Blended Course Design for Students in China: Challenges, Problems and Design Solutions, Part 3


Ahmed Lachheb and Victoria Abramenka-Lachheb, Fort Hays State University

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Designing a course to be delivered in a blended format for students who are on the other side of the globe is very challenging due to many environmental factors, mainly technological, administrative, and linguistic. Not only do these challenges govern the process of course design, but they impact the final outcomes as well. In this article, we share: (1) Design features of courses that are now being taught in a blended format for Chinese students (who are in China) and, (2) how these features were responsive to the technological, administrative and linguistic challenges imposed by the students’ learning environment.

This is a three-part blog post that will cover one key challenge and solution each week.

Challenges, Problems and Design Solutions:

#2: Technological Challenge: Internet Censorship and Low Speed Bandwidth (see Part 2) 

#3: Language Challenge: Students are EFL Learners

Since the students are speakers of English as a foreign language, it can take an exorbitant amount of time trying to explain one concept, which would derail the course from the objective.  We noticed that the students could lose motivation to study if they could not understand terminology or the course content.

When designing this course, we made sure to include many vocabulary exercises so that students could retain new words every week. We also made sure to give scenario-based assignments in real-life business contexts so that students could clearly see the meaningful connection between what they were learning in class, and what was happening in the real world. The scenario-based assignments in real-life business contexts facilitated students’ learning and increased their engagement because students saw the relevance of the course material to their future professional goals. We also included videos with subtitles. Based on the course evaluation, most Chinese students liked course content and engaged with it when we integrated videos in the course. Last, we, as a teaching team, made sure to choose words that were less complicated when communicating with students.

Example of a vocabulary exercise:

IMG 9 Example of a vocabulary exercise

Example of a video linked to the Bb course site with Chinese CC:

IMG 10 Example of a video linked to the Bb course site with Chinese CC

In conclusion, we wanted to share our experience in designing and teaching blended courses in China. As you can see, the challenges were not easy to overcome. By implementing effective design solutions, thorough revision, attention to detail and extensive research, we feel confident now about the good quality of the courses we have designed and teach. The students’ evaluations support this belief. Nevertheless, we think that there is always room for improvement. Thus, careful revision, a few edits and implementation of new teaching and design techniques will always be necessary with each semester. We believe that instructional design and teaching are a mix of science and art. Thus, we think that the most beautiful work of art is always an infinite process of completion. To close we would like to share this:

IMG 11 Final Word of Wisdom

If you’d like to master the art of blended learning for your online courses, check out the OLC Blended Mastery Series program

About the Authors:

Ahmed PIC

Ahmed Lachheb is the Instructional Technology Support Specialist and Instructional Designer at the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies, at Fort Hays State University. He holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Grand Valley State University, College of Education. Ahmed is famously known as the “Blackboard Guru” on Fort Hays campus. He is passionate about educational technology, instructional design for language learning, and best practices to integrate Ed Tech tools for good teaching and learning experiences. He’s also a young scholar with a few publications and conference proceedings in the field of instructional systems, design and Ed Tech. Ahmed is originally from Sfax, Tunisia, and he came to the US in 2010 as part of the NESA UGRAD Fulbright Exchange Program. He’s married, and his love to cook almost equals his love of his job and his wife (aka the love of his life, Victoria Abramenka).

Vicky's PIC

Victoria Abramenka-Lachheb is a full-time instructor in the Department of Communications Studies at Fort Hays State University. She holds a Master’s Degree in Communications from Grand Valley State University School of Communications. Victoria teaches social and global networking, writing in the professions, business and professional presentations and introduction to business English courses both on campus and at Sias International University through the online China program. Victoria is passionate about foreign languages, cross-cultural communication and technologies in education, and she always seeks opportunities to apply best practices and integrate the best technological tools to meet learning objectives.

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