Labyrinth – Navigating the Complexities of Online and Blended Learning

Labyrinth – Navigating the Complexities of Online and Blended Learning

Thinking of your own context, what tools for online and blended learning seem most useful/relevant and why? If you currently teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how have you/might you bring these tools into your current context, and how has your experience been impacted by the online or distance format? OR If you do NOT teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class, and how would your current context be impacted if you were to shift to an online/distance format vs. face to face?

I typically teach in a face-to-face classroom setting.

For me, the tools for online learning that seem the most useful and relevant are:

A Video Conferencing Platform
This one might be too obvious, but in order to facilitate an online class, a teacher needs a mode which they can communicate with students. This, of course, might not be necessary for asynchronous courses or those with face-to-face meeting times; however, if a student needs to meet remotely with the instructor in some capacity, a conferencing tool would still be necessary.

A Learning Management System
Having a “home base” where all learning materials can be organized is pretty essential for successfully facilitating a class, in my opinion. Even in blended classrooms, utilizing an LMS is extremely beneficial in providing opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning from any place, any time.

A Blog
Blogs can help bridge the gaps that fully online classes can create between students who are physically isolated from each other. Blogs and online discussions with frequent commenting and participation builds relationship between students which otherwise does not exist.

Free Woman in Pink Shirt Sitting by the Table While Smiling Stock Photo
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels

If I did teach in an online, remote or distance setting, I think the biggest change would be the inability to teach students how to use the tools in person first. This would mean being even more thorough and detailed in instructions via whatever learning platform we are using, or including a screencast of myself using the tool, etc. However I went about it, it would have some challenges that are more easily tackled with students face-to-face.

Reliance on the learning management system in a fully online class would increase as in-person instruction and interaction would no longer happen. The importance of communication during video conferences would also be crucial as this would be the only means of conversation and opportunity to ask questions in real-time.

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Photo by chenspec on Pixabay

Of course, utilizing only these 3 tools would be a pretty bare-bones version of an online course. There are many other tools that could take a web-designed course from good to great, including some of these:

Especially relevant for courses delivered online asynchronously, teachers don’t have the opportunity to pause videos they are showing to discuss them or ask questions. Edpuzzle gives instructors the ability to choose a video they’d like their students to watch and to add in questions at specific points, inviting learners to further engage in the material and allowing the opportunity for assessment. Lumi is another tool that provides a similar function.

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Photo by Memed_Nurrohmad on Pixabay

Assessment Tools
Since students don’t have the opportunity to physically complete assignments or do exams, an online assessment tool is helpful to gather information on student learning. As Jashandeep and Honey touched on in their presentation, some assessment tools include Kahoot, Quizizz, and Google Forms.

Engaging Activities
In an entirely online format, the ability to engage students becomes a bit tricky. You can’t set the tone of the environment because learners are all participating from their own locations, some of which might be pretty gloomy, like a downstairs windowless office room, or perhaps just at the kitchen table with other siblings running amuck, making it difficult to focus! Tools like Socrative, which incorporate game-based learning, can be especially helpful in sparking interest and enjoyment in online learners.

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Photo by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay

Reflecting on this week’s topic, I decided to reach out to my aunt, Kathy Grad. Prior to her retirement in 2022, she was a Personalized Learning Coordinator/online teacher for six years with the Sun West Distance Learning Centre (DLC), now SaskDLC (July, 2023). She worked with grade K-9 students specifically, but the DLC offers the opportunity for students to complete their Kindergarten through grade 12 education in a home-based environment, providing supports based on individual needs. I was curious about her perspective and insight on this week’s blog prompt. Here are my paraphrases of some of the (many) thoughts she (very graciously) offered:

  • Emphasis on an initial encouraging discussion about online learning is very important in setting students up for success. Being honest with students that this type of learning is different than in class learning and will require them to find their unique “learning rhythm”. Being positive, realistic and fostering a fun learning atmosphere is also important.
  • Choosing and using the right LMS can be a make or break situation. The LMS should be user and facilitator friendly, allow for needed functions (timed tests, etc.) and be properly supported by whatever device the student is using to access it.
  • In fully online contexts, there should be clear guidelines that are explained in detail by instructors as there is no physical supervision of conversations and other goings on. Acceptable norms should be established early on for forum discussions, blog posts, comments, etc. and reviewed frequently.
  • Online courses are becoming more popular and learning how to be a successful student is an essential skill to master.

As a teacher in an in-person teaching environment, I think the biggest impact for me would, perhaps selfishly, be the loss of standing in front of a room full of students who were physically there with me. I don’t believe the connection that humans can have with one another can be fully replicated through a screen (hence why pandemic lockdowns were so difficult). Undoubtedly, moving to fully online contexts of teaching and learning, for reasons that might ultimately help the student be successful, would perhaps just come at the cost of that human connection that comes from being physically together in the same space. In any case, weighing the benefits and drawbacks is key, helping choose the right path to individual student success.

2 thoughts on “Labyrinth – Navigating the Complexities of Online and Blended Learning

  1. Christina,
    The comment you made about teaching the students how to use a tech first is EXACTLY how I felt about online teaching with new tech tools. And like the title suggests, it is just a labyrinth trying to figure out if the technology is leading down the road of benefit or complications.

    Great read!

  2. Christina you have neatly put down everything. Even just by skimming I can make out what your blog is all about. And I really appreciate that quality of putting together your thoughts so effectively

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