News for Faculty and Staff

Scaffolding Our Information Environment: Resources for Blending Learning & Distance Education

December 18, 2012

The third installment of the monthly column from School of Education CIO Dan Jacobsohn and MERIT staff.

I hope you’re enjoying the beginning of a more traditional Wisconsin winter than last year! This month Catherine Stephens wrote a great piece about the resources available to you regarding Blended Learning and Distance Education:

This is the "Year of Innovation" at UW Madison with many opportunities for faculty and staff to learn about and reflect on new approaches to teaching and learning.   All are invited to participate in workshops, consultations, and attend campus lectures offered over the course of the year. Topics range from Blended Learning, Distance Education, current trends around MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and workshops to lend help with specific strategies and new tools for online learning.  See MERIT's new Education Technology Events Calendar for learning opportunities.   

MERIT staff are available to help as faculty and staff explore and implement new approaches to course delivery, course redesign, building distance education courses, or design of new SoE programs.   Here, we offer answers to common questions that arise in the field of Education Technology as we approach online learning.

Tablet image with bubblesHow do we define blended learning, and is blended different from hybrid instruction?

Blended and hybrid learning are phrases from the field used to describe teaching class by traditional face-to-face "seat time" and blending online learning activities.  Ideally, the purpose of a hybrid or blended course is to take advantage of the best solutions of both face-to-face and online learning in the context of the course material and pedagogical goals.  In some blended courses, students may spend less time in the classroom, and more time interacting online. 

How do we define the idea of a "Flipped Classroom" ?

The phrase "Flipped Classroom" suggests an approach to course delivery where students learn content outside of the classroom, often through online multimedia modules and online quizzing.  In class meetings students demonstrate what they have learned through discussion and active problem solving.    The “Flipped Classroom” brings new possibilities to the constructivist, active learning classroom.   

What are basic guiding principles around integrating technology tools into course work ? 

A common method of practice in education technology consulting is to begin with course goals and objectives, and assist faculty and staff with evaluation and matching of tools that help support specific goals and pedagogical practice.   At UW Madison, there are many specific tools available to faculty and staff  -- including tools found in Learn@UW, Google Apps, Moodle, Blackboard Collaborate, Lecture Capture options, iTunes, Mobile Apps, and more.  Contact Catherine Stephens to consult about specific course strategies and tools to match course goals.   

What are other things I might consider as I redesign my traditional face-to-face course and incorporate online tools ?  

Take careful steps to match tools to teaching strategies, and consider the time and resources needed to offer an engaging and high quality classroom experience.  MERIT staff assist with identifying appropriate tools, building multimedia modules, and lend guidance around support for course goals and objectives.   MERIT staff provide help to faculty and staff adopting online technology tools.    

MERIT staff can guide faculty and staff through a process where we ask questions such as "what do you want students to learn (know) and be able to do ?"  "How do we assess the learning?"  "What tools can we identify to support the learning activity?" MERIT services are offered in a collaborative context and run across media development, instructional design, library services, Help Desk, and instructional support.   We work in collaboration with campus staff, such as DoIT Academic Technology, and can offer help through the DoIT "Knowledge Base" of help articles focused on using a broad range of eLearning tools.    

My department is thinking about designing a new Distance Education program.   Where do we begin?

In the early stages of planning, faculty and staff are encouraged to contact the department chairs, directors, and the SoE Program Committee.  As planning unfolds, MERIT may recommend a partnership with the SoE Education, Outreach and Partnership office, or the UW Madison Office of Continuing Studies.   MERIT staff can help make connections and arrange meetings with campus staff to bring appropriate resources to the table.   

Can I meet with staff to review where to begin, and ask for continued help over the course of the semester ?

Yes.   Faculty and staff are invited to schedule a consultation with MERIT staff to review plans, goals, and teaching tools available.  MERIT staff provide follow-up support throughout the academic year.   For more information, contact Catherine Stephens.

Are there new sources of funding for new programs or course redesign?

Here is some great news:   This fall new funding for Education Innovation projects was shared at the November 7 Chairs Breakfast.  For more information, contact SoE department chairs, or the SoE Education Innovation point person, David Rosenthal.

We look forward to working with you to support new education innovations and approaches to teaching and learning.  Feel free to contact MERIT staff to learn more about resources available for course re-design, and tools for learning online.    

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