You are teaching a course in a face-to-face environment and have now decided to convert the course to a blended learning environment. What do you do? What steps must you take? What is the best practice to complete the transition?

This post is an attempt to answer those questions, and my starting point is this scenario:

A training manager is planning to convert all the training modules from the face-to-face training into a blended learning format. His supervisor has given him permission to do this. Reason for the transition is the frustration of the poor quality of communication among trainees. He believes that providing the trainees the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both face-to-face and online will enhance the quality. He also plans to put all the training materials online for trainees to access at all times.

You might think it is easy to transfer a training module online.  “For an instructor getting ready to teach his first blended course, the temptation may be to look at his traditional course syllabus, pick which classes can be moved online and then leave the rest of the syllabus as it has always been” (Bart, 2011). Truth is it demands planning and a lot of work. Dr. Piskurich claim “for online learning the planning process is really critical, and it is something that many instructional designer do not worry about” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). Let us take a look at the planning that needs to be done.

Planning steps

#1 – Objective

What do the learners need to learn? Think that over and write good objectives for each piece that the learners need to learn. Also think over how you are going to evaluate each objective (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

#2 – Activities

Ask yourself, or another subject expert, the question ‘how would you teach this’. From the answers build activities. Remember, activities should provide ample opportunities for online learners to explore them on their own (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

#3 – Technologies

Think over each activity and question yourself what is the best way of deliver that activity to meet the object. You have to consider constraints that might be on the course (number of students, if you have the technology, can students use them etc.). (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). Since you planning to do a blended course some of the activities will work better in the face-to-face environment, and other activities will work better in the online environment. You also have to consider the online environment, will it be a CMS, Wiki, or some other tool.

#4 – Storyboard and Site Map

Now it is time to create a storyboard and a site map. A storyboard is the content of the course divided into weeks or days. The each section in the story board is divided into segment containing assignment, assessment, resources, etc. The site map is about the various pages you have on you online classroom, which of them are connected. You write down the flow between the pages and how the navigation works (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

#5 Collect course assets

When the storyboard is done it is time to collect the assets for the course (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). You probably have most of it since you have had the course on site, but you might need to look it over to make sure it will be useful online.

#6 – Create the course

You already decided the online environment so now it is time to create the course. That means to structure the pages and the content according to your storyboard and site map (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

#7 – Testing

Do you want to make sure the course will work the way you planned? Then test it. Use staff for an internal test to make sure all links and other resources function, but also test with students taking the course. Everything these people find of errors needs to be corrected (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

#8 – Deployment

Now it is time to deploy the course and run it for real. That does not mean that your job is over as an instructor. The way you conduct the course now when it is blended will be somewhat different from when you taught it in class.

Change of instructor’s role

When you have made face-to-face instruction, you have probably made a lot of lecturing. The classes have been centered around you. When you now move the course online the learning will shift to student-centered learning. You are no longer lecturing the learners to transfer knowledge to students. You should be coaching them, elicit the learner to discover and construct knowledge. The student-centered learning “strongly promotes active learning, collaboration, mastery of course material, and student control over the learning process” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012, p.123).

What you have to do:

  • You have to communicate the structure of the course, expectations and assignments and the assessment process. A well written syllabus will give learners that information, as well as contact information to the instructor and how you will communicate with the learners.
  • You need to be comfortable with the different delivery methods and technologies. If there are technological issues you need to be able to guide them to a solution, or to contact the IT support.
  • You are essential when it comes to create the learning community. Everyone must of course take an active role, but you are the one to guide them into that role.
  • You are the facilitator of knowledge. You should be online and present in the course to encourage active participation of the learners, to answer questions, to listen and be prepared to make changes.
  • You need to communicate regularly about what are going on in the course, so learners now what to expect for each week or unit.
  • You have to give feedback on assignments

(Simonson et.al., 2012, chapter 6)

Communication and Interaction

As you probably noticed communication is the most important in the role of the instructor. Communication between the learners is also vital since that creates the sense of community. Having a blended course will enhance the communication online if you take the opportunity to have different type of collaboration work when the learners meet face-to-face.

Some suggestions of what you can do in face-to-face environment.

  • Discussion in pairs and smaller groups
  • Group work in pairs and smaller groups
  • Start a discussion or group work that should be finalized online
  • Use online tools already in class

In an online environment, use different tools. The list below is only some suggestions. You have to find out how they work and how they would fit into your course and its objectiv.

Content creation Discussions
  • Blogging
  • Wikis
  • Padlet
  • YouTube
  • Podcast
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Chat
  • Forum
  • VoiceThread
  • Twitter
  • Audacity
  • Twiddla

There are many lists online with tools to use. The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013, can be found at http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/.

Summary

Some people think that changing delivery method of a course will solve any problems existing in the course. That is not the case. A good course has to be properly planned and designed in a professional way. The course objectives and the learners analysis are what matters when creating activities and choosing technology. There is no “super-technology” that will save the day; each has its weaknesses and strengths, so choose wisely. Remember, “Successful teaching can be achieved with any technology”, and “how and what we want the learners to learn is the issue and technology is a tool” (Simonson et.al, 2012, p. 172).

References

Bart, M. (November 21, 2011). Getting Started with Blended Learning Course Design. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/getting-started-with-blended-learning-course-design/

Hart, J. (September 30, 2013). Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013. Retrieved from http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Developing Online Courses [DVD]. In Series Title. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and Designing Online Courses [DVD]. In Series Title. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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