Lessons from the Front Lines of Online and Blended Instruction
Planning for Spring: Blended Learning
Ideas for In-Person Sessions in Blended Classes
Instructors who teach using a GSU Signature Experience (SigEx) course or High Impact Practice (HIP) (such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL), Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), Reacting to the Past (RTTP), or International Virtual Exchange, or who have students work on long-term group projects may want to organize class sessions based on these practices. For the first few weeks, students attend on days their initial instructor-assigned dates. Once the HIPS or group work begins the groups can be organized to attend multiple class sessions in a row and then having a few weeks off to work together virtually.
Pros: 1) This plan will allow for a more effective use of the HIP; 2) This plans allow for more continuous and in-depth F2F engagement with peers; 3) This plan supports a positive class climate by allowing students to connect with each other in smaller groups.
Cons: 1) There will be more work at the beginning of the semester to set-up the schedule; 2) The instructor will need to have clear guidelines regarding what students will be doing during the in-person sessions; 3) The instructor will need check in with some of the groups meeting in later class sessions to ensure that remain on track.
Deep Dive model:
Your class may not be using a HIP but still involve students engaging in fundamental concepts in a deeper and more meaningful manner. Organize the course schedule and in-person sessions around in-person class activities that invite students to develop deeper understanding of key concepts. For example, a math class might require students to work collaboratively to solve more complex problems and then to teach their classmates how to do so. A political science class might require students to conduct research on and debate the long-term consequences of a recent policy decision. A biology class might model likely impacts of a natural disaster on a particular environment (e.g. west coast forest fires on Pacific Ocean aquatic life). A public health class may require students to explore air quality indices in different parts of the country to make predictions about health disparities and access to health care.
Pros: 1) Provides substantial student-to-student and instructor-to-student interaction and engagement; 2) Provides value-added learning experience – increases meaningfulness of in-person sessions; 3) Instructor can assess student understanding of more complex concepts
Cons: 1) The schedule may be initially hard to develop; 2) It may be challenging to map the in-person sessions onto the online modules
Student Flexibility model:
For the first few weeks, students attend on days their initial instructor-assigned dates. Once the classroom routines are established open a sign-up sheet (using Google docs or SignUpGenius) and let students know they are required to attend X number of the remaining in-person sessions in order to meet the attendance policy. Sign-up sheets should indicate the number of students who can attend each session to maintain 25% capacity. Faculty can post the sign-up sheet in iCollege so students can refer to it as needed. Faculty can develop a policy if students need to swap dates.
Pros: 1) Having students sign-up to attend will make them more accountable for their own behavior; 2) Students can pick dates that best fit their schedules; 3) Most effective in upper division courses or courses with lower enrollments
Cons: 1) This model does not make use of the seating charts; 2) Faculty will want to avoid having to remind students when they signed up. The sign-up sheet should include a statement describing that the students are responsible for keeping track of their in-person dates. This can be avoided if the sign-up is posted in iCollege; 3) Students coming on random dates may not feel as connected to their classmates. This can be addressed by including activities in iCollege to support a positive class climate.
Student block model:
Assign student groups to attend in-person sessions every class day for a set number of weeks. For example, if classroom capacity requires that students be divided into three attendance groups, assign Group 1 to attend in person each class day for the first five weeks of the semester; Group 2 attends in person each class day for the second five weeks; and Group 3 attends in person each day for the final five weeks of the class. In this model each student receives a minimum of 33% of instruction in person in multi-week blocks.
Pros: 1) Gives students a sense of continuity with their in-person sessions; 2) Allows instructors to carry over in-person activities from one class session to the next.
Cons: 1) Struggling students in the final block may feel disconnected from class.