Am I a hybrid teacher?


My Hybrid Teacher self?

What did I do this week?

I was on holiday for most of this week so I didn’t do as much MOOC study as I could have. Notice I didn’t say should have. I try to remember that the relationships between the physical, emotional and professional / productive aspects of our lives are important and nurturing ourselves is an essential precursor to nurturing our students so I’m not going to beat myself up about neglecting the course.

I also have good authority for not getting too fixated on ‘completing’ all parts of this course. Stephen Downes who spoke at the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) Conference last week advocated viewing cMOOCs like this more as resources than courses as such. Thinking about this made me realise that my approach to this MOOC is one of selective learning and the things that I choose to focus on and what I get from them are unlikely to match exactly what anyone else gets from the ‘course’.

I did sit down on Thursday night and watch two catch-up videos of webinars I missed. (One of the aspects of this MOOC I would change if I could, would be the location – being the wrong side of the globe means that I don’t get to take part in person which is a shame.)

The aspect of Tony Bates’ talk that particularly interests me and relates most closely to my professional practice as an Education Developer / Learning Technologist working with staff teaching campus-based courses, is hybrid or blended learning. In particular, I’ve been thinking recently about the ways in which online components are becoming more integrated into campus courses. Bates referred to flipped classes but suggested that there were more possibilitie. This overlaps with some of the things I was hearing about at ALT-C last week (and blogging about in terms of  face-to-face using online tech and campus courses learning from online ones).

How might my own teaching be, or become, hybrid?

This brings me to reflect on the nature of my own teaching, which is not straightforward:

  • I run some face-to-face workshops for staff in which I try to take a student-centred approach and tailor the content to the learners’ needs. Although classroom based, these sessions are supported with online resources.
  • Far more of my work has been in one-to-one situations with staff taking a professional development course. This involved regular meetings, discussions, observations of their teaching, lots of informal feedback and ultimately assessment of their portfolios.
  • I also produce materials for a website, blog and paper newsletter and collect and curate a lot of resources that I hope lead to informal learning.

This all sounds pretty hybrid, right? But just because my practice is spread across a range of activities doesn’t mean that the learners I work with are experiencing hybrid learning.

Some clear examples of hybrid/blended learning innovations I’ve been involved in would be the use of online quizzes to provide feedback to students on a campus-based course, or the use of Student Response clickers to increase engagement in a large lecture classes. These are the sorts of innovations people like me support and disseminate, but the techniques rarely translate well to the sorts of teaching that we do ourselves, where numbers tend to be smaller and workshops are one-offs rather than part of sustained modules.

I have to reflect, then, how appropriate this MOOC is for me. I want to learn about teaching online because colleagues will increasingly need to think about how to do that, and will want advice and guidance, but I get very little opportunity to put that learning into practice myself. 

Am I already teaching online, albeit in an informal way?

I think that the answer has to be ‘no’. There may be some informal learning resulting from my activity, but can there be informal teaching? In the absence of ‘appropriate learning goals’ and designed ‘course structure and learning activities’ I don’t think that I can claim to be ‘teaching online’ as such. I do try to ‘communicate’ as much as possible and in as many ways as I can, but the possibilities for evaluation are limited so innovation is generally born out of curiosity.

I have written elsewhere about my efforts in Curating and Communicating as possible ‘e-routes to disseminating and sharing good practice among teaching staff’ but although these are intended to stimulate learning and in particular the sort of networked learning that we are experiencing in this MOOC they do not feel like ‘teaching’.

Would the things that I teach formally work online?

That is an interesting question. Many of the workshops I run are introducing staff to using learning technologies and trying to do that online would probably be unhelpful. Face to face and hand to hand interaction is really important when grappling with new equipment or software for the first time. Other teaching and learning topics could potentially be addressed through online modules, but feedback on staff development workshops over the years has consistently shown that the opportunity to meet other members of staff and share experiences has been one of the most valued aspects of the sessions. It seems unlikely that the same level of sharing and peer support could be achieved in an online context unless the topics were tackled as part of a more substantial course where a meaningful community could be established over time. 

So, is my teaching now, or could it become, hybrid or blended?

  • To the extent that the face-to-face workshops I run are supported with online resources they are minimally hybrid/blended.
  • The wealth of online and networked resources I curate and communicate to colleagues provide opportunities for them to get involved in informal online learning alongside / beyond any formal sessions they might attend, but these are not part of any structured hybrid/blended learning design.
  • Some topics that have been taught face-to-face could be taught online, but the benefits of this seem limited when staff are all based locally and sharing experiences with colleagues has been such a valued part of professional development workshops in the past.

But this doesn’t mean that I can’t understand hybrid pedagogy and the best ways to engage in hybrid / blended teaching so that students can get the best learning experience and outcomes. It does, however, mean that I can’t do a straightforward application of my learning on this MOOC and will have to think throughout about how the staff I work with can use the ideas that I encounter – nothing new there then 🙂

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Cross-blogging to G+

I’m having some difficulties embedding a G+ post here: This is about my 6th attempt…

Earlier failures were a post from a community, so here is one I originally posted publicly

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Blurring the boundaries of online teaching


Perry Samson of the University of Michigan gave a very lively and engaging presentation at ALT-C about LectureTools, the software he has developed with Echo360. The session was titled ‘Deconstructing the Large Lecture Environment Through Technology‘ and as Perry talked about students using mobile devices to make notes, ask and answer questions or just signal confusion, the potential of the technology to close the gap between lecturer and learner in large lecture classes was very clear.

He also talked about this suite of tools meaning that students, or even himself, did not have to be physically present in the lecture theatre – raising the possibility of distance learning.

And then it occurred to me that we can no longer really draw distinct lines between classroom/f2f  teaching and online teaching. Certainly where I work we already record lectures and in the interests of inclusivity it is standard practice to post lecture notes on the VLE in advance of teaching sessions. Every module has a VLE site so there is an online component, though the extent to which this is used varies.

The tools being demonstrated today were impressive, but mainly because they brought together things that we already do or could do, in one place: there was the ability to set questions and poll answers from students (as with response system ‘clickers’, Socrative, PollEverywhere etc.) and take questions from students (as with Textwall or Twitter). Students could make notes on the screen side by side with the slides (it looked like but was practically the same as downloading a PowerPoint and annotating it). There were a few nice additional features like the ability to put a pin on an image slide,  a ‘star’ icon to mark a particular point as important and a ‘flag’ to signal confusion (enough raised flags would elicit the lecturer’s attention). The whole thing would then be available for students to save and review later.

The fact that so much of this is familiar, albeit in fragments, made me realise just how ‘online’ even our most traditional form of teaching, the lecture, is becoming and how blurred the boundaries are.

This blog post is partly a contribution to the How to Teach Online MOOC and reflecting on this morning’s session has given me a new perspective on what it might mean to ‘teach online’ at this point in the development of UK university teaching.

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Excuses, excuses, but I’m on the right track…

I’m unexpectedly away at the ALT-C conference for a few days and also have 2 job interviews this week so it’s a rather intense time and not surprisingly my MOOC reading has suffered a bit. With only my mobile devices to hand I haven’t been able to catch up with the webinars either. I’m now sounding like your worst student aren’t I?
I have, however, been reading some blog posts in odd moments and got as far as the introductory page for this week’s reading, the nine steps to quality online learning;

1. Decide how you want to teach online.
2. Decide what kind of online course you and your students need.
3. Work in a team.
4. Build on existing resources.
5. Master the technology.
6. Set appropriate learning goals for online learning.
7. Design course structure and learning activities
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
9. Evaluate and innovate

I was struck by how closely the 9 steps mapped against a 5 step model I have been using recently to explain what I see as the appropriate way to approach the introduction of learning technology innovations. My 5-stage model originally went like this:
1. Identify the learning issue (with the teacher and taking into account the intended students, diversity etc.)
2. Work with the academic (tutor / convenor) to discuss and choose relevant available technological options bearing in mind disciplinary context, staff experience, enthusiasm etc. And plan its use.
3. Provide scaffolded support and training for staff and students leading them to learn by doing.
4. Evaluate the innovation.
5. Share / disseminate interesting outcomes and related resources to encourage others to consider trying the approach.

You can see that this matches quite well:
‘Identify the learning need’ becomes ‘decide what kind of online course you and your students need’.
‘Work with the academic’ becomes ‘work in a team’.
‘Build on existing resources’ is somewhat analogous to bringing in the disciplinary context and factoring in staff experience and enthusiasm.
‘Master the technology’ matches up to the ‘scaffolded support and training for staff and students’
This is where we diverge a little, but back at the identifying the learning need and choosing relevant TEL tools stage there would have been an explicit goal for the innovation – to resolve the learning issue. And the use of the technology would have been carefully planned as part of the discussions between learning technologist/advisor and academic.
The last two steps I would do the other way around, evaluating first then communicating.

So before I’ve even read the material I’ll feeling quite comfortable with the approach and as soon as I get the chance I’ll be launching into the materials wholeheartedly. In the meantime I look forward to reading what others have made of it all.

With not much time to catch up before next week’s email arrives in my inbox what do you suggest I look at first?

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Feedback dialogue: can campus courses learn from online?

ReflectionRola Ajjawi from the University of Dundee presented a session at the ALT Conference this morning on ‘Building new cultures of learning: using technology to promote assessment and feedback dialogue‘ and there were several points from it that I wanted to reflect on and blog about for my own learning in relation to feedback and technology but also in relation to the How to Teach Online MOOC I am currently engaged in.

I’m not going to summarise the session, but you can read more about the innovations that Rola and her colleagues introduced by following the link to the materials on the conference website above. Instead, I will focus on what for me were the things that rang bells and made connections in my mind.

The Dundee example was in the context of an online non-cohort course, but I believe that the basic principles underpinning the innovations could be applied equally effectively in traditional face-to-face or blended courses.

The two significant aspects to the changes that seemed important and powerful were:
1. restructuring the assessment regime to include more opportunities for low stakes formative feedback.
2. adding a reflective stage to turn what Rola referred to as ‘monologic feedback’ into a dialogue between student and tutor.

Each of these innovations could be expected to make a contribution to improving the effectiveness of feedback and students’ satisfaction with it. The first, by increasing the number of feedback points where students could get advice and guidance from tutors before their ‘make or break’ assessment. The second by initially pushing students to think about and articulate how they will use the feedback they receive and gradually developing their ability to self-evaluate.

I found myself wondering whether this sort of thing is easier to do in an online course. I don’t mean the technology because the way it was handled (uploading documents for marking, then using a tutor-student one-to-one wiki template for the student to respond to the feedback) could be done in a VLE associated with a face-to-face class or even by email or on paper. What I mean is that in good online courses there is an expectation that tutors will need to put in place activities like this to provide support, build learning environments and develop relationships with students whereas it is too often assumed that these things just happen automatically if tutors and students share physical space. It doesn’t.

What do you think? Do campus-based courses have some things to learn from virtual ones?

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How to Teach Online (tomooc) Aloha Discussion

8831965236_e6123bb9bc_bThis is my first post for the How to Teach Online cMOOC. This is the second time I have signed up for a connectivist MOOC, but this time I have a better idea of what to expect and so my intention is very different.

Last time I didn’t realise there were different types of MOOC so I was putting a lot of emphasis on the ‘course’ part and expecting quite a clear structure, this time I am intending to view this as an extension of my PLN. Indeed, it was through G+ that I heard of the MOOC and apart from breathing life back into this blog the rest of the requirements are things I would normally be expecting to do as part of my online professional learning.

But why am I here specifically rather than in some other cMOOC? I work in the area of education technology in Higher Education and support others in using a VLE as part of campus-based courses but would like to develop my understanding of online teaching further as HEIs look to the future of distance learning.

What issues do I think are important? That’s a big question. I’m not sure if it relates to issues in online teaching or issues in cMOOCs or both. I suppose they are related. For learning in a cMOOC the issues are going to be about finding time to read materials, create artefacts and respond to others.

For teaching online, my initial thoughts are that issues are likely to arise if trying to translate classroom practices to the online environment. It will be interesting to see how the essence of good pedagogy can be transferred to a new space in new ways.

I will be contributing on this blog, via Google plus (which is the hub of my PLN) and not so much via Twitter (@annehole) and of course commenting on others’ contributions.

I would like to see the community develop into a lively professional learning network that will continue to share resources and discuss online teaching and related topics long after the MOOC has ended. The setting up of the G+ community is a good start on this.

I will try to be a good student and participate throughout the course. I’m not too fearful of learning in the open and if I get scared I’ll just retreat a little and lurk! The technologies involved are not new to me as I’ve been using WordPress for the RUSTLEblog for a couple of years so I don’t anticipate any insurmountable setbacks. I am going away for a few days during the run of the MOOC, but expect to have good Wifi so any silence will just be down to the need to unwind!

So, there you have it. Now I can’t wait to get started.

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Curating and Communicating (part 2) The network in action.



In the first of these 2 blog posts I outlined my practice in in terms of ‘e-routes to disseminating and sharing good practice among teaching staff’. I also mapped out 4 ‘zones’, each dominated by a particular group or type of activity (as shown on the poster I presented at the SEDA conference in November 2012). In this second post I will give an example of the ‘network’ in action, and consider how the ‘traffic’ is moving between the zones in practice. I will also discuss issues of engagement and evaluation.

Disseminating information and resources …

Imagine that I attend a workshop at a SEDA conference that refers to some online resources. During the session I useHootsuite to post toTwitter and ourFacebook page, including a link to the resources I have just learned about. Later I blog about the workshop forRUSTLE and add the…

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