‘Blended learning creates a richer in-class experience’
Blended learning — where online pedagogy is incorporated into a course’s curriculum — is at the core of this year’s edition of e.SCAPE, Concordia’s annual eLearning conference.
Open to all faculty, staff and students, the October 19 event is designed to promote discussion around digital education, and to get people thinking in new ways about how technology can contribute to and improve students’ university learning experience.
Blended learning expert Jay Caulfield will deliver the keynote address, “Leading Learning: Why Experiential and Blended Models Make Sense in a Global Community,” at 10 a.m.
“While I don’t see in-class education going away, I do believe that learning outside of the classroom will continue to grow and flourish,” says Caulfield, an assistant professor of management at the David Straz College of Business at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
She adds that increased globalization will lead to more diverse classrooms.
“Wicked problems, such as creating sustainable futures, reducing terrorism and combatting the spread of worldwide diseases, will teach all of us the importance of distributive leadership and collaboration across borders.”
Catherine Bolton, Concordia’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning, appreciates Caulfield’s global perspective.
“Jay’s big-picture approach and her expertise in blended learning is a great fit with Concordia’s commitment to using new technology and ways of thinking about the evolving classroom experience.”
As an early adopter of online teaching techniques, Jay’s experience in the field is extensive: she has taught more than 125 graduate and undergraduate blended courses, and has designed a graduate curriculum in leadership studies taught completely in this format.
Additionally, Caulfield has designed and delivered faculty workshops on the topic of blended learning for colleges and universities in Canada, the United States and the West Indies.
“From my perspective, blended learning creates a richer in-class experience,” says Caulfield, whose articles have appeared in peer-reviewed publications on the scholarship of teaching and learning.
“Students interact with each other virtually or in the community regarding the assigned media prior to coming to the classroom, and those interactions increase the depth of in-class discussions.”
The students have spoken
Student feedback was one of the things that “sold” Caulfield on the blended learning experience. “They like the increased flexibility in their schedules that hybrid learning offers while at the same time still providing them opportunities to meet face-to-face with faculty and other students enrolled in the class.”
Meanwhile, she says most students report that experiential learning is fun and gives them an opportunity to learn in an effective way while engaging with the community.
Faculty, Caulfield adds, also appreciate the flexibility in work schedules and the opportunity to design learning activities that could not be used in a purely face-to-face classroom.
Online and blended learning at Concordia
While there has been an increase in the adoption of new teaching technologies and online course offerings at Concordia, Bolton says she would like to see more faculty members testing the waters and moving beyond more traditional approaches to pedagogy.
She encourages faculty to consult the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s website for more information about developing a blended learning course, or sign up for one of the Centre’s workshops
How to get started
Caulfield has four pieces of advice for faculty who want to implement blended learning:
- First and foremost, be able to relate to your students in varied environments, meaning in-class as well as outside of it.
- When leading learning, be innovative in designing activities that engage students in class as well as in our communities and our virtual classrooms.
- Be risk takers in that regard, realizing that sometimes things will not go as planned. Hopefully you can laugh at it, learn from it and move on.
- Lastly, look at teaching and learning as fluid, where sometimes your role is one of a learner more so than a teacher — and be comfortable with that.
The Concordia community at e.SCAPE
The 2016 edition of e.SCAPE will highlight a number of Concordia faculty members who are leading the blended learning charge:
Following Caulfield’s morning keynote, the first block of concurrent presentations includes Isabelle Dostaler, a professor in the Department of Management, who will be facilitating a session called “Converting to Blended Teaching.”
After lunch, Gene Gibbons, associate professor in the Department of Theatre, will offer a blended acting studio. At the same time, Catherine Calogeropoulos, part-time faculty member in the Department of Biology and the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, will facilitate a session entitled “Learning and Pedagogy Through Blended Teaching in 400 Level Courses.”
During the final block, Danielle Morin, professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management, will examine, “Who Works Better in a Blended Learning Environment?”
Meanwhile, Svetla Kamenova, lecturer and educational consultant in the Département d'études françaises, will lead a session in French addressing the key elements to include in the design of a hybrid course.
The conference concludes with a brief wrap-up led by Caulfield, followed by a closing reception at 3:30 p.m.
The e.SCAPE annual conference on digital learning will be held on Wednesday, October 19 at 9:30 a.m. in Room EV-2.260 of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building) on the Sir George Williams Campus (1515 Ste-Catherine W.)
No registration is required.
Consult the full e.SCAPE program.