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Getting Started

Getting Started: Considerations

If you are thinking of redesigning your syllabus to include instructional technologies, then simply adding more online activities to the list of assessment requirements in an existing syllabus will create more work for everyone!  Given you have an existing face-to-face course and now want to start using an online technology, consider the following:

1.    How can I integrate the new technology or tool into the learning experience in such a way that students must engage with the new component in order to complete the course outcomes and assessment successfully?  If it is not essential to the course experience, your student won’t do it.

2.    Keep what’s working well. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!).  If the face-to-face classes are important for discussing sensitive issues, for example, keep those sensitive discussions for face-to-face sessions – and not online where writing and materials are more permanent and visible.

3.    Make small incremental changes to a course.  That is, don’t change everything at once; don’t add too many new tools at once.  (More new components can go wrong too).  Consider making one or two changes each time you plan teach the course. 

-    The first step online might be to post resources to the course GauchoSpaces site for students to read and download, eg. syllabus, readings, files and lecture presentations.

-    The next time you teach the course, you could add some short quizzes on the weekly readings.  Or, you could try conducting live “Office Hours Online” at a set time in a GauchoSpace chat room. Next year, you could add some online discussion forums, so that face-to-face discussions can continue online.

4.   Still trying to decide what to do face-to-face and online?
The following findings from recent research (McShane, 2007) might help you think some more about what you and your students do online and face-to-face.
Online, text-based contexts are really useful for:
—More complete, detailed responses in writing
—Thoughtful, reflective answers
—Individual and group-based activities
—Email, discussion forums, wikis (delayed communication)
—Quizzes: can provide students with feedback on learning to encourage reading and revision.

Live, face-to-face contexts are well suited for
—Stories & anecdotes
—Recounting insights from experience,  and research
—Spontaneous moments
—Trust, empathy and reciprocity
—Group debriefing after field trips, practica
—Sensitive or controversial material or comments

Above all, face-to-face moments can be risky and uncertain, and sometimes you can find yourself modeling how to cope with the unexpected.  For some instructors this represents an important pedagogical lesson in the present era of risk minimization and uncertain futures.

Instructional Developments’ Consultants, Dr Kim DeBacco and Dr Lisa Berry are available to help you redesign your course syllabus for blended instruction.

Driscoll, M. (2002) Blended Learning: let’s get beyond the hype, E-learning, 1 March. Available at:
Stacey, E., & Gerbic, P. (2007). Teaching for blended learning - Research perspectives from on-campus and distance students. Educational and Information Technologies, 12 (3),165-174.
Whitelock, D. & Jelfs, A. (2003) Editorial: Journal of Educational Media Special Issue on Blended Learning, Journal of Educational Media, 28(2-3), pp. 99-100.


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George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
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