In order to activate students, to reach their higher cognitive levels and to reduce time investment from teachers, increasingly more teachers use online tools next to live classes and lectures. There is a large variety of ingredients for a blended course: different types of e-learning and e-training, online assessments, lectures, tutorials, group discussions, slots for questions… And it’s up to you as a teacher to chuck the right ingredients and the right amounts in the metaphorical blender so that the learning goals of the course are reached. But be careful: if you put too much kiwi and too little banana in your smoothie, the result can be disappointing. Avoid a blended course with a sharp aftertaste with these 3 tips.
1. Choose learning activities based on the learning goals
Different learning goals ask for different learning activities and it’s up to you to find the right ones. Sometimes it won’t matter that much, or just the variation of activities will be important, for example when dealing with theory. Theory can be explained in lectures, and/or be picked up by students by reading literature, and/or by watching short video clips. Applying theory can be done in online, written, or live exercises. All these options work well, but diversity may be good.
However, if it is a skill that has to be gained, this will not be enough: it requires a lot of practice. Role playing in class is an option, but it can be inefficient. Not everyone will get a turn and time is limited. A skill as a learning goal therefore asks for students to practice on their own. The TrainTool software, for example, allows students to do video role plays as often as they need in order to gain a communication skill.
2. Make sure the learning activities are integrated well
When you’re making a smoothie, you only switch off the blender when all ingredients have turned into a consistent mixture. In blended learning you want to avoid a clumpy mix as well. A smooth blend of learning activities increases the learning effect, and students will quickly lose their motivation for a learning activity if they don’t feel it’s useful or relevant. So make sure there is a clear structure in the course, where the learning activities follow each other in a way that makes sense. When students have to learn how to interview in order to give good consultations, make sure that the interview training fits that purpose, and that students can practice with relevant cases.
It’s helpful to offer all online learning activities in one place, for example by linking different tools to Blackboard using LTI. In most versions of Blackboard, you can make a timeline for the course where students can click on the activities. If this is not possible, make sure there’s a clear course manual that addresses all learning activities and where to find them. Make sure students don’t accidentally overlook a learning activity or get confused on how to log in.
3. Keep your online parts personal, and your live parts interactive
Students appreciate online learning activities. Sometimes there will be some objections, which are almost always concerned with how the activity is implemented into the course. A common complaint is that an excess of online learning activities is impersonal. So if you have added a lot of online elements in your course, make sure that they contain a personal element. In TrainTool for example, students can share their recorded role plays with peer students, and their teacher can give them personal feedback on their recordings.
Live classes have the benefit of face-to-face contact. They also allow for immediate questions if something is unclear. However, they can be boring. So make sure there is enough interactions in your classes, so that you activate students.
When the course has come to an end, the results and student evaluations can help you to improve your blended course. If you’re not there yet and want to delve into this topic a bit further, you can download the Wageningen University & Research case study to read on how TrainTool was implemented in a blended module on negotiation skills.