For the past two years at Michigan Technological University we have been restructuring our Calculus II course as a blended learning course. We will provide an overview of our model and some of the implementation challenges we faced. This presentation should thus be generally relevant to instructors with a broad range of experience in blended learning, and especially relevant to those interesting in utilizing blended learning across multiple sections.
Philosophy of the Model:
The essence of the design was to offload the introductory material to students preparing for class. We created short, ten to fifteen minute videos that would cover the basic material covered in the text. Students were required to prepare for a specific topic and then take a six question online quiz prior to coming to class. In class we would extend or reinforce the lesson ideas. After class, students were required to complete some online homework to further reinforce the content.
Although this presentation will briefly demonstrate the technology used to create the content (Camtasia Studio, Mediasite, Canvas, and a Tablet PC) and how it enabled us to interact with students, the primary purpose of the presentation will be to discuss some of the challenges and solutions we encountered building a blended course in mathematics, as well as to detail some of the unique challenges we faced in structuring a blended course spread to multiple instructors across multiple sections. Generally speaking, we found that two of the most important factors of success were our ability to:
1.Highlight the value of the model
2.Teach the best way to use the model
It was also interesting that success depended not only on how these factors were applied to the students but also how they were applied to the faculty.
Highlighting the value of the model
Asking students to prepare for class is not a new idea; and there are many techniques that teachers use to encourage students to prepare. One particular technique is to not lecture over the same material the students were supposed to learn in the preparation process. However an instructor still must ensure that students have a solid enough understanding of the introductory material before building upon it. This presentation will discuss how we:
- Assisted students in gauging their level of preparation
- Helped instructors gauge the level of understanding of their students
- Used both of these pieces to help instructors determine where and how to begin their daily lesson, thus helping them maximize the impact of their class time based upon the students needs
Teaching the best way to use the model:
As with any tool, its value is limited to how well the user can use it. There was no difference with our model. Initially the students and instructors utilized it, had trouble utilizing it, or did not want to utilize it. This presentation will discuss:
- The importance of setting the tone for the students and instructors
- Techniques to improve student and instructor "buy in"
- Techniques and tools to lessen the learning curve for both students and instructors
One specific idea related to improving instructor "buy in", was not assuming our "core" concepts were their "core" concepts. To help our presentation participants appreciate this idea, we will have groups make a list of core ideas for a specific lesson. Upon sharing the lists, participants should see the wide variety of core ideas that can come from the same lesson. These differences, along with our description of the variations in topics such as integration by parts, should help to demonstrate that the different ways instructors approach a topic is an important consideration when developing a blended learning course across multiple sections.
Lastly we will describe some of the unanticipated benefits we have witnessed since implementing this model including; improved participation in curriculum development, improved development of new instructors or graduate teaching assistants, and a better understanding of assessment across multiple sections. We will also discuss future changes such as adding new discussion tools and social media components.