Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, November 05, 2009

World Congress on E-Learning - Vancouver, B.C. - October 2009

Randy Garrison and I had been invited to present a session on Blended Learning at the World Congress on E-Learning in Vancouver. A couple of months before the conference, Randy learned that he had received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Sloan-C ALN Network. His award presentation was to take place the same time as our E-Learn session. So, I travelled to the conference "solo". Since, I had been away the week previously at the ISSOTL conference, I was only able to attend E-Learn for a short period of time. I flew into Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon and then returned to Calgary on Wednesday evening. Upon arrival, I enjoyed the new Sky-Train line that runs from the airport to downtown. Not only is the cost impressive (only $3.75) but the time to destination is impressive (I didn't realize that the Sky-Train runs underground in the downtown core). Once I had checked into the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, I went for a very relaxing and enjoyable run through Stanley Park. The fall colours were past their prime but the sun was shining and the smell of the ocean was intoxicating (I tried my best to take a few photos during the run). After the run, I attended the opening reception for the conference and then had a wonderful dinner with Amanda & Jeff, Mike, Petrea, and Jennifer. It was wonderful to catch up on eLearning news from Australia, Laval, and British Columbia. Terry Anderson, from Athabasca University, was the Wednesday morning keynote and it's always interesting to listen to Terry's perspective about networks, groups, and collaborative learning technologies. My session on Blended Learning was after Terry's and I was impressed with the interest and enthusiasm of the audience. I had a number of people follow-up with me after I had finished (potentially some interesting connections and partnerships). Speaking of interesting people, I had a chance to meet with Dr.Narimane Hadj-Hamou Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University, Dubai. Narimane is in the process of establishing an eLearning Advisory Board for her instition and has asked me to be a member!!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Annual Conference - Indiana University, Bloomington - October 2009

Indiana University in Bloomington, home of the National Survey of Student Engagement, birthplace of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL), leader in the field of Instructional Systems Design, and member of the Big 10 Conference for Athletics. Finally, I got a chance to visit this institution in order to attend the 5th annual ISSOTL conference. I had contacted Curt Bonk in advance about my visit and he arranged for me to facilitate a workshop on Blended Learning for the Office of Instructional Consulting in the School of Education. I really appreciated the opportunity to have a dialogue with a number of graduate students and faculty about their own experiences and research into blended approaches to learning. In terms of the ISSOTL conference, I must admit that I over extended myself with four presentations: a panel presentation on Canadian Contexts for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, a single paper presentation on Student Engagement and Interactive Learning Technologies, another single paper on Student and Faculty Perceptions of Self, Peer, and Instructor Feedback, and finally another panel presentation on Terms of Engagement: Four Countries, Four Courses, Four Commentaries. All of these sessions were well attended and from my perspective there was a good dialogue about the research topics and issues with the audience. The only issue was that since I was presenting so often - there was minimal opportunities for me to attend other sessions. A couple of highlights for me were a session by Randy Bass and Toru Iyshi about Research-Supported Prescriptions for Developing Highly Effective Learning Groups SoTL 2.0: The Next Ten Years of Technology-Enhanced SoTL and a keynote by Richard Research-Supported Prescriptions for Developing Highly Effective Learning Groups Baraniuk about Research-Supported Prescriptions for Developing Highly Effective Learning Groups Open Access Education and the Textbook of the Future. There were lots of events taking place during our time at IU and I had a chance to attend an outdoor "Pink Concert" to raise awareness of cancer and an NBA pre-season basketball game between the Indianapolis Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. The leaves on the trees were in full autumn colours and I made sure that I took lots of photos and a full set of notes from the conference.

Jossey-Bass Online Teaching & Learning Conference - October 2009

Randy Garrison and I were asked by Jossey-Bass to be part of their annual online teaching and learning conference. The focus of our session was intended to be on our Blended Learning in Higher Education book that we had published with Jossey-Bass. I was very impressed with the assistance we received to prepare for our session. Both Jonathan Finkelstein from the Learning-Times and Susan Manning provided us with extensive feedback on how to make our session interactive. Text was minimized on all the slides and activities for the audience were designed throughout the presentation. We had several polling activities (e.g., previous experience with blended learning, future predictions about blended learning) and text entry activities (e.g., advantages and challenges of blended learning). During our session, I was impressed with how these activities engaged the audience and how they also used the chat window for further dialogue with each other. The PowerPoint slides from our session are available online as well as a recording of our workshop (unfortunately, you need a logon and password to access the recording).

Elluminate Users Conference - October 2009

The use of synchronous communication tools such as Elluminate Live! appears to be growing in K to 12 education - especially at the high school level. One of the drivers appears to be students in conventional high schools taking individual courses online in order to complete graduation requirements (e.g. certain course that is only offered once a year or will not fit into the student's existing timetable). Comments from online K to 12 teachers suggest that the synchronous sessions help to establish a sense of online community, which helps increase student motivation and responsibility leading to successful course completion (rather than withdrawal and failure). I had a chance at a recent Elluminate Users Conference to discuss the findings from the pilot study that Mike Power and I conducted on the use of Elluminate Live! to support graduate courses in education. The conference was held at the University of Calgary but I facilitated my session via Elluminate as I was also involved in a Jossey-Bass online conference. The PowerPoint slides from my session are available online and my session emphasized the use of synchronous communication tools in online graduate courses to increase student success and satisfaction, increase teaching flexibility and satisfaction for the faculty, and to potentially increase course revenues and decrease costs from an administrative perspective. I thought the session began on an interactive note by the participants describing how they are using Elluminate Live! in their own courses and programs but then I "hogged" the microphone and "talked at the audience" about our pilot study results with minimal opportunities for Q&A or discussion. From my perspective, Web-conferencing sessions require a fair bit of design and discipline by the facilitator in order to ensure that they are "two way" experiences as without visual cues with the audience - it's all too easy to become a "talking head".