Blended learning, which combines traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning, appears to be growing in popularity at many colleges. This session explores the effort at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth to help faculty develop the skills needed to be effective in a blended learning environment.
Faculty training faculty is one of the strategies used to promote faculty development. Rather than rely solely on academic computing staff, faculty are considered an important part of the development team.
The UMass system received a $650,000 Sloan Consortium grant last year to promote blended learning. The grant has helped develop alternative course calendering, highly interactive blended courses, and enhancements in faculty development programs, including a 2-week online blended learning training course (using Wimba) for faculty interested in teaching in a blended learning environment.
To encourage faculty to convert traditional courses into blended format, faculty received a $4,000 stipend. Participants had to complete the 2-week online training program, as well as additional training sessions. Faculty were expected to use Wimba Live Classroom, integrate a variety of new technologies, and allow peer observation and evaluation of their blended course.
The UMass Dartmouth Blended Learning Institute was held in June, 2007, with 12 invited faculty participants (as well as 8-10 guest participants). A central web site was provided, with links to the online training courses, surveys, documents, and additional resources.
Through a series of asynchronous online discussions, participants explored how to define blended learning, identified strategies and best practices in blended learning, discussed what technologies can be used, and how to use them effectively. Each participant created an action plan for implementing what they had learned in converting a traditional course into a blended learning course.
Wikis were one of the technologies demonstrated in this session. A PBWiki was shown. I’ve used PBWiki before, and found it to be quite easy to use, although I’m a bit concerned about the security of a hosted wiki. Other hosted options include WikiSpaces and Wet Paint.
Another technology explored was online learning spaces. An Adobe Captivate session was shown, with Camtasia Studio video. It looked a little like Tegrity, although more stand-alone than lecture-based, and with integrated assessment tools.
Other technologies briefly mentioned included blogs, clickers and lecture capture software; they are conducting a Tegrity trial this semester. The Wimba tools were integrated into Blackboard Vista.
Faculty participants reported great interest in continuing to teach in the blended format, and encouraged colleagues to embrace blended learning. Most believed that the technologies helped them to teach more effectively. But they also found that getting up to speed took a lot of time and effort, and that technical issues posed problems for some students.