- What we know about learning indicates that actual knowledge creation takes place during and as a result of interaction. Interaction, whether formal or informal, occurs between learners and peers, learners and materials, and learners and instructors. How students create knowledge, in terms of cognitive process is similar enough that regardless of discipline, the value of student-student and student-instructor interactions is high.
- Interaction plays the same role whether it exists or not. If interaction builds knowledge, lack of interaction leads to the absence of knowledge . The less interaction that occurs, the less knowledge is created. This underscores the difficulty all universities have with the large survey or introductory level courses that involve multiple sections. Creating interactions and active learning exercises in these courses is difficult, so creating knowledge, real, useful, transferable, persistent knowledge, is difficult as well. With so many stake holders involved, making dramatic changes to how these courses are taught is risky, so often happens very slowly or not at all.
- Face to face interactions can be valuable for activities that are difficult to do (though not necessarily impossible) in an online format. Role play, oral presentations, Socratic dialogue, or activities, like the example in the reading where immediate feedback changes the context for the next exercise. I would also classify labs, tutorial sessions, demonstrations, guest lectures as face to face interactions for the purposes of this discussion.
- Online, I would use threaded discussions, reflective writing assignments (blogs) or group collaborative projects based around either text or images and video (wikis). The blended format allows students to discuss readings and other course materials in a DB before the class, so questions, problems, and issues are dealt with more effectively and efficiently in the face-to-face sessions. For example, an assigned reading is given, students are asked to identify the three crucial sections of the reading and analyze them in the light of some current event. Students post this activity to a blog and peers comment before class. As a result of reading student blogs, the instructor might realize there are wise spread misunderstandings about the meaning or value of certain materials so spends more time clarifying a concept or section of the learning materials. Some of the assessment of learner knowledge can occur prior to instruction, use those assessments to tweak the course as it goes forward and creates a kind of continual formative assessment that allows the instructor to shape in-class activities to fit the up to date realities of his students.
- Time, space, money, availability of tools, technical abilities of the learners/faculty, perceived value of the activities, and the pedagogical adventurousness of faculty are all issues that help determine the viability of robust interactions in blended courses. For example, if faculty and students do not have the use of a video conferencing tool either because one is not available or because they do not know how to use one, things like online office hours, remote tutoring, and other forms of synchronous scaffolding cannot occur. A faculty member who is unwilling to stretch the range of their own pedagogy are not going to create courses with robust interactions. Institutional valuation plays a role here too. Research and publication are the means by which faculty achieve tenure. Junior faculty on the tenure track have a huge disincentive to divert time and effort from those activities to teaching and learning. Schools hire research but sell education. Often this means the cutting edge thinkers in a field are available to students; but it also means those same thinkers are not necessarily putting students’ needs first. All of these things can work against the creation of robust interactions in any course; but especially true for course types that faculty are unfamiliar with.
Welcome to my newly created WordPress blog. I created this blog as part of Kelvin Thompson’s Blendkit 2011 open blended course created as aprt of an initiative through NGLC. While I am not shy about making myself heard in discussions, I have resisted the call to blog until now because I did not want to make the commitment to post regular comments that would make a blog worth reading.
I am breaking down now as part of this course for two reasons. First, as a course developer I feel it is part of my responsibilities to my faculty to explore the technologies they may have a need for as fully as possible; something I cannot do if I don’t use them myself. Second, selfishly I want to get as much as I can form Blendkit 2011 and in order to do that, I need to full participate in the course, including the blogging aspect. Finally, as part of a major initiative here at The George Washington University, I will be working with faculty to develop a large number; as many a 350 blended courses over the next five years; in addition to fully online offerings for the summer sessions. As that initiative grows, I hope to solicit opinions and comments from other educational technology professionals with regards to a whole range of topics and feel a blog might be the best way to test some of my ideas before I offer them to faculty.
I hope you find this blog of value.