Evolution – Blended Learning

On the second day of the University of Wyoming Evolution Conference, I sat in on a panel discussion given by professors who are experimenting with different instruction methods. It was quite interesting and informative. Jayne Jenkins, Kimberly Raska, Paul Johnson, and Rachel Watson made up the panel. Each came from a different discipline. Jayne Jenkins is a Professor in Kinesiology and HealthKimberly Raska is a Lecturer in the School of NursingPaul Johnson is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Finally, Rachel Watson is a Lecturer in Molecular Biology.

Video begins at 28:40.

What do you do?

Raska teaches nursing both online and face-to-face (F2F). She uses technology to support both courses.
Jenkins teaches Kinesiology courses through outreach. She started teaching with teleconference systems and has progressed to programs like Blackboard Collaborate. She is currently working with Canvas pilot group to develop a senior level administration course.
Johnson teaches an intro to astronomy course as a face-to-face course. This course assumes a math background.
Watson teaches a general microbiology course to 130 students. The course has both a lecture and lab. She uses a flipped approach especially for the lab portion. She also teaches Principles of Biochemistry as an online course during the summer. There are 70-90 students in the course. She blends her lecture into the online course.

Why did you change your approach?

Watson taught Principles of Biochemistry as a F2F course during the summer. She began experimenting with blended learning principles when it was just becoming popular. This resulted in freeing up students’ summers. She encouraged students to take lectures with them wherever they were. She also flipped her labs in an effort to make students more comfortable in a lab environment. Because of the detailed videos, students were already experienced with the lab even before entering it. She also flipped instruction when she had to be away. Students can also attend other activities in place of course such as conflicting presentations given on campus.

Johnson developed his own text for astronomy and taught the text. He started team based learning to work on different principles taught in the class. Students first read the lesson and then worked on it in class. Johnson admitted that the change has been fun as well as scary for the instructor.

Jenkins is a teacher of physical education teachers. She pointed out that this is a conservative group. She believes it is important to teach and model best practices. She strives to model lifelong learning. She stated that it is important to let students know when even the instructor is learning new things.

Raska noted that she did not have an education background. She, “Did not know how students could just listen for 3 hours.” She went to educator conferences to learn how to deliver better instruction. She started with case studies. The students did not necessarily like it; however, they performed better academically. Raska noted that new things not always great for evaluations. Active learning results in engaged learning.

Meg Skinner shared a quote:

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world which no longer exists.” ~ Eric Hoffer

What are they doing?

Raska highlighted a number of technologies and strategies that she was using. She tried Facebook and Twitter; however, the students did not want it. She does use Prezi and Jing. She uses Camtasia to do voice overs on PowerPoint presentations. She also conducts world cafe  type exercises. She is thinking about using Pinterest and blogging in the courses. She also uses poll everywhere. Mobile devices  are allowed in the classroom; she commented that she does not care if students miss something in class, it is there responsibility for the content. Finally, she supplements classes with Khan Academy.

Jenkins noted that she tries to use the best tool for the purpose at the time, and that tool may be a chalkboard. She regularly uses Camtasia. She is now learning Canvas. She admitted to a learning curve when learning a new technology. She attends weekly Canvas meetings and tries to implement one new thing into her course each week.

Johnson has his class read the required material before class. Once in class, he gives them an assessment. He then splits the students into groups of 6-7 and takes an assessment of the group. Next, he gives each group a project and reassesses. If there is gaps in knowledge, will give a mini lecture. He noted that he also uses canned lectures and presentations off of YouTube from professionals. Primarily, he monitors the progress of the groups.

Watson talked passionately abut her General Microbiology (F2F) class. She created Virtual Edge, a virtual lab. Virtual Edge allows students to view videos about lab operations and procedures prior to going to lab. She also screen captures all the F2F lectures and posts them on iTunesU and Wyocast; students prefer iTunesU. At times, she will prerecord lectures. Watson also records lectures for Principles of Biochemistry (online) and posts them on iTunesU. Watson feels it is important to share information with students. There is a place for lectures if done well. It is important to know your students and try to integrate that knowledge into your lectures. Use your students names.  Watson also emphasized the importance to use mobile devices in the classroom. She invites students to use mobile devices in lab and classrooms. As a result, students are taking amazing pictures through microscopes.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t use technology for just bells and whistles. Use it for a reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to try things and modify them if necessary. Make students comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
  • Technology allows students have voice who do not normally have voice.
  • Always communicate with your students.
  • School makes students afraid to be wrong. We also need to be able to make mistakes.
  • There is a concern about being tenured.
  • There is a learning curve to learning new technologies. It gets better and easier as you get more experienced.
  • Important to tell students what you are doing and why.
  • May want to give periodic course evaluations through the term.
There were lots of  great lesson from this sharing event. It is refreshing to see what they are trying in the name of learning.