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

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On April 23, 2010

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.

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On April 23, 2010. Posted in Blended Learning, SLOAN-C, Teaching Strategies