Blended Courses and Online Programs
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
I just finished teaching my Thursday night class "Leading Change" and decided to blog about the changing paradigm of offering courses and entire programs entirely online or through a blended model using face to face and online instruction. Over the last 4-5 years I have taught under a web-enhanced model. Classes would still meet weekly but I used the web to provide additional opportunities for collaboration, uploading assignments, posting readings, etc. This is a model that many professors use and I personally believe that it has been very effective.
This past spring I taught my first completely on-line course - "Data-Driven Decision Making". While I am a huge advocate for technology, I still believe in the power of personal interaction and the synergy that can emerge from a group of people deeply engaged in group discussions and activities. I was somewhat trepidatious, wondering how I might engage students as meaningfully as I had within a classroom setting. However, as the course progressed, I was extremely pleased with the level of dialogue and interaction that emerged among the 21 students in the class. In a "good" face-to-face class meeting (like the one that I led tonight), students may deeply engage in discussions with four or five other peers, and may hear other classmates share out briefly in a whole group setting. However, the online forums and wikis that I utilized in the DDDM class, allowed students to interact with all of their peers, not just a small group. Many of my students commented that the depth of interaction in this online class was much greater than most of their traditional courses. This didn't just happen though. I put in much time preparing for the course and establishing expectations and norms to create a community of learners. I have seen many of my own colleagues successfully transition to on-line learning. I have also seen those who did not put the time and energy necessary for their on-line classes to be successful and the results were as bad as expected.
My preferred teaching mode is probably a blended approach. I used this model this past summer to teach "Technology Leadership in Schools". We met in a computer lab the first 6 class meetings and met face to face about every third scheduled class. The remainder of the content was delivered in a similar method as my DDDM class with online discussions, wikis and other tech leadership related activities and assignments.
I hope to continue teaching courses under these various modalities: online, blended,and face to face, because they acknowledge interactions needed for effective adult learning while utilizing new technologies to allow some of those interactions to occur from a distance. Good night. DMQ