Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blended Learning

I am participating in a blended course that aims at advancing instructional methods and investigating the dynamics between the participants, the reactions to the tools as well as the motivation. During the first steps of the course, the issue of incorporating blended learning in academic institutions was discussed.

The academic institution I work at provides good opportunities of teaching through innovative methods. For the past year, I have been teaching an online class to undergraduate, pre-service teachers, where the contend was on learning theories and ways to apply them in the class to improve instruction. Next year, I will be teaching the same class, but in a different format; I am planning to use blended methods, similar to the ones we briefly talked about. This would involve face-to-face, and online meetings, but through a 3D virtual world, where people can see their virtual characters and interact synchronously.

Indiana University is an institution where several instructors apply blended instructional practices, involving videoconferencing, skype meetings, 3D in-game meetings, as well as face-to-face meetings throughout a semester. I believe this is a great way of incorporating teaching practices in diverse settings, as it can facilitate learning in various ways, and in accordance to lea learners' needs. For example, when we teach our pre-service teachers about ways of incorporating technology, it is necessary to expose them to the different types of technology, so that they can experience how they work and become confident in using them later on. Our society, being technologically oriented for a while now, demands such use of technology in classes. Teachers need to be prepared to respond to such a demand.

It seems, however, that some learners do not react positively to such innovative instructional practices. Not being tech-savvy, many students enter courses hesitant about whether they can keep up with the pace, the nature and the challenges of a blended course. This is where the instructor's role becomes significant; we need to provide all kinds of support to our students and scaffold them throughout the course so that they become confident, and competent. Also, the instructor should provide a safe environment where experimentation should be promoted. I personally really like this method because I believe it provides opportunities to students to discuss their thoughts at any setting they feel comfortable.