Types of Assignments for Blended Learning – BlendKit2014

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 One of the challenges of BlendKit2014, was to take time and consider what types of assignments and tasks could be integrated in a F2F context and which would be online. Between the two contexts, there should be some form of integration – neither should only be a supplement of the other, but rather function smoothly integrated. Therefore, there needs to be learning activities which may be carried out online, as well as activities in the F2F context.

Condie & Livingston (2007) observe how with digital technology, there has been a shift of focus from teachers teaching to students learning, and how learners today are creators of their own knowledge. In other words, with the wide variety of digital tools available, it is possible for assignments which reflect learning to be created online and equally submitted online. With this shift, it also means that learners need to be more autonomous in their learning. Nevertheless, as in all learning contexts, I think there needs to be clear guidance as to the nature of tasks, how they should be done, and what the expected learning outcomes should be.

One key to successful approach to integration is what Sands, (2002) refers to as “interactivity rather than delivery”, highlighting how,

“While information-transfer may be more effective online, simply putting materials up on the web will not guarantee that students engage with and learn from them. For that, you need activities that require students to perform basic academic tasks, such as summary and analysis, and that place them in conversation with each other, such as through responses to each others’ summaries and analyses. For every student who says in my course evaluations that they enjoyed or learned from lectures, there are scores who report higher engagement because of interactions with each other as well as the teacher.”

Aycock et al (2002) also stress the need to place pedagogy before technology when designing blended courses, explaining how merely transferring course content onto the web will not provide a satisfactory learning experience. In fact, in my view, it is the social nature of learning which will enhance the learning experience, particularly in regard to online tasks. Lynch et al (2009) point out how many faculty members found that “online discussions result in more and better interaction compared to face-to-face courses. In contrast, undergraduate faculty found online courses as having decreased interaction and quality of interaction compared to face-to-face courses. “

 Singh, (2003)  suggests different kinds of activities as exemplified in the table below:

This example was from 2003; every year there appears more and different kinds of digital tools which online learners can use, and these changes may aid further learners’ creation of assignments. For example, conference calls can be easily put into practice today with Google Hangouts – both between the teacher and students as well as among students.

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One important aspect, which I think cannot be understated, is the need that learners are aware that it is expected that they become self-regulated learners, and are able to demonstrate a degree of learning maturity. By having a space on the course where interaction among participants can flow both freely and in a structured form (i.e. related to the specific task and topic), this would greatly help the sense of isolation that may occur when studying online. It also gives learners who tend to be quieter in a F2F context, an opening for them to connect and interact with others.

Other tasks could include debates, fishbowl activities (i.e when learners are assigned into separate groups and have to work cooperatively), case-studies and digital storytelling as well as group projects. These are all learning activities which can then be continued and integrated  in the F2F context.

 

References:

Aycock, A., Carla Garnham, Robert Kaleta, 2002, Lessons Learned from the Hybrid Course Project

BendKit Reader – Chapter 4 

Condie, R. and Kay Livingston, 2007, Blending online learning with traditional approaches: changing practices,British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 38 No 2 2

Lynch, D., G. Kearsley, K. Thompson, 2009, Faculty Use of Asynchronous Discussions in Online Learning

Sands, P., 2002, Inside Outside, Upside Downside – Strategies for Connecting Online and Face-to-Face Instruction in Hybrid Courses

Singh, H., 2003,  Building Effective Blended Learning Programs, Educational Technology, Vol 43, No 6

Wegmann, S. , K. Thompson, 2014,  SCOPe-ing Out Interactions in Blended Environments, in Research Perspectives in Blended Learning: Research Perspectives, Volume 2 (preview of book)