
|Students are required to use soft skills such as teamwork, communication, problem solving and critical thinking throughout the activities in their tutorials.||OERs
Student response systems
|COSC1147/2615||Replaced the exam with authentic assessment tasks. Included weekly team-based activities in tutorials using Intedashboard.
Embedded CSIT discipline site and micro-credentials into assessment tasks.
Curating what’s happening in industry via Twitter.
|Canvas narrative provided for each week to students.
Using student responses to engage learners.
|COSC2625||Replaced lectures with mentor managed tutorials.
Online synchronous consultations and check in sessions.
Micro-credentials to support students in completing assessment tasks.
|Establishing a Teaching Presence
Support for assessment tasks.
|Consultations and feedback
Teacher Presence – social & cognitive
|COSC2627||Use of One Note for group tutorials enabling students to collaborate and take 2 hand written pages of notes in the exam.
Development of Khan Academy style videos.
Sonnant trialled for lecture recordings.
|Collaboration and understanding of complex concepts, ensuring students are provided with feedback and resources to successfully complete the course.||Team-based learning
|ONPS2335||ClassCom added to enable students to book into online text chat consultations. ClassCom has been developed by Khang Vo, sessional SSCI staff member.||Feedback mechanisms to ensure student outcomes.||Consultations and feedback
|COSC2675||Canvas topic pages include key concept videos with closed captioning, a narrative to ensure student know what is required weekly.
The CSIT careers discipline site is being introduced to students. Past students will be interviewed.
|Providing a narrative structure to guide learning and activities.||Connection to industry
|ONPS2155||Exam replaced with a negotiated authentic assessment task (rubric created for feedback).
Weekly muddiest point polls and OERs.
Active learning introduced into the lectures, inspired by Open Classrooms Podcast #2 Danilla Grando.
Industry guest speakers for each key topic have been organised, these will be recorded for future deliveries of this course.
Twitter is being used for curation of current industry news.
An annotated interactive video of a practicum report has been developed to assist students in completing their assessment task.
Reading list has been provided for students.
|Polls provide the course coordinator with an indication how students are going, feedback will be provided weekly on any misconceptions identified.
Connections to industry established via various platforms.
|BESC1182||Online tutorials via Canvas are being introduced, using a variety of Web 2.0 applications to enable students to collaborate.
Trialling Sonnant & ClassCom
The muddiest point is being added during weekly lectures.
|Synchronous sessions at the end of each topic address any student questions, issues etc.||Collaboration
|BESC1190||New textbook using Revel resources for students
H5P has been used to create interactive formative assessment activities.
Twitter is being used to curate industry resources.
|Working with the library the publisher has provided the authority to use these resources in Canvas for those students who don’t purchase the textbook.
Assessment tasks have been reviewed, altered and rubrics created.
|BESC1450||Pre-recorded concepts and online tutorials.||Apply a Blended approach across all 1st year courses.||Chunking
Peerwise being used in tutorials and muddiest point incorporated into lectures.
|Enables students to understand weekly tasks and activities and receive immediate feedback in lectures.||Active Learning
|AERO2377||Using Twitter for aviation world news.
Flipgrid for classroom interactive videos, starting with student introductions.
Library reading list has been added.
Incorporated muddiest point to get feedback from students on topics they require more info on. Created a new assessment that gives student flexibility in the assignment topic.
Moved paper-based quizzes to Canvas for automatic marking. The aerospace careers discipline site is being promoted to students.
|Assessment flexibility and formative quizzes.||Active Learning
Central to the success of the Pilot are the various staff capability development opportunities via:
- One on one support from the LET
- Reading list – Library
- Social Media
- Open Education Resources – Library
- Open Classroom –Podcast
Each podcast features interviews and stories from SEH staff who have opened up their classroom doors and shared their practices, innovations and ideas..
- Blended Learning Pilot – Canvas Course
A self-paced resource designed to support participants in the Blended Learning Pilot. Through self-directed modules, participants are provided with a forum for discussion, resource sharing, and application of various teaching technologies and pedagogies. This course has been built using an existing OER and contextualised for Australia and RMIT.
Note: If PD sessions do not fill with Blended Learning participants, available spaces are offered to all SEH teaching staff via SISTER, email, and the new LET Eventbrite page.
Library Support and our first ‘textbook hero’
Vital to the resource development in the Blended Learning Pilot are the library liaisons, managed by Frank Ponte, who attend course mapping workshops to promote the use of open educational resources and the use of existing RMIT library catalogue collection. They also assist staff in setting up their reading lists and ensure all materials in Canvas are copyright compliant.
Professor James Harland is RMIT’s first textbook hero for replacing his course’s prescribed textbook with an OER textbook.
Stop, Reflect, Plan, Repeat
As we near the start of Semester 1, we organised a ‘pause session’, designed to encourage innovation and influence change via the sharing of stories among Pilot participants, which grew into a reason to stop, reflect, plan and repeat. Natasha Taylor conducted a rich picture activity where staff formed groups and were asked to draw “The Journey to Blended Learning”. View our Twitter account to read details of this fun and active session.
Five of the semester 1 course coordinators provided examples of blended learning activities assessment, engagement strategies and use of open educational resources. Infographics were created for each presentation, which the course coordinators used as discussion starters at their stations.
BL participants provided feedback on what’s worked and what hasn’t worked based on their experience in the pilot to date.
Where to from here?
Phase 5 – Delivery of the Pilot begins with the Semester! Our team of Learning Designers (the LD hub) have been working in the background to ensure that activities, digital assets and LMS sites are ready for student access. Understanding the student experience of blended resources and activities will be our critical next step. This will not only help us evaluate the efficacy of the course Blends, but most importantly make adjustments for the next iteration of our innovative Blended courses.
For more information please contact Blended Learning Pilot project lead: Lisa Curran.
Alammary, A., Sheard, J., & Carbone, A. (2014). Blended learning in higher education: Three different design approaches. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4), 440-454.
Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., & Garrett, R. (2007). Blending in: The extent and promise of blended learning in the United States. Sloan-C Report.
Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines. John Wiley & Sons.
Partridge, H., Ponting, D., & McCay, M., (2011). Good practice report: Blended Learning. Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
Torrisi-Steele, G. (2011). This thing called blended learning – a definition and planning approach. In K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer and S. Purbrick-Illek (Eds.) Research and Development in Higher Education: Reshaping Higher Education, Gold Coast. (Vol. 34, pp. 360-371).