Challenges to developing a blended learning course

This extract is from the article Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment in the most recent issue of JOLT:

Roadblocks/challenges to Developing a Blended Course

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to developing a blended course is the student fear factor. Many individuals in my class had never crafted a PowerPoint presentation, much less navigated in an online
discussion. Despite their familiarity with Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, MySpace, and instant messaging, the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating. It was also difficult initially for students to understand the rationale for some assignments (such as Second Life). In future classes, more emphasis on business necessity, future usage, and SL current applications will be incorporated into the course pedagogy. Because there were many different types of assignments in this course (including group work, both on and off line), some students also expressed dissatisfaction with having to rely on team members. Use of the Team Agreement did however help to coalesce groups, and to give members a framework for expected behavior. Instructor feedback on the Team Agreement is essential in providing guidance regarding conflict resolution, assignment schedule, and interpersonal interaction among members.

The blended model is a student-centered approach that allows the instructor to behave as a coach, a facilitator, and a cheerleader for his/her students. It is a way to let students lead in an environment in which they’re guided to success. In the words of Singh (2002, p. 476), “To be successful, blended [teaching]… needs to focus on combining the right delivery technologies to match the individual learning
objectives and transfer the appropriate knowledge and skills to the learner at the right time.”

by Jacqueline Gilbert and Ricardo Flores-Zambada

Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment
Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 7, No. 2, June 2011 pp. 244-260

This interests me because I have been considering including an assessment of online PLN participation in my unit next semester.

Given that this study found that “the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating” for students, I’m going to avoid actually grading their participation per se.  Rather, I’ve decided that students must show (in an assignment appendix) participation in their online PLN for the unit to achieve a Distinction (Grade ‘6’) or High Distinction (Grade ‘7’).  That way, they either do it, or they don’t.  They don’t have to feel anxious about quality.

Has anyone else done something similar to this?  Making students demonstrate their PLN building?  How can I do it – get them to attach a screen shot of three blog comments and five tweets?  Would that suffice?  Hmm…

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