Chapter 5 nicely wraps up the BlendKit 2014 course with a discussion of quality assurance in blended learning. This one was particularly relevant because it talked about the institutional motivations and standards for online and blended learning, as well as evaluating teaching effectiveness. Here at OWU I am the primary advocate for blended learning and for teaching how and why to do it. I’ve also proposed for some time that effective use of technology (whether online like Blackboard or in the classroom like projectors) be incorporated into the peer review process, which has had a long standing here despite modest participation. Such campaign-like activity has slowly but surely gained traction, partly through attrition and the hiring of new, younger faculty.
“How will you know whether your teaching of the course was effective once it has concluded?” This is a fascinating question because students are active learners, and I feel it’s just as valid to ask, “How will you know if your students succeeded despite poor quality teaching?” I could stand to learn more about assessment of educational programs, models, and techniques, and this week’s reading was helpful in this regard.
One recommendation that was repeated a few times was to speak to a trusted colleague or two to discuss effective teaching of blended learning courses. Building on that, research has shown that “high quality faculty development is the cornerstone of effective blended programs” and “meaningful dialogue with other faculty about the teaching/learning process is the most effective form of faculty development.” I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being disappointed when the position of Faculty Development Coordinator was not refilled here a couple years ago. A lot of what I do is faculty development. We are a learning community.
The reading stressed that existing course standards and course review forms are likely going to be an awkward fit for blended learning courses. Taking last week’s lesson into account, how indeed do we measure the effectiveness of the integration, the blended relationship between online and face-to-face modalities? It seems that qualitative, descriptive, stories must be used. Our instructor, Kelvin Thompson, wrote his dissertation on the topic.
I question the wisdom of holding up innovation as something excellent in and of itself. Perhaps it’s the Persig fan in me (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turned 40 years old last month) that’s quibbling, but innovation–like technology–should be a means to an end and not an end in itself. There have been many, many innovative ideas in the past that have fallen by the wayside because they weren’t as effective as something else. In other words, we don’t innovate just for the sake of innovation (or use technology just for the sake of technology,) we innovate to be better teachers and to help our students be better learners.
And, finally, I noted that online learning has been around for at least two decades. In other words, it’s fairly well established, with its own standards and assessments. There were many good tools linked in the reading to help understand that.