Becoming A Blended Learning Designer: Week Five
This is the final week in this MOOC and I have enjoyed the readings the most of all. I think going back over the materials I may find more when I am “ready,” but right now I am deeply appreciative of these readings such as Chapter Five of Blended Learning Toolkit: Quality Assurance in Blended Learning.
Questions to Ponder:
How will you know whether your blended learning course is sound prior to teaching it? How will you know whether your teaching of the course was effective once it has concluded?
These questions give voice to my anticipated ‘next steps’ after this MOOC.
It is also loosely related to ….
How are “quality” and “success”in blended learning operationally defined by those whose opinions matter to you? Has your institution adopted standards to guide formal.informal evaluation?
The reading highlighted my subconscious recognition of a lack of a quality assurance plan for Blended Learning assets/courses in our district or in K12 overall. When I read organizations in higher education are struggling I am not comforted that K12 will advance naturally as an institution without an expectation from higher education, the private sector, or government.
“[c]onclusively, the data show that high quality faculty development is the cornerstone of effective blended programs” (Dziuban, Hartman, and Mehaffy, 2014 p.326).
Sometimes the completion of a virtual lesson, module, or course is considered a success. I would grant that it is a significant accomplishment to complete any of those items; especially for an educator who has worked to perfect a face-to-face learning environment to translate that learning to an online and/or blended format. Effort does not equal success however. And unless success is defined at the front of the process educators will spend much effort and the product may not be of a high enough quality to use.
The act of developing online content requires two things. It requires time first; either time recovered from the present duties of the instructor or the teacher devoting time from outside his/her regular duties – in exchange for some monetary offset. It also requires some sort of ‘standardizing’ training for that instructor. This process is often neglected because it requires a good deal of coordination, possible compromise, and funding to bring together the best thought leaders from the curriculum, technology, and instructional camps within a district. My wonder is – is the latter not happening because the instructors are the group which currently knows the most about blended learning and the associated methods?
In my opinion, while instructors are already experts in face-to-face instruction, they do not always have the same amount of competence or the same learning curve in two separate categories: creating content and facilitating online or blended courses. So if we consider just creating online content, how do our current expectations for creating face-to-face content align? In the K12 setting, more instructors are experts in facilitating the face-to-face learning environment than actually designing content. It makes little sense to expect face-to-face facilitators to transition to blended designers without significant support. It is like asking a teacher who has taught from a textbook to now write a textbook. That teacher may have an idea of what you are asking, and maybe even believe s/he may be able to do it, but it will be a rare case that both the quality and the teacher’s opinion of him/herself will be high if the task is completed.
Do we know how to instruct all teachers to become content developers? I do not know a standard way; I only imagine you take an individual and look for the content which each is ready to develop you will not be successful. And that is more time consuming than it sounds I imagine.
If we start on the other side of the issue, with the evaluation we might find more information with which to grapple:
“It is difficult to justify labeling a blended course with such simplistic descriptors…Administrators and faculty feel pressure…to compare one course to another or one instructor to another in their attempts to ensure that blended courses produce various desirable outcomes at rates comparable to face-to-face courses…”
We only have one district sponsored fully online course in our district. The instructor not only has modified the entire (purchased) curriculum, but has incorporated other teachers to facilitate the curriculum with their classes, and meets with his students at various high schools throughout the district. Because he is the only one however he can make it happen is “the” way we do online classes in our district, but does that cut both ways? How will another teacher who tries to take his/her content online find the precedent our first online teacher has set?
After two years we do not yet have a significant population transitioning from his online courses back into a traditional face-to-face to measure any differences between the two groups. So, we have not established what success is and we do not yet have a way to measure if it is successfully as compared to comparable face-to-face courses.
In fact this course and other modules created by face-to-face teachers are often held up as “good” examples.
I do not know that they are not good,
but I do not know that they are good either.
In 2011, just over one dozen small contracts were given to a pilot school for teachers within a LMS pilot to develop their content into a course. Many of these courses were just digitized worksheets. The teachers were not given any directions, but were asked to sign a contract from the curriculum department. After the contracts were signed the curriculum department contacted my supervisor and asked that we vet the courses. It was a bit of a scramble to identify an evaluation tool which might be appropriate to K12 and if not could be modified in time to actually evaluate these courses. A colleague and I utilized CSU Chico’s rubric for online instruction. It required some modification, which either highlights the scarcity of resources available at that time, or our need to turn around an evaluation tool in time to use it (sadly not in time to let those creating the content to use it as a guide). Even today, I do not have one go-to evaluation tool I would use in all K12 situations. I wonder if the evaluation does not just have to be as flexible and unique as the creation process itself?
Articulating analogous quality standards at the course level is difficult for at least three reasons.
First, there is no one authoritative body that can (or is willing to ) address minimum levels of acceptability for blended learning in all its manifestations within the diversity of approaches found…
Second, if such standards did exist, it is difficult to create an evaluation tool which could be used consistently across all courses, programs, and institutions.
Third, if such a tool were available, it is actually quite time consuming to evaluate an individual course.
Reading this comforts me in that I was not going to find an authoritative blended learning evaluation tool back in 2011, it upsets me because K12 needs more guidance than higher education I feel. And if higher education does not push for a standard K12 will not inherit one from them. One thing I think K12 can learn from higher education immediately is for which instructors and/or courses is the translation to blended learning easier? My hunch is that online instructors/courses would be easier to transition to blended versus face-to-face instructors/courses. I can say that there are enough online course evaluation tools that I would feel more comfortable evaluating an online course and then helping that instructor transition him/herself and the course content to blended instruction than face-to-face moving to blended learning.
(in process of being built)