Linda Khatir (transcript of narration)Strategies for incorporating blended learning into an HE environmentThe title of the presentation opens up a range of questions, and I will not attempt toanswer them here, but merely offer one of them as a starting point for consideration: • How/can blended learning create a valuable student-tutor experience?Blended learning takes place already with students using Internet technology, smartphones, blogs etc., interaction between students and tutors often taking place in thesespaces as well as physically in the studio, workshop or lecture theatre, the universityexisting alongside its counterpart on the web. Students juggling study with work, family,and other commitments may find it more convenient to catch up on their studies whiletravelling, using their iPhone or other device. Online access to key texts, podcasts andother learning resources enables these students to participate and engage with theirpeers, but this engagement is dependent on digitisation of textual, visual and audioresources, as well as ease of access offsite.As well as physically, students can attend lectures and workshops virtually, discusswritten work or studio practice via webcam or Skype, and these can be recorded andmade available online to other students at another time. Documentation and subsequentcritical discussion of these events bring into play the concept of reflection-on-practice forboth student and tutor.Marking work - Written work may be sent to the tutor using email or Virtual LearningEnvironments, for example Minerva and Turnitin, then returned with suggestions forchanges or further study. These systems sometimes allow for multiple authors, whichmeans more than one tutor can participate in the review. Some systems also provide atrail of learning activity which can be viewed by others (for example heads of departmentor external examiners).Tutors and other staff may build an archive of digital resources for students, writing,photographing, filming new materials, or selecting extracts from existing sources, storingand sharing them through Dropbox or similar facilities.
Templates - When dealing with a cohort, the tutor can create standardised report forms ortemplates for each unit, containing key points for review, and generic feedback terms orcommon comments which might be adjusted depending on individual submissions.Working with assignment templates means the tutor spends less time adding generalrepetitive information and more time giving focused feedback on specific pieces of work.Rigorous Documentation of tutorials gradually builds a visual and textual record of thestudents journey, and during assessment it is especially valuable to be able to look backat works in progress as well as finished pieces. This also opens up the possibility ofmethodological research for tutors. Documentation may take the form of digital images,video and audio as well as written reports.Possible changes in tutorial approaches - experienced tutors often work instinctivelywhen face-to-face with students, responding to their reactions and adjusting the flow of theconversation accordingly, going off track and then pulling the subject back as necessary.In working more remotely tutors may find they need to produce their lessons and feedbackmore thoroughly, looking back at previous encounters in the studio, seminar or lecture,and in so doing considering how they might have been more clear, motivational,constructive or critical.Tutors used to spontaneous verbal interaction may find this textual approach adds to theirworkload in the short term, but regular documentation and reflection on their teachingpractice may help them become more student focussed, and will eventually provide avaluable resource, saving time in the long term. It may also open up new avenues forpedagogical and artistic research.Practice and theory: In creative subjects there is often a false separation between astudents practice and writing, with different tutors teaching different elements in differentoffices, different buildings and different sites. Regular documentation of both parts of thelearning experience within the same environment (for example a dedicated blog) maymean that different tutors are able to access both elements and begin to appreciate thestudents juggling of practice and theory. This might take the form of a digital researchjournal with images of the work in progress, accompanied by notes and images relating totheir research into art and artists. This can be accompanied by critical reviews,dissertation drafts etc. which can be shared with the relevant tutors, enabling them to
follow the students thought processes and engage in conversations that are more relevantand valuable, offering feedback, advice and sources for further study. In these instancesthe tutor/student and tutor/tutor relationship becomes more focused, and theteaching/learning experience holistic and transparent.Physical interaction - online discussion between the tutor and student at home orelsewhere is clearly not the same as the face-to-face tutorial, but it is a valuablesupplement, offering flexibility in terms of time and resources. Where students are unableto physically attend lectures, training sessions, or studio critiques, virtual contact offers theopportunity to participate from a distance, enabling immersion in the university experience,and lessening the sense of disengagement and the risk of students dropping out beforecompletion.Distance learners might physically attend group sessions at certain points during the year,for example, hands-on workshops on specific techniques and safe use of tools, groupcritiques of practical work and exhibitions, workshop sessions involving collaborativeworking, gallery visits and so on, but in terms of more regular contact and sharing of ideas,many will use social web platforms, forums, blogs, podcasts and networks like Facebookwhich offer easier and faster access to information; these sites enabling informalinteraction in contrast to the formal learning environment of the university.This list (taken from the JISC website*) describes some of the tools available for blendedlearning:Blogs: reflective journals, either closed between tutor and student or open for comment bypeers and/or other selected audiencesWikis: content creation and development by groups of students; lecture supplementand/or replacement by tutors, with or without embedded videoSocial bookmarking: expansion of tutors’ initial reading lists, sometimes with scope forcommentaries on the textsSocial networking: for hosting discussion or project groups and answering queries. Suchgroups are being established by students as well as by staff*(from Higher Education in a Web 2.0 Worldhttp://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/heweb20rptv1.pdf)
The advantage of student access to these platforms is a more flexible approach to theconcept of attendance, and enhancement of the learning experience for part-time,distanced and physically disabled learners. This flexibility in terms of time and space mayseem problematic for those more used to physical attendance during lectures, seminarsand group sessions, and often entails student-led rather than tutor-led sessions.Web 2.0 technologies might not be able to fully replace the traditional concept of theuniversity where an individual enjoys physical and mental interaction with staff, peers,materials and activities in real space and place, but working remotely (for at least part oftheir studies) means that time, rooms, studios, libraries and other facilities are freed up,offering newly flexible and open spaces for a range of activities.To wrap up, I quote short extracts from the abovementioned paper Higher Education in aWeb 2.0 World published by JISC, which emphasise the need for tutors to keep abreast oftechnological advances, in effect to keep up with their students.Addressing the digital divide from the student perspective means ensuring access totechnology for all and the development of practical skills in its use. This is a basicentitlement. For staff it means ensuring technical proficiency, reflection on approaches tolearning and teaching, and the development of practice, and skills in practice, of e-pedagogy – learning with and/or through technology – so that when they choose to usetechnology, they can do so effectively.Tackling information literacies from the student point of view means ensuring they possessthe skills and understanding to search, authenticate and critically evaluate material fromthe range of appropriate sources, and attribute it as necessary ... ... For staff, therequirement is to maintain the currency of skills in the face of the development of web-based information sources.Strategies for supporting blended learning in an HE Art & Design context: • Availability of online learning resources, tutorials and assessment • Accessible technical training and support for tutors as well as students • Structured course material relevant to blended learning • Online forum for discussion
These strategies may seem simplistic but are nevertheless vital if students are to engagein, and benefit from the learning experience. These needs are not specific to Art andDesign, but apply to all students and tutors in Higher EducationRequirements/leads to: • A combination of self-paced e-learning and face-to-face contact • A range of learning strategies and delivery methods • Supportive and critical interaction between students and tutors • The sense of community • Ease of communication and a shared learning experienceConclusion: The impetus for change comes from the students themselves, and theHigher Education system must keep pace with them, and relate to the lives they areleading and the tools they are using. Social interaction between students and tutors is anessential and relevant part of todays learning experience and can be achieved throughblended learning within a creative and flexible environment. (end)