Online learning and face-to-face (F2F) instruction are regularly compared. If we accept the fact that online and F2F learning are like apples and oranges than we can stop comparing things that are obviously different. We, as future instructors, will not be gaining any useful perspective by cheering on either of the above learning methods. Let’s take a step to the next level and learn about how we can, as future instructors, blend online and F2F learning on our own field. Blended learning has became an expected part of education already.
I have gained new insights in terms of the variety of roles that adult educators play in blended or hybrid course delivery. The instructor needs to realize the importance of instructional design. Online courses need strong coherent structures. There are a lot of elements to a successful blended learning class. First and foremost, you need a faculty member who is able to teach the course. As an instructor you need a clear instructional design that integrates both online and F2F aspects of the course. Online teachers must have the capability to transmit their presence and create a sense of community without physically being there. Keeping written communication (i.e.: email) professional in online environments is just as important as oral F2F communication. In blended or hybrid delivery of courses instructors also can use a strategy called “the flipped classroom” in which delivery of the informational content occurs outside of class instead of during F2F lecture. With this concept the instructor can free up F2F time for interactive activities. An interesting way of thinking about blended teaching is to think about vertical and horizontal dimensions. The vertical dimension includes all of the elements that go into the construction of a course. This includes how the faculty are prepared, how the courses are designed and what supports are available for design as the course is constructed. The horizontal dimension is populated with all of the institutional systems that go into supporting students in their studies. There are colleges and universities where a wide range of different levels of blended courses are available. Some courses are predominately online with only occasional F2F meetings. Some courses have regular F2F meeting with supplemental online elements.
What are some trends in your field (related to your topic)? How are you preparing to address these trends?
In my field as a Nursing Unit Assistant (NUA) our day to day roles are the same as they were 5 years ago. The delivery of our services however has changed over time. Today in our hospital all laboratory and diagnostic imaging investigations are ordered online. Communicating with food services and maintenance is also all online. In fact, sometimes if we give a phone call to the above services, as we did in the olden days, communication becomes confusing. New policies that we need to adapt to, safe to say, are coming out every week and mostly in an online format. It is a new trend that our manager communicates with us via group emails. It is an efficient and definitely a time friendly way to communicate. I cannot recall the last time I received a F2F inservice at work. Conference calls are very common as well. The newest trend is a video call when family doctors with their patients make a call to our specialists. This in addition, to our daily tasks, is another new tool we as NUA’s had to adapt to. It is a budget friendly way to receive quality medical care. In my case, the most important trend that I have learned to love is the use of different websites. These websites help to find the most efficient way to correctly spell medications. As a future instructor I have plans to address these trends. The first thing I would like to address as a NUA instructor is to keep close contact with my field. This way I will be able to learn about new policies and incorporate all changes to keep the online program current. Conference calls with my learners can be used as a great teaching tool to learn professional workplace communication. Professionally written communication skills are also critical in our field. One way to address this issue is by incorporating regular email communications between students and faculty after studying online rules. The most important thing I would like to hand over to my students is to learn how to find, create, and use great resources. It will take a lot of research, but it turn out to be useful in any workplace.
The most challenging part of the Trends and Roles Blog assignment, beside the fact that I had to create a blog, was the anticipation of the Skype conversation with my learning partner. I still am very surprised by how quickly our conversation became natural. Like old friends catching up in a coffee shop. My learning partner and I created our little support group very quickly. We listened to what the other had to say, asked questions and used non-verbal communication. In my experience it is safe to say that Skype meetings enhance distance learning, and because of that I hope to use them in my future career.
My learning partner had lot of great information to share, but there is one thing that I learned. I learned that the role of adult educators changed from being the “sage on the stage” to being more facilitative. Adult educators should be ready to create and maintain a more learner- centered teaching environment. In addition they must be prepared to guide their students to have an active role in their own education.