Best Practice #1 – Do not implement a “Craft Approach”
A blended learning approach may not be a natural fit for all face to face instructors. Therefore, the instructor may have the tendency to take what has worked for him/her in the face to face environment and develop the course and materials based on that experience. However, models for traditional delivery and models for online delivery are different and should not be seen as one of the same (Moller, Foshay and Huett, 2008). According to Moller, Foshay and Huett, 2008, utilizing this approach leads to the following pitfalls:
· May prevent the utilization of a wealth of available technology in order to help with student interaction, multiple levels of communication, definition of new types of engaging assignments and implementation of appropriate evaluation techniques.
· Conversion efforts may be very time consuming to the instructor; leading to a feeling of non-accomplishment and isolation
· Approach is not rooted in solid learning theories
· Approach may continue to be teacher centered as opposed to learner centered
Best Practice # 2 – Success is in ADDIE
So you’ve successfully gone through all steps in ADDIE and designed your face to face course. As you are now converting to a blended environment, you must go back through the steps in ADDIE; this time with a blended learning mentality. Here are a few specific things to keep in mind as you work your way through the ADDIE model with blended learning in mind:
· Find out more about your learners and assess their characteristics and attitudes; including attitude towards technology and the online learning environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).
· Revisit learning objectives for the course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011)
· Take the opportunity to reaffirm learning objectives by sharing them with other subject matter experts and gathering their feedback (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011)
· Utilize previous qualitative and quantitative research results in order to identify ways you will use the blended approach to enhance the learning experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).
· Assess what is to be improved or what is not working in the face to face environment (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Assess the type of available technology, skills support structure and budget within your environment
· Based on objectives, determine amount of face to face vs. online learning distribution for the course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Develop instructional strategies that will enhance student learning and interaction within the course utilizing available technology
· Look for opportunities of broadening learning outcomes through the blended approach; to include the areas of critical thinking, team work and logical analysis (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Design strategies to create a collaborative learning environment
· Design strategy and techniques to help students learn online; including orientations, scaffolding and motivational techniques (Lim, 2004)
· Based on analysis and design specification, develop all instruments specific to your blended training. These may include a class guide, syllabus, student resources, online resources, tutorials, podcasts, etc. (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Ensure that all developed material specifically addresses the learning goals (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Ensure appropriate linkages, leveraging and support between online and face to face portions of the course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Establish grading criteria for online as well as face to face sections of the course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Evaluate and implement appropriate CMS (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).
· Begin student collaboration as soon as course begins through the use of icebreakers, setting students up in teams, etc. ( Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Communicate equipment and technical requirements ahead of course start
· Provide student with appropriate resources to address technical difficulties
· Implement strategy to communicate course expectations, learner responsibilities, methods for communicating with instructor, grading mechanism, etc. (Shibley, Amaral, Shank & Shibley, 2011).
· Ensure there is a summative evaluation process in order to possibly correct course issues prior to future implementations (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).
· Establish success criteria specific to the blended course (Morrison, Ross, Kalman & Kemp, 2011)
· Ensure implementation of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation approach or AEIOU approach in order to measure success of the program (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012)
· Particularly in a business environment, establish measurements for ROI (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012)
Best Practice # 3: Stop Teaching and FACILITATE
Newsflash!!!! Once you decided to implement blended learning, your role as an instructor drastically changed. It is no longer about what you have to say; but how you lead learners in the path to acquiring the knowledge they need to obtain. Not only are you now responsible for ensuring your students learn, but also for keeping them engaged and learning in a collaborative environment. The instructor should take a back seat and skillfully guide the learners in their process by monitoring online discussion and encouraging participants to look at the material in the right perspective; while skillfully steering and guiding conversations in the right direction (Easton, 2000). Here are a few tips from Lim, 2004 on how to do that:
· Participate actively in discussions by answering questions and providing feedback
· Pose conflicting questions that elicit reflection and critical thinking
· Keep discussions focused
· Draw conclusions while contributing advanced content knowledge and insight
· Recommend resources for extension of learning while responding to learner questions and providing feedback.
· Set meaningful tasks that are meaningful to learners and promote active participation in discussions
Best Practice # 4 - No Success Without Engagement
Your good looks, charming personality and excellent spoken communication abilities will no longer maintain your students engaged in the online environment. Success of your course will be contingent upon your ability to maintain your learners engaged during the online section of the course. Lim, 2004, recommends the following in order to maintain your learners engaged in the course:
· Accommodate the learning process to the targeted learner
· Ensure that activities are relevant to the learner through contextualization of such activities
· Ensure that learners have the knowledge to learn from the learning environment
· Ensure learners have access to technology, resources and supporting tools
· Avoid cognitive overload by not overwhelming the learner
· Ensure online discussion and the overall online environment is appropriately facilitated
· Where possible, utilize authentic activities based on life events the learner can relate to which focus on applying new knowledge and skills
· Provide students with timely performance feedback
Best Practice #5 – Organization Counts
The way you organize your learning site content will have an impact on student perception and engagement. Here are five strategies you may use in order to create a positive perception on the student as shown on: http://cte.uwaterloo.ca/teaching_resources/tips/5%20things%20UW-ACE.html
1. Upload a syllabus as the first module of the course
2. Lay out the expectations for students as to how they will communicate with the instructor and with other students
3. Use the calendar feature to show assignment due dates and other important dates
4. Use Modules to organize course materials and activities
5. Properly utilize grade book features in order to give students
Best Practice # 6 – Use Technology Wisely
Technology will play a big part in the successful implementation of your blended learning solution. However, “Technology is not the issue. How and what we want the learners to learn is the issue and technology is the tool (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012 p. 172). As such, here are a few tips as recommended by (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012):
· Quality design of learning activities is important and technology should be used to support it.
· Each technology has its own strength and weakness. There is no super technology and a combination of technologies may be required.
· Usage of technology may be expensive. Ensure appropriate balance between required use and available budget.
· Keep in mind student numbers. It may affect your choice of technology usage
· Keep in mind that teachers may need training in technologies used
· Teamwork is important. More than likely, you will not be able to handle all aspect of technology on your own. Reach out to technology specialists for help.
Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects. coe. uga. edu/epltt.
Easton, S. S. (2003). Clarifying the instructor's role in online distance learning. Communication Education, 52(2), 87-105.
Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends, 48(4), 16-23.
Mortera-Gutiérrez, F. (2006). Faculty best practices using blended learning in e-learning and face-to-face instruction. International Journal on E-learning, 5(3), 313-337.