I am now enrolled in the EDUCAUSE BlendKit 2015 with the hopes of enhancing my knowledge in the area of using online learning to enhance the F2F learning. The first reading consisted of a definition of what exactly is blended learning, the benefits of blended learning, and the important elements to include in the designing of a blended learning course.
The questions provided at the beginning of the reading were interesting to note as the answers to some were out of my control. For example, I do not determine the hours the students are in F2F or the hours they are online. That is an institutional decision. I do, however, have control over what material I choose to present F2F and what material I put online in the LMS. And this is the aspect that excites me the most: How do I choose?
I teach low level ESL (English as a second language) adults, whose technological skills range from nil to experienced. And the reaction of these students to a blended program is interesting. They choose the program mostly because it allows them to continue with their studies even though their work schedules interfere with normal class times. With the blended program, they have more flexibility.
I have taken second language training online, and when I did, I found it to be a much more rewarding and successful endeavour than when I took the same training via evening classes. The reason being, I was exposed to the language learning more often than only twice per week. With material offered in a variety of modalities in between “classes”, I was able to access it every day to practice and review. As a self-directed learner, that suited my style very well.
With my students, however, the self-directed learning does not seem to be natural. It is a topic I need to include in my course map. As such, the actual use of the technology, and how to use it to benefit one’s learning, becomes the first topic of the term. The students that do take initiative and enhance their learning by fully participating in the online activities are the ones that progress faster. The students that don’t tend to struggle longer with the technology and the language.
I use a “task-based” approach and I found the statement given in the Module 1 Reading to be true: “In any event, blended learning lends itself to learner-centered, teacher-guided (as opposed to teacher-directed), interactive, and student-collaborative learning.”(1 – see comments below)
Blended learning does allow for more enhanced learning, provided in a multiple of ways (therefore, addressing many students’ learning styles), and accessible at the students’ convenience.
I also agree with Siemens (2002) statement that: “Instruction is currently largely housed in courses and other artificial constructs of information organization and presentation. Leaving this theory behind and moving towards a networked model requires that we place less emphasis on our tasks of presenting information, and more emphasis on building the learner’s ability to navigate the information—or connectivism.” (2 – see comments below)
Because I deal with low levels, my focus is on not only the language, but also preparing them to use technology to learn. In this way, I help them develop the skills they need to allow more choices in their future learning. If I concentrated strictly on the language, they would have years of schooling to wade through before reaching their goals. By focusing on building their abilities to learn independently, their options are unlimited.
(1) Understanding Blended Learning, Second Edition, Edited by Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D.
(portions of this reading were adapted from the Blended Learning Toolkit).
(2) Siemens (2002) quoted in Blended Learning Design as an Emergent Process, excerpted from “Planning Your Online Course” by June Kaminski and Sylvia Currie in the Commonwealth of Learning’s Education for a Digital World.