Delivery of blended courses

Higher education administrators and faculty (and students, for that matter) at traditional universities are comfortable thinking about, planning, and participating in face-to-face (F2F) classes. Administrators and faculty for online programs are comfortable thinking about using technology to deliver courses exclusively using technology. When those of us in traditional higher ed have used technology more recently, it has been to capture F2F lectures for later viewing. More extensive, integrated, and nuanced usage is needed in order to take full advantage of the technology and thereby deliver a superior education. We need to develop a more extensive playbook of pedagogies that we are comfortable employing.

When thinking about using educational technologies in a class or across the curriculum, you need to have a playbook of possible approaches available to you so that you can have a better chance of achieving the learning outcomes you desire. For face-to-face teaching, we have a selection — lecture, case discussion, lab work, and mini-lectures interspersed with exercises to name a few. We need to just as comfortable pulling out different approaches when different class set-ups are available to us. The following is an exploration of different technologies that can be used to support different pedagogies.

Playbook of pedagogies

As detailed in my earlier post How to provide a great, lower-cost education, several different teaching approaches are now available to professors:

  • Same time, same place (“synchronous, co-located”)
  • Same time (“synchronous, non-co-located”)
    • single remote place
      • high quality
      • normal quality
    • multiple remote places
      • singles
      • groups
  • Different times (“asynchronous”)

In the following I examine each of these and discuss the general technologies that are applicable to each.

Technologies for pedagogies

I am going to start with the synchronous (and especially a co-located) approach because I am assuming that the blended course will have some of this as part of the class. However, just because it is face-to-face doesn’t mean that technology is now not a part of the equation. Many technologies are in place that can support learning even in this most traditional setup.

Same time (all versions)

Classes in which the teacher and students are all participating at the same time (regardless of location) have lots of available tools. The professor can use MediaSite to record a lecture so that students can watch it later or, if they were not able to attend for whatever reason, watch it for the first time. When giving a lecture or otherwise looking for student responses, tools are available for allowing the professor or student to ask questions. LectureTools, Socrative, and PollEverywhere each have their own take on allowing a professor to ask questions and students to answer. (See my recent post on this topic for more details.) Either TodaysMeet or Twitter (along with TwitterFall) can be used to provide a backchannel that allows students to ask questions during a presentation.

For controlling the presentation while in front of the students, the professor can either use a wireless presentation pointer (e.g., Kensington Wireless Presentation Pointer) or Doceri. Doceri is like a wireless mouse for the iPad but it also allows the presenter to write directly on the screen over the slides (or whatever is on the screen). This software also allows the user to control the computer using the iPad. This software doesn’t enable the professor to necessarily do anything new, but it frees him/her up to move around the classroom more. It does make it easier for the professor to give control of the presentation to a student; all he has to do is give the iPad to the student instead of calling her up to the podium at the front of the classroom. If you want more information about this, then see my video demonstration and explanation.

If the professor is more interested in in-class activities and exercises, then Eggtimer can be useful so that students can better allocate their time usage during class. Another useful tool for in-class activities is a group text editor, and Google Docs provides quite a robust web app for this. (At this time the iPad app is not recommended; work on a laptop if you want to use Google Docs.) Students can work in ad hoc groups while brainstorming or developing an answer to some question, or the professor can assign groups and make the documents available in each person’s Google Drive, giving the right students access to the appropriate documents. Another tool for multi-user access to a shared document is Scribblar. This program is more of a graphical editor where multiple users can draw in a shared space; it also provides a tool for users to text each other and to speak to each other. It allows the import of PDF and PPT files for group editing and commenting. They maintain a set of videos that help demonstrate and explain the program’s operations.

Finally, faculty frequently want to provide “handouts” at the end of class. If these consist of links from around the Web, sqworl provides an easy-to-use tool (for both the professor and the student) for gathering the links and accessing them later. If the professor has text to distribute, then Google Docs can be used to make PDFs or Word documents available to a distribution list (such as the students in a class).

Same time, same place (“synchronous & co-located”)

All of the above applies here.

Same time, single remote place, high quality

It seems that Cisco telepresence has defined this market. To get an idea of what this product can do, look at the images on this page. The idea here is that two groups of people, who can be half-way around the world from each other, can have a nearly-face-to-face conversation over this type of hook-up. The two limitations are 1) high cost, and 2) each side has to have compatible hardware and telecommunications capability.

This approach is one that is made at the organizational level. All other decisions would be made after this choice because it changes what options you have available to you, such as size of the classroom and interaction strategies.

Same time, single remote place, normal quality

In addition to the information under “Same time”, the professor can use Google+ Hangouts On Air to broadcast his lecture or discussion (or whatever) live to YouTube. This web app also can record the broadcast for whomever you want to watch at a later time (with the same controls as any other YouTube video).

The real difference between this setup and the one to follow is how you treat the class. In this case, you can treat them as a group, and give them things to do as a group. They would generally know how to act and what to do because communication among the students would not be electronically mediated in any way.

Same time, multiple remote places (singles vs. groups), normal quality

In addition to the information under “Same time”, the professor can use Google+ Hangouts On Air to broadcast his lecture or discussion or whatever live to YouTube. This web app also can record the broadcast for whomever you want to watch (with the same controls as any other YouTube video).

The difference in having students dispersed as singles or in groups (either groups of students in dorm rooms or in offices or wherever) is, again, how you treat the class. As singles, you would have to think very carefully about how you might assign small group activities during the class itself. As groups, this would be natural and, actually, to be expected given that the setup so easily supports and calls out for these interactions. The students will be having them anyway; why not integrate them into the class?

Different times

The key to this approach is to think of how you can personalize what the student is going to do. If they are going to watch the video or do the exercise by themselves, then do all you can to take advantage of this flexibility. You aren’t addressing a group of students — think about addressing each student one at a time. Design the activities with this in mind.

I recently wrote a post describing several useful tools for video, movies, and screencasting (including Screencast-O-Matic, Qwiki, and YouTube). I also wrote a post on assessment tools that would be useful for this type of approach (including TED Ed and Flubaroo). In addition to all of these, both GarageBand and Screencast (for broadcasting via RSS feed) are useful for creating and disseminating a podcast.

Out-of-class approaches

Yesterday I posted an analysis of different approaches to communicating with your students when they are not currently sitting in front of you or remotely attending a live lecture.. In that post I consider the following approaches:

I certainly have my favorites but you have to consider your goals before you choose one (or multiple) of the above.

Class assignments have also changed with newly available technology; here are a few options:

  • Wiki
  • Curation tools
  • Mind mapping
  • Video
  • VoiceThread

See my recent post on this topic for a more in-depth discussion. This is a quite diverse set that provides many more alternatives than simply writing text reports and handing them in. These assignments can demand a different level of creativity from the students, but the faculty member has to be prepared to work with this diversity.

Finally, Google+ Hangout can be used for remote office hours. It provides a fairly seamless and straight-forward means of communicating among up to 10 people.

Conclusion

You can see in the above that the faculty member has lots of choices available to him/her when the move is made to a blended class. The school’s culture and technology will determine some of the choices; however, the professor’s knowledge of the choices and level of comfort with the technology will also be a large factor in how effective the class ends up being for all participants. My recommendation is to simply try out a couple of the above in a class this year. Just one day, just one approach. Work with some faculty and computing services support staff beforehand to give you some confidence that you can carry it off. However, at some point you are just going to have to do it!

Best of luck on your journey!

Using the Doceri whiteboard app for the iPad

I recently received the Doceri Goodpoint Stylus along with my previously downloaded Doceri Remote app for the iPad and the Doceri Desktop application for my laptop. I am extremely impressed by this combination of hardware and software, so I put together a video that explains just what it is and what it’s like to use it. They have lots of good videos on their site, but I always feel better if I see some type of non-affiliated endorsement of a product than if it is strictly a corporate, official demonstration. Well, I hope this 13+ minute video fills that role for you. You’ll probably want to watch it on YouTube instead of embedded on this site.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about this product. I will follow up as soon as I can. Thanks!