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. 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. 

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 (The presenters are using 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. 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


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.

SLOAN-C: Blended Lab Science Courses: Combining the Best of Online and Traditional Teaching Methods

sloan-c.png Presenter: Pam Kachka with the University of Colorado-Denver

Blended courses ar ethose in which a significant portion of the learning activities have been moved online, and classroom time is reduced but not eliminated.  But how much are science courses online? It appears that there are very few online science courses.

Advantages of Traditional Labs:

  • No subsitute for hands-on lab experience
  • More technical/professional lab supplies and equipment than have at home
  • Immediate instructor help
  • Status Quo

Disadvantages of Traditional Labs:

  • Expensive to run
  • Time-consuming in the building
  • Difficult to schedule

Advantages to Online Labs:

  • Greater chance for active learning, creativity and problem solving
  • Can do activities not available in a classroom setting
  • Greater potential connections with “real-life”

Disadvantages to Online Labs:

  • Limited Instructor help
  • Hands-on activities limited due to safety, supply/equipment availability, feasibility

Advantages to Blended Labs:

  • Best of both worlds
  • Instructor guided hands-on labs, in well stocked lab

Blended learning provides the largest set of instructional methods to choose from. It increases student engagement and active learning.

However, designing a functional and successful blended course takes time. You must ensure that the online and on-ground components of the course are integrated.

Planning questions –

  1. What do you want your students to know when they are have finished taking your hybride course?
  2. What course objectives will you allocate tot he two course components?
  3. How will you divide the percentage of class time between the two components?
  4. How will you divide the course grading sch em between the two components?
  5. How will you evaluate the student workload as compared to a traditional class?
  6. What specific means will you use to assess work in each of the two components?

To begin you need to assess your current course activities.  Look at all the activities you do or require students to do.  Then look at which of those components can be put online that enhance the educational process for students. Make sure that you document which components will be online and which components will be face to face. You also need to be specific about communication around each component and how students can interact with you the instructor.  It is also a good idea to look at the tools that are included in an LMS. Those tools can help with time management and organization.

SLOAN-C: Pedagogic Freedoms of a Blended Science Course

Presenter: Gerald
; 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

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
  • 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

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.