SLOAN-C: Pedagogic Freedoms of a Blended Science Course

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Presenter: Gerald
Bergtrom
; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dr. Bergtrom teaches biological
science at UWM.

Dr. Bergtrom’s blended course is
cellular biology. It has around 80 students and meets once a week for
75 minutes. The other 75 minutes takes place in the online environment.

His traditional face-to-face
(F2F) course met for 150 minutes per week. Students were required to
read the text, take online quizzes, and attend lectures & exams.
Topic quizzes were worth 10% of the grade. Lecture and exams constituted
the other 90% of the grade. Assessments for online should be designed
to encourage collaboration (this is why online quizzes were worth only a
small fraction of the total grade–students would get points, but would
not get so many to skew the assessment of their knowledge due to
cheating).

Step 1 in his blended
redesign was to add more tasks for students to complete at home (text
readings, online quizzes, short papers, voice-over PowerPoints,
discussion fora, and “muddy cards”). F2F comprised debriefing of muddy
points (i.e. points on which students are confused or unclear), clicker
questions, and index card questions. Exams were also completed at
home. The final was delivered in class. The points were distributed more
evenly across all of the activities (e.g. exams were worth 50% instead
of 90%).

Step 2 in the blended redesign
had the same basic structure as Step 1, with minor changes. He added
unnarrated PowerPoint slides (at the request of the students) and did
not cover any content in class at all. All exams were taken at home.

During the redesign process, Dr.
Bergtrom learned a few things:

  • Articulate learning
    outcomes when designing a blended course.
  • Design learning
    modules to lead students to desired learning outcomes.
  • Design
    and schedule assessments to keep students on track and measure student
    performance.
  • Integrate both online and f2f parts of the course.

Students should leave his course
with: essential content (knowing the basics); critical thinking skills
(inquiry, analysis, synthesis); quantitative literacy; information
literacy; ability to communicate ideas, concepts and facts;
collaborative skills to solve problems and realize a final product;
scientific literacy; self confidence (knowing what you don’t know and
understanding how to change that).

One of the biggest challenges in
science is how to deliver substantial content (hundreds, maybe over a
thousand pages). It is also important to inform students and help them
engage in critical thinking over the content. You also need to be able
to assess critical thinking skills.

Strategies that leave no one
behind: Multiple learning options help student acquire basic content on
their own. Engage students to interact with content and each other. This
leads to deeper understanding of material, stronger conceptual grasp of
material, and improves their analytical and synthetic prowess. Finally,
challenging activities reach students with diverse educational and
cultural backgrounds.

Multiple learning options for
content acquisition include text readings, voice-over PPTs, unnarrated
PPTs.

Muddiest point technique lets
students bring a question to class on an index card. If no one in class
can answer the question, the instructor answers. About 10 minutes is
spent answering the question(s) at the beginning of class. These are
worth 5% of the grade. The learning objective (LO) for this exercise is
for students to ID what they don’t know.

In a blended course, clickers
engage all students, promote collaboration, and leave no one behind. Dr.
Bergtrom allows 13% of the grade to be met with clickers. LOs for
clickers include critical thinking, analytical inquiry, quantitative
literacy, and more.

Dr. Bergtrom illustrated the use
of clickers with a number of example clicker slides.

Overall, this session
demonstrated a number of pedagogic techniques for engaging students both
in and out of the classroom in a blended learning environment. Students
are expected to familiarize themselves with the course material outside
of class and then bring their questions to class for further discussion
and analysis.