Quality Assurance in Blended Courses – BlendKit2014

 

Once a course is designed and implemented, there is a need to ensure it meets a criteria of quality. But where to find this criteria? And will every check-list make sense for every blended course?

Despite the need for quality assurance, the answer is no, not all criteria can be easily applied to every blended course. Nevertheless, I think that by starting with best practices will definitely help towards ensuring a course’s quality. For instance, I tend to perceive authentic learning tasks as a corner stone to online learning (as well as to any kind of learning context).

Another element which is essential for online courses, is a space for community building. Nevertheless, the question still remains – who determines the quality, value of the course and how?

There may be matrixes and course standards to follow, but in the end, it will be the students who feel whether they have learnt something or not. In other words, it is whether course participants perceive the value and quality of what they have learnt and how the course was processed. A key element in blended courses is how the F2F context and online context is connected – as this will certainly be a major item of evaluation.

Course assessments are never easy, especially when an instructor can spend so much time and effort in setting up a well thought of course. One approach to ensuring quality of a course is to ensure that quality rubrics are aligned to learning outcomes. Much like other teaching contexts, quality rubrics should be clearly linked to the learning objectives that students need to achieve and in turn, these need to be shown to students. In other words, students need to be told what the learning objectives are and what and how they need to do in order to achieve them. This last aspect ties in well with what BlendKit’s chapter on quality assurance points out, namely that if quality assurance relies only on rubrics which don’t take into account the “lived in experience of students and teachers”, and their interactions in the teaching/learning process, then there is something definitely missing.

Besides weekly benchmarking for instructors on how a course is proceeding, regular feedback from students, whether in form of a survey, a journal prompt, student-reflection or even a simple sentence, are activities which help in maintaining course quality.

References:

BlendKit Chapter 5 – Quality Assurance in Blended Learning

Ragan, L., 2007, Best Practices in Online Teaching

Wilcoxon, K., 2011, Building an Online Learning Community

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Embracing the Chaos of iPadology – Part 2

In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.

Jeanette Winterson

What is it about that chaos that attracts me?

The underlying order it establishes, the order that waits patiently to be deciphered. Perhaps. Nevertheless, if I am to pin point a “strategy”, a new approach in my classroom, then it is with wonder and respect that I say it is the perfection of apparent chaos flowing as students engage and produce at their own rhythm.

But first let me admit – as each day I watched my students sit with their iPads in front of me, I wondered: are we (educators, administrators, politicians) confusing content and learning with a device? Is this device actually delivering quality learning or quality technology? I struggled to understand. For this was a mobile device, not one where students sat in classroom rows. This was a device to consume and create content but …. where was the learning if it was the teacher who was obliged to create? Hungry for answers, all I came across was the cliche mantra: challenge-based lessons!

My lessons have always been a challenge. Not only do I teach a 2nd/3rd language to many of my students, I come from a different educational paradigm which challenges most of their educational experience. So how exactly was the iPad to add to the challenge – other than the challenge of finding activities which would actually work on it (i.e. the lack of flash which does not enable learners to engage in the many online activities available). Above all, how, as an educator, was I to ensure good teaching practices with the iPad? Furthermore, most of what I came across regarding iPadology, was in the context of K12. I teach at higher education. Where were the bridges I needed for my students?

This brings me to Mishra and Koelher (2006) who  explain how,

“Quality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate context-specific strategies and representations.”

If one considers the three components mentioned above (technology, content and pedagogy), there is bound to be points of tension between them at different moments in time. Today, and for example, in my case of using iPads as a learning device, I often feel that “it is the technology that drives the kinds of decisions that we make about content and pedagogy” (Mishra & Koelher 2006). Couros (2012), in an article referring to the use of social media, highlights how educators need to use the web with its 2.0 technology and not the more passive 1.0 approach. With the use of iPads in the classroom, educators have little choice but to follow this sound advice.

So where were the bridges I had to create? How was the implementation of iPadology to be effective? Far from attempting to create a new pedagogical theory, I sought a framework of practice. For “having a framework goes beyond merely identifying problems with current approaches; it offers new ways of looking at and perceiving phenomena and offers information on which to base sound, pragmatic decision making.” (Mishar & Koelher, 2006)

In order to begin establishing some kind of road map, some possible framework of practice, I considered the different contributions on App evaluations for the classroom. Below is Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s considerations on content and components logistics based on the SAMR model of learning.

All nicely put and visually pleasing, yet it is the framework of my daily practice that I inquire into. Could there be a road map in the apparent chaos and pedagogical tensions I perceived? Would I be capable of carrying out my pedagogical beliefs (so well summarised by Couros, 2013) with a mobile device and a set syllabus to cover?

In between the chaos and the space. Chances of learning practices loom.

References

Couros, G., 2012, Don’t use 2.0 Technology in a 1.0 Way

Couros, G., 2013, 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom

Mishra, P., Koelher, M.J., 2006 – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge

Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog – Ongoing Thoughts on Education and Technology

Schrock, K. , 2011, Evaluation Rubric for iPod/iPad Apps