Blended Courses and Online Programs

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

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