Archives for April 2010

SLOAN CONSORTIUM Blended Learning Conference & Workshop

sloan-c.png EdTech recently had the opportunity to attend the Sloan Consortium’s (SLOAN-C) 7th Annual Blended Learning Conference & Workshop in Oak Brook, Illinois on April 19-20, 2010.

This was a great opportunity to meet other educators who are also engaged in providing blended learning opportunities to their respective campuses. Blended learning is a hybrid of face-to-face (F2F) and online learning, providing instances of both teaching modalities.

The Sloan Consortium is an “institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of education.”

Summaries and commentary on the different sessions attended by EdTech are provided in the blog entries below. Please feel free to comment on any entry that interests you. We are also willing to engage in further discussion on any of the topics below. Contact EdTech for more information.

SLOAN-C: The Promise and Practice of Blended Learning

sloan-c.png Presenter: Dr. Joel Hartman, University of Central Florida

Dr. Hartman was our opening keynote speaker for the recent Teaching and Learning Technology Conference at Missouri S&T. Now he is the plenary speaker for the SLOAN-C Blended Learning Conference & Workshop in Oak Brook, IL, just outside of Chicago.

Blended learning has been going on for centuries. Chalk technology is just one form of blended learning. Why do we think blended learning is different? The web is interactive, engaging, ubiquitous, asynchronous, rich in multimedia resources and constructivist. To this, we have added deeper institutional engagement, instructional design, faculty development, assessment, and communities of practice. The web is just one platform upon which blended learning activities are built.

How do we define blended learning? Blended learning courses combine online and classroom learning activities and resources in an optimal way to improve student learning outcomes and to address important institutional issues. In other words, blended learning is the space between fully face-to-face and fully online courses. There is a continuum between the extremes, within which blended learning fits.

It has the potential to impact any and every student, any and every instructor. It is both outward and inward facing. It also involves student-centered technologies which requires an institutional approach in order to apply the techniques effectively for maximum benefit to the students. Blended learning can also improve the efficiency of classroom space. However, it is sometimes not possible to recapture the classroom space for other classes. Final exam times may also conflict the classroom utilization.

One way of blending is to divide a large class into smaller groups so that only a small subset of students meet face to face at any one time. Online activities provide the additional resources to meet the needs of the larger group. This can also go in reverse where several small groups may be combined into one large blended course.

Blended courses may meet online and face-to-face for specific course content. They may meet F2F early in term, moving to online later in semester (or vice versa).

Blended programs need to address the fact the some courses (e.g. labs) are difficult to deliver fully online.

For faculty, there are many possible benefits: Blended is a first step into online learning. It is an opportunity for meaningful faculty development to dive deeper into pedagogy. Many students are somewhat ambivalent about technology in classroom because it is often not used well by instructors. Faculty can develop information literacy skills for themselves and for the students. Blended can offer “the best of both worlds” for faculty and students.

Blended and online provide an environment of pedagogical diversity and experimentation. It is a platform for integrating other technologies (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). There are often more assessment options (though this does bring some significant challenges as well). Students have an environment for constructivist learning where they can build their own knowledge (with guidance). Blended impacts teaching practices both in and out of classroom.

New pedagogical approaches — from active faculty to active students; from transferring knowledge to creating knowledge; from learning as an individual activity to learning as a collaborative activity

Student expectations don’t align well with traditional F2F teaching. Blended gives students a good match for the NetGen expectations with visual, exploratory, participatory activities. Students can succeed very well in these environments.

Students also appreciate convenience and flexibilty of online/blended learning. It can reduse time to degree and increase their information literacy.

Ten keys to success — Institutional strategy; systemic approach; faculty development; course design and development support; online student support; online academic services; robust and reliant infrastructure; effective organizational model; pro-active policy development; data collection and assessment.

Sloan-C pillars — Access; learning effectiveness; student satisfaction; faculty satisfaction; cost effectiveness

Access — Blended increases convenience and flexibility for students. It reduces the disruptions in students’ lives. Blended learning reduces opportunity costs for student learning. At UCF, face-to-face enrollments are shrinking, while online/blended enrollments are growing rapidly. 19% of students are in online/blended courses.

How is student success measured? Grades divided into two groups — success (A, B, C) and not success (lower than C). At UCF, blended shows a slightly higher success rate than fully online.

According to Department of Education online is moderately more effective than traditional F2F. Blended is not necessarily more effective by itself, but the combination of tools that are employed has the most positive effect on students. In other words, what you do with the technology is more important than the technology itself.

Students really like blended learning. They like the improved interaction between students/instructors. They appreciate reduction in interruptions in their lives. They like the increased response times, better feedback.They feel performance is more fairly assessed and they like having more opportunities for collaboration. Anytime/anywhere communication with peers and instructors. More individual empowerment. Increased freedom to manage their own learning environments.

Students rate 48.9% of blended courses as “Excellent”.

Faculty satisfaction is more of a campus/cultural issue instead of a blended/online learning issue. Faculty rate structure and time of blended learning as a net positive. They like the convenience of delivering a blended course. More F2F tends to give more satisfaction than blended, but even blended only yields 12% dissatisfied overall. The quality and amount of interaction seem to be the driving factors of faculty satisfaction with blended courses.

The keys to faculty satisfaction include operating within the faculty culture; recognition and reward for blended teaching; incentives and support; and don’t put careers at risk.

Cost effectiveness — producing optimum results for expenditure (ROI). Blended learning will have a financial impact on an institution in both direct and indirect costs. “Making money” is NOT a good reason for engaging in blended learning — create the environment first; revenues will come with delivering a great product (just like it works in the real world). Successful implementation will make blended learning sustainable over the long term. UCF has a 16.6:1 ROI based on their own experiences in creating a blended learning environment over the past ten years.

There is declining state support (in all states). There are fewer funds for new construction, but there is increased student demand for teaching. Tuition and fees are also going up. Therefore, blended learning may be the only hope for many institutions.

To sum up — Access and cost-effectiveness are the easiest to accomplish. Faculty/student satisfaction and learning effectiveness are the more difficult pillars to achieve.

SLOAN-C: Faculty Development for Blended Learning

sloan-c.png Lead Presenter: Tova Duby; Babson College

Babson is a small private college in Wellsley, MA. Babson has been working on blended learning for the past 10 years.

Babson offered its firts blended course back in 2001. Faculty would not have stood a fully online course, so a blended course was the best compromise. Especially at a small college (2000 students) that values the personal touch. At first, Babson started partnering with private companies. But they were “in it for the money”, which, according to Dr. Joel Hartman is not the way to begin a blended learning program. Babson bled money for some time before they finally found a partnership that worked (Intel).

In 2006 they started an Innovation in Blended Learning Faculty Fellows Program. So far 50 faculty fellows have completed the program. There are currently 60+ faculty fellows. These are qualified to design and deliver online education.

Phase 1 of developing blended courses is to find faculty pioneers. Faculty don’t like to be told what to do by external contractors, so it is important to find faculty on campus who are really keen on doing blended learning on their own. This is true on our campus just as it was at Babson college. In other words, it is important to build the on-campus relationships with faculty who are already doing what needs to be done. Then the campus can begin structuring solutions that leverage the work of the pioneering faculty and expand the resources to support both those faculty and the faculty “fast followers”.

Phase 2 is to encourage “faculty fast followers” to adopt some of the tools and techniques the faculty pioneers have developed. This is where a group like EdTech can really help by putting the fast followers in touch with the pioneers. We can also provide guidance and resources to implement blended learning strategies. EdTech and CERTI working together can highlight new technologies for the fast followers and spread the word amongst the faculty on what tools work (and which don’t).

Phase 3 is the full campus-wide implementation on blended learning with full institutional support from all administrative offices on campus (Registrar, Vice Provosts, Provost, Chancellor, etc.). The eLearning Initiative sponsored by UM-System is laying the groundwork to go from Phase 2 into Phase 3.

Key components of program design include faculty (students/designers/teachers); one-on-one consultations; debriefings & revisions; regular programs offered; and flexibility of options. EdTech is currently working to improve the level of support available for each of these components. The blended course this blog shows up in is a perfect example as this is an area where the community of practice for blended learning can share ideas.

Faculty should play different roles within a blended learning development program. First they should be a student, learning what blended learning means and the different tools that are available. This is, in fact, then purpose of the CyberEd course in Blackboard. Then they progress to the design stage where they begin to apply everything they have learned for one or more of their courses. Finally, they get to teach the course they created. As with anything newly created, this can be a period of trial and error. However, EdTech and CERTI can offer support and resources to ensure success with their course.

One-on-one support with both technologists and instructional designers is important for success. EdTech is currently in the process of hiring for these positions within our group. The designers supports the pedagogy used in a blended course while the technologist provides more technical support for the tools used to enhance the blended course.

Throughout the process, the instructor needs to go through constant debriefing and revision of their course so it turns out as expected.

A formal program should be structured to take into account the needs of the campus community. In our case, we are trying to structure the program so that the faculty use one semester to go through the training process and then the next semester is used to teach the course they created. As we move forward, we will adjust as needed to account for the needs of our faculty.

Babson’s program was successful. They eased faculty through the transition to online/blended learning. New faculty hires participated in the program. They found a dedicated group of adjunct faculty. They established connections between learning technologists and faculty. They also created and used more self-learning modules online.

Babson had to meet several challenges, some of which are ongoing. Their program is not totally embedded in the faculty review system. It is a stand alone program, not tied to any other faculty development program. One of the reasons EdTech works so closely with CERTI is to give faculty a good path forward in professional development. As always, limited resources are a major challenge to meet all of the increased demands. As more faculty become interested, the demands will continue to increase, while the resources may decrease. Their program is also only focused on their fast-track MBA program and they don’t have as much support for other programs. However, their success in one program demonstrates that their is significant potential for other programs. Finally, it is difficult to disseminate new techniques. EdTech and CERTI use our faculty learning communities to address this challenge.

Babson’s next steps include going global, establishing quality control assurances, and more network development & faculty mentoring.

SLOAN-C: Lessons Learned from Developing and Evaluating Online or Hybrid Courses for Resident Instruction

sloan-c.png Presenters: Suzanne Weinstein with Karen Pollack (Penn State University)

Blended Initiative at Penn State was a Provost-funded initiative that targeted dual-use courses.  Chose to focus on courses that were high-enrollment and considered general education and would be needed at all campus locations.  They also focused on courses that had a high failure rate, math and science. Chose faculty based on exemplorary performance.

Project managed with 2 Instructional Designers and 2 Multimedia Technicians. Began with 7 courses and added 4 more courses in 2007/2008.

According to instructors: “Students may have difficulty managing assignments.” “When developing a hybrid course, budget a lot of time for developing the course.” “Students need to take more responsibility for themselves.”

Students say: Taking this class in a hybrid environment allowed me to improve my time managment skills and prepare for class and particularly get assignments done on time.

Lessons Learned

  • Find the right champions – The willing vs. “you will”
  • Need for clear labeling – “and web” – It is important that students understand what type of course they are signing up for.  It helps students be more successful as they can find the courses that fit the way they learn.
  • Need flexible classroom scheduling
  • Importance of technology support – It is also important to have Instructional Design by qualified instructional designer.  The second challenge is to have faculty use the instructional designers effectively and commit to truly transforming their courses.
  • The paradox of the humanities and social sciences
  • Effective use of face-time – Know your audience – Moved lowerer level learning outside of class and used quizzes to validate the learning.  Class time was spent actually analyzing and using what students were required to do outside of class to build and use higher level learning.  Students were actively engaged and “covering” material in a smaller amount of face-to-face time (faculty experience).
  • Balancing structure with flexibility
  • Scalable content-sharing – the LMS can’t serve as the content repository system.  It is important to have a content repository that faculty can browse easily and find the resources that they need as they are creating their own courses.
  • Document expectations for sharing
  • Faculty were more interested in deriving new works.

http://weblearning.psu.edu

SLOAN-C: Creating a Digital Guide for Blended and Online Teaching and Learning

sloan-c.png Lead Presenter: Sarah Brittain Dysart; Loyola University-Chicago

From concept to process to product (almost).

Sarah’s group focuses on the pedagogy behind blended/online learning. Loyola is a Blackboard institution and they have a very nice building from which to conduct their operations. They have a media lab for multimedia content creation. They work with academic technology services at their campus, which does the actual hands-on training for faculty.

First version of the guide was very technology and tool based. Through an informal needs analysis they decided they needed a document that was much more pedagogy focused. It was also difficult to schedule workshops with strong faculty attendance. They developed a few learning modules with voice-over PowerPoints (similar to Camtasia).

After attending a project management course, they decided to use a PM technique to revise the entire guide. They wanted to create an online, on-demand learning guide for faculty to help them prepare for teaching online. Each tool or technique would have a detailed explanation with pros/cons of employing the tool. The guide also had to function within the current technology infrastructure of the university. Topics, tools, and techniques had to be based on faculty needs and based on established quality standards for online courses. The living guide would be updated on an annual basis.

Loyola created an initial outline of what they thought should be in the guide. They asked how each tool would be used in a pedagogical manner. They also identified all of the stakeholders, which includes not only faculty, but also the web designers who would be responsible for maintaining parts of the guide.

At the stakeholders meeting, Sarah’s group showed a list of topics and asked the stakeholders which ones were most important. Course setup considerations and communication among students were topics that were actually at the bottom of the list instead of at the top. Most important was to answer the question, “Why teach online?”

Meeting the deadline for the project was difficult. They used some PM techniques to keep them on track. They assigned tasks according to the different needs. They also used a Gannt chart for organizing the project. Frequent meetings also helped keep the participants on track. However, it is important not to have too many meetings or no work will get done.

Remembering that the document is a “living resource” helped them keep on task because they knew they could revise the document later.

Their content management system limited them to how well they could organize content. They only had four categories available and they had to be alphabetized.

Once they had something in place, they had a meeting to get some formative feedback from stakeholders. They ended up using Google Sites for this resource. Sarah’s group also gave a survey on how easy it was to use with the Google Sites implementation.

They will continue developing the content over the Summer.

So far, the first three sections are fleshed out. Since Loyola is a Bb campus, the faculty are used to the same navigation in Bb as they used for developing the resource in Google Sites. They originally developed the content inside a Bb course and then mapped the site over into Google Sites.

Some of the content was created by other campus resources, and were simply linked to from inside Loyola’s online guide. This minimizes the amount of work needed to create the full guide.

Online guides should use techniques that reflect the practices that online students will be engaging in. Link to existing “how to” pages (e.g. edtech.mst.edu). Link to external resources. Build flash modules or Camtasia videos that highlight important areas. Incorporate written feedback into the guide. And of course, review and update content regularly.

The project has had a huge impact on the campus. First of all, they’ve raised awareness of Google Sites on campus. Similar to our campus, they didn’t know who set up the Google Sites for their campus. We now have an official Google Sites presence, so we could certainly use this same resource for our online presence in certain areas.

The assessment measure they used for this project has demonstrated how important it is to assess a project before it begins. You need to make sure the end product will really meet the users’ needs.

They have also developed a heightened awareness of how faculty want to use learning technologies. Previously, much of the content was developed based on how the group perceived technology was being used, not how it was actually used.

http://sites.google.com/site/luctwtguide 

SLOAN-C: Faculty Development for Blended and Online Learning — How Grad Students can Teach while they Learn

sloan-c.png Lead Presenter: Jack Dempsey; University of South Alabama

Graduate students working for Jack have done a lot of faculty development for his university. Jack is a professor of instructional design for his university. Students can gain highly marketable skills by developing materials for faculty. They also learn everything that the faculty need to know in order to successfully teach online.

South Alabama went from 8 to 200 fully online courses over the past 10 years.

In the beginning they looked at different roles that a faculty member would take — i.e. someone who is simply adapting a course v. someone who is developing a course from scratch. Ad-hoc committees were used to establish pedagogical goals for faculty. Most online faculty were really anxious. They were working in an online medium that they never expected, never taught in before, and never experienced as a learner.

Jack’s staff consists of graduate students. When they graduate from college, they typically get well-paid full-time positions based in part due to their knowledge and experience in teaching online.

While in class, the workers are students. While in the office (OLL), they are staff. Director (Jack) provides guidance, not procedure. Purposeful, mission-oriented self-sufficiency is how they operate. Students are responsible when things don’t work out well. They are also expected to pay attention to details, show up for work as scheduled. Deliverables should be on time, instructionally sound, and professional produced. They should also engage respectfully with faculty, each other, and staff.

Personal and creative effort needs to increase with improved competency. There are no plateaus for lifelong learners. Learning and teaching is socal–it’s our job to help each other learn. Due to the turnover in students, we want them to move on over time. Experienced OLL staff should be continuously training other staff.

Staff competency rated using a performance quality system. Staff members self-rate capability 0-3 on many competencies.

They use several models for training staff competencies – peer tutoring, self-training, cross-training (peer tutoring over time), hands-on training.

Jack’s staff also help faculty find the right balance between pedagogy and technology.

Faculty development methods include group training, online/onsite support, and individual consultation. This is pretty typical and EdTech also uses each of these methods on our campus.

Faculty members are very empathetic towards Jack’s group and tend to treat them as colleagues (in training, since they are graduate students who may join the ranks of faculty at some point). Overall, working with OLL is a very positive experience for both the faculty and the students.

SLOAN-C: Social Networking: Distraction or a Teacher’s Best Weapon?

sloan-c.png Presenters: Carolyn Kraut with Michael Edwards

How can social networking tools be used with students to enhance learning?  The presentation can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/teachersbestweapon/. (The presenters are using prezi.com for the presentation and it is a really cool way of mixing up presentations.)

Do you ban social media in your school or classroom?  For several attendees there is a fear on their campuses instead of a ban. Yet social networking is exploding right now. It can be surprising that currently only about 50% of tweets aren’t useful. The average person spends about an hour a day on Facebook.

There are three main types of communication that is needed to build and sustain elearning communities: content, planning and social.  It can be both asynchronous or real-time.

Students can feel isolated if all communication is only asynchronous.  Social networking can build a bridge with students to help them build connections between faculty-student, student-student, and student-to-institution.

One activity is to have students begin following a professional in their field and summarizing for the class in order to utilize the social network to extend the boundaries.

Twtpoll.com is a way to do online polling in a course.

Twitter and Facebook is a great way to get task schedules or activities out to students.  The ability to connect with students in a way that gives them information outside the LMS when they need it.

Screenr allows you to take a video of your course to show a process, do an introduction or give a tour of Blackboard.  As soon as you are done capturing your screen you can send the link through Twitter or post in a discussion board.  It is not Flash based so it can be viewed on a phone.

How do we keep personal and professional separate?  Edmodo is one option for this.  It is like Facebook but more closed because it doesn’t worry about the friend thing.  It is incredibly easy to make a group that students can be part of with out the worry of adds or “friend” bothering.

SLOAN-C: Quality Matters: An Overview

sloan-c.png

UPDATE: Quality Matters was one of several presentations at this webinar series provided courtesy of Sloan-C. Although Quality Matters has worked with Sloan-C in the past, it is a separate organization and not actually a part of Sloan-C. Quality Matters has asked us to clarify this point. Now back to the regularly scheduled post about Quality Matters:

Quality Matters is a set of standards for online and blended courses.  It is a peer-to-peer process for reviewing courses and sharing know how.  It can be used for faculty and staff development.  But it is ultimately about assuring quality online learning opportunities for students.

The value of adopting Quality Matters is to improve online and blended course quality.  It helps to stimulate a campus dialog among faculty and instructional development staff on best practices in online instruction.  Quality Matters can help build a campus culture dedicated to the continuous improvement of online learning at the institutional level.  It becomes integrated into the culture that drives quality instruction on the campus.  It is also a mechanism to share with the community of learners that the institution cares about delivering quality courses in online and blended formats.

There are 8 general areas in the Quality Matters Rubric.

  1. The Course Overview and Introduction -What do students first see when they log in to the course?
  2. Learning Objectives (Competencies) – Measurable that forms the structure of the course
  3. Assessment and Measurement – What tools are you using to measure student learning?
  4. Resources and Materials
  5. Learner Engagement – The more the students are engaged, the better they do in the online environment.
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility

40 Specific Standards with extensive annotation can be found under the 8 general areas. Each standard has a point associated with it which helps to evaluate or score a course to determine where it fits on this rubric.  72 is considered to be a necessary for a quality course.

  • 17 Essential – all of these standards have to be met to be a quality course
  • 11 Very Important Standards
  • 12 Important Standards

There should ultimately be a course plan in order to map out the online components and face-to-face components to ensure that both are “mutually reinforcing”. This course plan should be clear and easy for students to understand and follow.

Courses don’t have to be perfect but Quality Matters aims at better than just “good enough”.  The Quality Matters toolset is based on national standards of best practice, the research literature and instructional design principles that are designed to promote student learning. The goal is to encourage the continuous improvement based on quality standards.

Quality Matters wants to encourage a continuous cycle of improvement.  It doesn’t want anyone to think of a course, once developed, as being in the can.  A course should face review and tweaking each semester.

SLOAN-C: Using Collaborative Learning Techniques in Blended Courses

sloan-c.png Presenters: Matthew Russell & Gerald Bergtrom; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This is a clicker-enabled presentation using an older generation of TurningPoint’s clickers. Matt has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and Gerry is a professor of Biology at UWM.

Collaborative learning (CL) is about students working together, whether on the content of the course on reflecting on it or through carefully constructed activities. CL activities seek to do the following: increase students’ ability to analyze concepts; allow students to practice critical thinking and collaborative skills; promote synthesis of new knowldege by getting students to work together with instructors and fellow students.

Research tends to broadly support pedagogic value of collaboration techniques. Collaboration also supports accommodation of dfferent learning styles (both traditional and non-traditional).

CL prioritizes active learning instead of lecture and discussion model. Leads to better reasoning skills.

CL is active learning. It fosters better communication and contact between participants (students & instructors). Students develop learning networks with emphasis on group and individual accountability.

CL is the best tool for integrating benefits of both online and face-to-face learning in a blended environment.

To construct collaborative assignments, you should develop outcome-oriented exercises. Decide on a learning goal (what students should be able to do) after going through the module. Decide how students will work together to meet the goal. Decide on a rubric to assess whether students achieve the learning goal.

Classroom assessment techniques (CATs), clickers, discussions, and dropbox are all tools that can be employed for collaboration. CATs are short assignments that provide feedback about student learning (e.g. one-minute points; ‘muddiest point’; summarize/paraphrase). CATs are designed for small groups, useful in face-to-face but also in blended courses. Group discusses a case study, problem, or provacative point.

Gerry gave us an exercise where we defended or disputed a statement in small groups. We then had to turn in our index cards with our statement (and signature). The responses collected stimulated commentary and discussion on the topic in question (in this case, whether or not driftwood is art). Questions can be derived from content that has been delivered online. Another example of an index card question relevant to Dr. Bergtrom’s biology course is, “What is life?”

Clickers facilitate active and collaborative learning. Clickers can assess preparation, help students engage in the content, practice critical thinking, assess instruction, provide constructive feedback, and increase attendance.

We went through several clicker slides to demonstrate how they work. Of course, we are quite familiar with clickers on our campus. Gerry described how slicing data can be used for more refined analysis of clicker responses (e.g. demographic information can be tied to clicker responses to show how different groups of people answer a question).

This session didn’t provide me with a great deal of information I didn’t already know, since we spent a lot of time talking about clickers. However, it did validate everything that we have been doing on our campus to introduce collaborative learning techniquest to our faculty. Both Dr. Bergtrom and Dr. Russell have been using these techniques in their diverse courses (biology and comparative literature, respectively) with great success.

SLOAN-C: Organizing a Blended Course via a Class Guide

sloan-c.png Presenter: Ike Shibley; Pennsylvania State University

Dr. Shibley (and Penn State) uses class guides in his blended courses to add a level of additional organization to how each of the classes is run.

A class guide is a simple document that describes how the content in a blended course is organized. Students are expected to click through the class guides before they start class. Dr. Shibley showed class guides in a PowerPoint/PDF slide format and in a web-based format. They typically fall into three basic types:

  • Daily — This is the most detailed and most restrictive format. Each daily guide lays out exactly what the learning outcomes for that day’s lesson are. It also specifies the assessments for measuring that lesson’s learning outcomes. Dr. Shibley showed us an example of the daily guides used for Penn State’s Chem 1 class (comparable to our own Chem 1). According to him, it took 7 faculty around 1000 hours to compile the class guides. However, the advantage of using the guides was in the fact that all of the faculty for his department were on the same page when teaching the content.
  • Weekly — This is still fairly detailed, but less restrictive than the daily guide. It is a broader approach for handling content, laying out each of the desired learning outcomes on a weekly basis. Many class syllabi include components of the weekly guide by establishing what content will be learned that week, but they generally don’t include the desired learning outcomes.
  • Topical — A topical class guide will detail all of the expected learning outcomes for a topic for a a course, even if that topic may span chapters or units. As long as the content is related to a particular topic, it can be included. This is the most flexible type of class guide, but it may be confusing to the student if it doesn’t mesh well with other content for the course, such as their text book.

All of the types of class guides have several features in common. They all contain learning goals for the content and content is divided into activities that create opportunities for students to learn before, during, and after class.

When creating learning goals, it is important to use active verbs. This stresses what students will be doing while learning, instead of providing a vague general statement of what is to be learned. For instance, a learning goal for an introductory physics course might be: “Calculate [note active verb] work done by frictional forces”. Learning goals should also help you assess the learning that takes place. The more specific the language, the more effective the goal.

Content should be divided up so that students have opportunities to learn before class begins, while in class, and after class ends. Before class starts, you can use on-line resources to engage students in lower-level learning and prepare them for the classroom discussion. If you choose to grade the before-class activities, use low-stakes grading. Once class starts, you can use more traditional face-to-face and collaborative learning activities to provide further learning opportunities. After class ends, it is possible to continue the learning process through additional online and collaborative resources, with assessment vehicles (quizzes and tests).

When assessing student learning, it is (as always), up to you how to allocate points. Dr. Shibley recommends using low-stakes assessments for before-class activities, high-stakes grading for in-class activities, and mid-stakes grading for after class. But also remember that not everything needs to be graded (as long as students feel that they are being fairly assessed on their performance).

Dr. Shibley’s key factors to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Grading — use a combination of high-, mid-, and low-stakes assessments
  • Communication — takes place both in and out of class
  • Group work — use technology to minimize student meeting outside of class
  • Textbook — if you use one, find ways to make it useful to your students
  • Plagiarism/Cheating — try to find ways to encourage students to do the work

Anyone interested in seeing for themselves what Dr. Shibley and Penn State have accomplished with class guides is invited to contact Dr. Shibley. He said he could give access to people as a “friend of Penn State” account or something so that interested people could see their class guides.