Beyond Bells and Whistles: Best Blended Learning Design

Beyond Bells and Whistles:

Best Blended Learning Design

It’s all really about academic achievement.

Susan Ruckdeschel, EDD/CI

November, 2017

What makes blended learning for adult learners, in particular teacher professional development, so effective? With Internet access widely available, whether by subscription, café, or public wifi, the online playing field has been leveled in terms of access. What makes blended learning particularly effective is not about access or convenience, and it is certainly not by accident. It is by design. Proper design geared to engaging learners, increasing their capacity and willingness to move new learning into the field, is what makes blended learning effective.

Blended learning design is not just bells and whistles either. By contrast, it is much more. Ruckdeschel (2017) conducted a study on the elements of blended learning instructional design as it supported teacher adoption of, and adaption to, a state-aligned curriculum. The study looked specifically at how teacher capacity was increased as a result, and more poignantly at what elements of design contributed to that increase is it worked into quick and seamless transfer into their K-12 classrooms. This quick and seamless transfer is what increases student achievement (Herrington, et al., 2009; Yukawa, 2010, 2011; McFarlane, 2011). These are the elements found to be most significant in building teacher capacity, sense of competence and confidence, and in the quick transfer of new learning into K-12 classrooms in order of their importance:

  1. Ample resources to use in design and in follow-up: When aligned tools and resources are provided in support of new learning, teachers can quickly and seamlessly design and deliver. They can take new learning into their classrooms by moving theory into practice. A renewed willingness to use newly learned strategies, along with a refreshed sense of confidence in teaching to a mandated curriculum increased when new learning was supported with ancillary strategy guides for teachers, and student-facing materials such as graphic organizers, guides, and checklists. Most significant was a renewed sense of pedagogy that emerged as a result of having wide access to resources, both digital and print successfully garnered for use by students and their teachers (Ruckdeschel, 2017).
  2. Discussion forums prompted with deep discussion prompts that foster scholarly discussions: Discussion forums are opportunities to further reflect, discuss, give and receive qualitative feedback from peers and course instructors (Gaytan, 2010; McFarlane, 2011; Ruckdeschel, 2017). Without compromising a student’s right to privacy, discussion forums should always prompt learners with broad and essential questions geared to discussion of implementation, newly learned strategy, and commentary on new learning. Beyond any concrete discussion, forums should absolutely be driven to inspire a deeper dive into the learning material by engaging learners in scholarly discussion. Without such discussion learners may be left feeling uncertain about their own impending or executed implementation of newly learned strategy (McConnell, 2013). Discussion forums were found to inspire quick transfer of new learning into K-12 classrooms (Ruckdeschel, 2017).
  3. Video examples (versus lectures about content): Teachers need to see real examples, in real classrooms. Beyond an expert lecturing, which is in itself meaningful, can seem long and risks losing learners quickly to other more contextualized options available in blended learning (click here, click there, download this, let’s move on…). Teachers came to appreciate short and meaningful to-the-point video of three to five minutes in length of classroom strategy use, especially as it moved theory into practice. The same strategies taught in the course were the same strategies discussed in the podcasts of content reads, later moved into video examples. This is powerful learning material, and the stuff that increases the likelihood of immediate classroom transfer.
  4. Podcasts of content: Reading load can be high in an online course if the course is rigorous, and rightly so. To achieve stated outcomes, it takes more than video viewing and link-outs to resources. Online generic content holds great value in an online classroom (Marzano, 2015), but can be daunting to a learner in a 30 or 60-hour course. Content is a crucial piece to online learning in order to effectively articulate strategy, and to have teachers understand the rationale behind the strategy, which will ultimately sell them on its application to their own teaching and pedagogy. They need to read about it to integrate it (Bray, 2011). Podcasting, or audio scripting content, is an effective way to strengthen its reach. Teachers felt more confident and competent about mining through a course of instruction when the reading load was offset with audio scripts of the content. It is also a way of differentiating for adult learners who may need a break from reading but feel compelled to continue with the learning (Ruckdeschel, 2017).
  5. Introduction to research-based strategies that transport easily and quickly into the classroom: Teachers need to know that strategies taught in an online course have some type of efficacy to their K-12 classrooms. While the demographics may not be the same, they can be assured that with evidence-based practices and their own judgment for any modifications needed, newly applied learning can be just as effective in their own classrooms with proper implementation. This is also what makes coaching so powerful. With proper design, trial and error, and qualitative feedback from a qualified coach along the way, students benefit from evidence-based instructional strategies.
  6. Scaffolded, job embedded assignments: We all learn by trial and error (Bradley, 2011; Mayer, 2014); our brains were designed for it. When assignments can be structured to roll out one section at a time, or scaffolded throughout the entire course of blended learning with opportunities for reflection and qualitative feedback, learners have ample opportunities for trial and error learning. Beginning with what makes the most sense for the initial planning stages, such as identifying requisite standards and learner outcomes, teachers will benefit from qualitative feedback and reflection to import any needed modification or differentiation along the way. By the third or fourth pass of designing a lesson, trying it out in the classroom, reflecting on it in a learning forum, receiving feedback and returning to the classroom to try it again, district leadership can be assured that that lessons will be properly aligned in design and execution.
  7. Qualitative feedback: All learners need feedback, some younger students as frequently as every 20 minutes when the brain is still in development (Jensen, 2013; Martinez, 2010). With feedback we have opportunities for objective reflection based on a third party perspective, or someone else’s more experienced eyes. In blended learning some of the most effective opportunities to influence teaching can arise from qualitative feedback on assignments (Yang & Badger, 2010). When feedback can focus on specific elements in lesson design, learners have higher opportunities to make adjustments and thus effectuate more learning and academic achievement in their classrooms (Ruckdeschel, 2017).

Beyond bells and whistles, the essential elements to instructional design should have everything to do with their impact on instructional planning, delivery, and student outcomes because at the end-of-the-day, it is all about student achievement.

Want to know more about effective instructional design? We have a number of courses that teach design, based on these findings. Go to: www.literacysolutions.net https://www.literacysolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CourseCatalog_2018-numbers.pdf

Click on 2018 Course Catalog category: Instructional Design

Instructional Design Titles

Blended Learning: The Basics, No. 318 Grades K-Adult – 10 hours

Participants in this course will learn the basics for creating effective blended learning professional development, and for creation of K-12 curriculum. All blended learning practices are based on research with a high efficacy in moving new learning to K-12 classrooms for both teachers and students. Participants will develop generic content as well as develop utility with multi-modal technologies, social networking, other third-party content access, and become familiar with open source applications best capable of meeting the needs of their students.

Course Outcomes:

  • Develop familiarity and utility with open source technologies.
  • Design highly contextualized effective blended learning using multi-modal technologies.
  • Design instruction that incorporates best practices in blended learning.

Blended Learning with Word Press and Moodle, No. 317 Grades K-Adult – 10 hours

Word Press and Moodle continue to be touted as among the best open source technologies for integrated, effective blended learning and web support. Participants in this course will explore these applications support effective and contextualized blended learning practices before designing their own template for further use in their own classrooms for both professional learning and for K-12 curriculum.

Course Outcomes:

  • Develop a template and platform for immediate classroom implementation of blended learning using Word Press and Moodle applications.
  • Design student-friendly instruction in a blended learning environment using Word Press and Moodle technologies.
  • Incorporate highly contextualized networking capabilities to include live and asynchronous discussion forums, blogging, chatting, flipped technologies and other multi-media as they work into blended learning design while supporting all student outcomes.

Instructional Design Using Edmodo, No. 316 Grades K-12 – 10 hours

Participants in this course will explore the Edmodo application in support of effective, highly contextualized blended learning practices for K-12 classrooms as well as for teacher professional learning. Afterward, participants will design a template and with peer and instructor support, will continue to design a blended learning platform fully capable of supporting social networking and other third party, open-source technologies.

Course Outcomes:

  • Develop a template and platform for immediate classroom implementation of blended learning using Edmodo.
  • Design student-friendly instruction in a blended learning environment with Edmodo as it integrates with other third party technologies.
  • Incorporate highly contextualized networking capabilities to include live and asynchronous discussion forums, blogging, chatting, flipped technologies and other multi-media as they work into blended learning design while supporting all student outcomes.

Leveraging the Power of Blogs with K-12 Classrooms, No. 319 Grades K-12 – 10 hours

Blogging continues to be an effective and viable e-learning tool for teaching in K-12 classrooms. From incorporation of the writing process, to copyright, to becoming a responsible digital citizen. As a collaboration tool, teachers can also incorporate blogging to bring together lively and effective peer exchange with ample opportunity for writing practice. Participants will learn the best and most effective practices for blogging as they develop familiarity and utility with a range of blogging practices and technologies.

Course Outcomes:

  • Become familiar with a number and range of open source blogging technologies.
  • Incorporate best practices using open source blogging technologies.
  • Design standards-friendly lessons and blended learning that incorporates blogging technologies, specific to stated student outcomes.

Moodle for Everyone **for Instructional Designers and Staff Developers, No. 313 Grades K-12 – 10 hours

This workshop will take participants through the nuances and inner workings of Moodle with a keen eye for instructional design. Included will be tips and tricks for effectively working in visuals, graphics, multi-media, and use of the newest Moodle features to include books, completion tracking, and reports among others. The use of Wikis and blogs will be used to facilitate discussion in both self-paced and instructor-led environments. A little bit of Moodle for everyone! Participants will practice in a sandbox environment, and come out with design skills that can transition immediately to practice in their own Moodle environments.

  • Develop a keen eye for effective facets of instructional design.
  • Import effective facets of instructional design into original products.
  • Contribute to a compendium of best practices in blended learning using Moodle tools and Moodle-friendly applications.

Responsive Instructional Design for K-12 Classrooms, No. 314 Grades K-12 – 10 hours

After learning the blended learning basics, participants in this course will escalate their skills by creating effective blended learning professional development, and for creation of K-12 curriculum using responsive flipped classroom design. All incorporated practices will be research-based with a high efficacy in moving new learning to K-12 classrooms for both teachers and students. Participants will use newly or formerly created generic content to leverage with multi-modal technologies, social networking, Internet research consistent with responsible digital citizenship, and become familiar with a number of open source applications from which to choose from.

Course Outcomes:

  • Develop mastery with open source technologies as they leverage with blended learning design.
  • Develop confidence and competence in effective blended learning that responds to the needs of students.
  • Design highly contextualized effective blended learning using multi-modal, open source technologies.
  • Design instruction that incorporates best practices in blended learning that responds fully to learner needs and stated student outcomes.

References:

Bray, W. (2011). A collective case study of the influence of teachers’ beliefs and knowledge on error-handling practices during class discussion of mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 42(1), 2-38.

Gaytan, J. A., & McEwen, B. C. (2010). Instructional technology professional development evaluation: Developing a high quality model. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 52(2), 77-94.

Herrington, A., Herrington, J., Hoban, G., & Reid, D. (2009). Transfer of online professional learning to teachers’ classroom practice. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 20(2), 189-213. Retrieved from http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/unpan/unpan037305.pdf

Jensen, E. (2013). Engaging Students With Poverty in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano, R. J. (2015a. Creating and using learning targets & performance scales: How teachers make better instructional decisions. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Laboratories.

McConnell, T., Parker, J., Eberhardt, J., Koehler, M., & Lundeberg, M. (2013). Virtual professional learning communities: Teachers’ perceptions of virtual versus face-to-face professional development. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(3), 267-277. doi:10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y

McFarlane, D. A. (2011). Are there differences in the organizational structure and pedagogical approach of virtual and brick-and-mortar schools? Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 3(2), 83-98.

Ruckdeschel, S. (2017). A study on the efficacy of blended learning models of online teacher professional development. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

Yang, M., Badger, R., & Yu, Z. (2006). A comparative study of peer and teacher feedback in a Chinese EFL writing class. Journal of Second Language Writing, 15(3), 179-200.

Yukawa, J. (2010). Communities of practice for blended learning: Toward an integrated model for US education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51(2), 54-75.

Yukawa, J. & Harada, V. H. (2011). Authentic learning is not just for students: It’s for librarians, too! School Library Monthly, 27(4), 5-8.

5 Comments

  1. Ashley Petty

    It was required for this course.
    http://www.literacysolutions.net/2017/11/29/beyond-bells-whistles-best-blended-learning-design/
    This blog is about making PD more effective by using a blend of things such as discussion forums, videos, podcasts, and feedback.
    A lot of the courses sound like they are technology based and would really benefit struggling readers.

  2. Michele Urda

    This was a very refreshing resource to read. It explains how to mesh the old school of thought with the new ways of teaching. It truly feels like it is the best way to prepare our students for college and the real world.

    I felt that each section addressed different types of learners and different types of class styles that students will see in college. I think we tend to spend too much time preparing students for small class college environments, but this resource gave activities and ideas for preparing students for online college courses and even lecture or large class culture.

  3. Michele Urda

    This was a very refreshing resource to read. It explains how to mesh the old school of thought with the new ways of teaching. It truly feels like it is the best way to prepare our students for college.

    I felt that each section addressed different types of learners and different types of class styles that students will see in college.

    I think we tend to spend too much time preparing students for small class college environments, but this resource gave activities and ideas for preparing students for online college courses and even lecture or large class culture.

    Struggling readers will be better prepared with they have these types of tools that they are already familiar with before entering college.

  4. Brandie Parks

    Our school uses Achieve 3000 to help students with reading and analyzing articles. The teacher side of the application gives teachers extra resources and the teacher has the ability to change settings per student’s needs or special accommodations. Students take a test at the beginning of the year to set their lexile level and then the articles are designed to meet each student’s specific needs. Key vocabulary words are identified with the definition, student’s can mark the text, and you can add guided reading questions after each paragraph if needed. At the end of the article their is an activity that covers key ideas and details, integration of knowledge, etc. The articles are also broken down by the standards, which is useful. I also have my students respond to the Thought Questions by writing a TEXAS body paragraph. This allows them to pull evidence from the text to write a good body paragraph.

    https://www.achieve3000.com/

  5. Melissa Morgan

    At my school we use Imagine Learning to help our English Language Learners. It is a great tool to use in compliment to classroom and small group instruction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *