Blended Teaching and Learning: Sharing Challenges and Successes for a Classroom-to-Campus Strategy
Pre-conference Workshop Session 3
Blended courses and programs continue to grow and mature on a range of campuses, but we do not always have the time or resources to strategically plan for the success of future blended initiatives at the classroom and institutional levels. Simultaneously, we have a lot to learn from each other about how best to tap into the potential of the blended mode. This pre-conference workshop will allow participants to network with colleagues from other campuses as they engage in a hands-on, real-time gap analysis of their current blended courses and programs. Topics to be explored include current classroom and institutional successes and challenges, quality indicators, possibilities for growth, and what it means for an institution to embrace the blended modality at scale. Participants will leave the session with an institution-specific strategic plan and action steps for nurturing blended courses and programs on their campus over the next five to ten years.
The 2017 New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report says blended learning “is on the rise at universities and colleges. The affordances blended learning offers are now well understood, and its flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies are high among the list of appeals” (Adams Becker, et al., 2017, p. 4). This learning model is indeed on the rise at many colleges and universities, and blended courses, even whole programs, are not necessarily brand new innovations for many campuses. But there is still much work to be done to see the great potential of the blended model emerge, and thrive, across higher education. Blended learning is no longer the new kid on the block for many institutions, but to realize its full potential, especially scaled across an institution, we need more opportunities to share practices, strategies, and challenges.
The workshop will provide a framework for each participant to consider what his or her institution is already doing well regarding blended course and program development, but also to assess gaps and identify needed tools and resources for growing blended learning, especially at the institutional level. The workshop proposes that to thrive long-term, blended learning needs strategic institutional planning that assures effectively designed courses; well informed faculty, support staff, and administrators; and a shared vision for how blended courses and programs exist within a broad institutional framework.
The workshop is designed as a hands-on networking opportunity in which a variety of institutional stakeholders can share blended learning successes and challenges, with a view to having every participant develop a tangible action plan, a set of next steps, to take back to his or her home institution.
We will start with introductions and initial discussion about workshop participant expectations and backgrounds. This will give us a good sense of what voices are represented, hopefully from faculty, support staff, and administration. As part of our introductory section we will also provide an overview of existing hybrid/blended learning resources, whether about course development, assessment, or institutional policy, with a view to building a comprehensive picture of what support resources are already available and to identifying potential gaps and research opportunities. In other words, we want to see what is there in the research and scholarship on blended learning, but, equally valuable, we want to determine what is not there and thus what work remains to be done.
Participants will be asked to complete a Google Form in which they indicate what their programs, departments, or institutions are already doing well. What is successfully up and running and producing positive results? Using the same form we will then gather participant input about where their programs, departments, or institutions are struggling and what barriers to success they are facing? What would they like to see happening that is not already happening?
Gathering input on strengths and areas for improvement from the workshop group as a whole sets the stage for initial whole-group analysis. Are there common challenges faced across multiple institutions? Are there common success stories? Do blended learning programs share a similar developmental trajectory and narrative across institutions or are they all unique?
From here we believe that workshop participants will find the deepest value of the experience as we work with our Google Form results and large-group brainstorming to then actively partner those who have expressed a need in one area relative to hybrid/blended learning with those who are actively addressing that challenge successfully. These gap analysis groupings may not be perfectly aligned--although it would be great if some were--but we believe that moving the conversation forward, towards action items that participants can return home with, will happen even in cases where needs and existing strategies are not identical. Our workshop is designed to shape conversation into productive channels, not to over-prescribe or over-determine it by being too rigid.
Participants, now working in strategy groups, will have the opportunity to share challenges and successes in that smaller format and to network for further collaboration and support. We will be sure to re-formulate groups multiple times so that all participants who express a need in our Google Form analysis have the opportunity to work with somebody at another institution who is meeting that need.
The workshop will conclude as we come together again in one large group to share, broadly, what kinds of conversations we have had and what good strategies and ideas have emerged.
Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC horizon report: 2017 higher education edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.