Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Week One - EDER679.20 Blended Learning Course

Randy and I just finished the first full week of the EDER679.20 Blended Learning course and I thought I would take a moment to make a few reflections.

I think the first class went relatively well as from my perspective the students were provided a fairly detailed overview of the course while at the same time having an opportunity to engage in discussion with their peers. Great start to creating a sense of "open communication" within our community of inquiry. One of the central activities for the class was to have the students discuss the course outline & schedule in small groups, identify key questions & issues and then report back to the entire group. I must admit that I was surprised at the nature of the questions such as the defining critical thinking in higher education and the nature of blended learning in various educational environments (i.e., K to 12, higher education and the workplace). While I appreciated these questions, next time we offer this course we'll need to get the students to focus on more "logistical" questions.

I was VERY impressed with the student input for the second class which was focused on the community of inquiry (CoI) framework. We began with an open discussion of the three course assignments - which lasted for almost 75 minutes as everyone had clarifying questions. Originally, we had planned to just lecture on the CoI framework with the aid of PowerPoint slides and some audience Q& A but we modified this format based on a suggestion from one of the students. We provided an overview of the framework and then the students divided up into four groups based on the CoI framework article that they had selected to critique. Randy also had a great jigsaw idea for the next iteration of this course. First, get the students into their article critique groups. Then pull one member from each of theses groups (social, cognitive and teaching presence) into a "master" cohort - which is then responsible for putting together a brief summary of the CoI framework.

The focus of our third session was a "hands on" orientation to the Elluminate Live! synchronous communication system. The majority of the class was new to this system and came to our computer lab for the orientation while several experienced users logged in from their home computers (the importance of choice in education). It took me awhile to get everyone logged onto the system but in the end we had 100% participation!! The first part of the orientation was spent in Q&A mode about the course assignments and then for the second part I put students into breakout rooms based on their interests for the course redesign project (i.e., K to 12, higher education, Math & Science, Language Instruction). I was a bit rusty with the breakout rooms (I forgot how to bring back each group's whiteboard comments - I need to chat with Joanne about this) but I was able to "visit" each of the breakout rooms and conversations sounded very engaging.

We also had Rhona Sharpe as an online guest for our "Introduction to Blended Learning" discussion. I really appreciate the thought and time that Rhona put into her discussion postings and replies. I wish I had been more active in this first discussion but I spent the long weekend in Waterton National Park with the boys.