Hi, I’m Gerry Bergtrom. I serve 2 masters at UW-M. I have been a faculty member in the Biological Sciences at UW-M for more than 30 years, and a Instructional design Consultant in our Learning Technology Center for about 5 years. As a science instructor, my biggest challenge over the years has been to cover a traditional body of content and at the same time, model how science is done. I never achieved both in my traditional face-to-face cell biology lecture-only course. But it is effortless now in my blended course! I will illustrate my transition from traditional to blended instruction and later in the workshop, share some specific examples.
In anticipation of the redesign effort, I asked several questions: What do I do with only half the time to lecture? How will I cover all of the course content? Could I introduce more student engagement and collaborative learning into the course, even as I had less time to lecture? What did I actually want my students to be able to do after each completing each assignment, and how could I assess that they have achieved the learning objectives that I set for learning activities? What content courl I safely put online and what would still be F2F? How would I avoid overloading the students and myself with too much work and too much grading?
Wiggins & McTighe are credited with the concept of backwards design, which can apply to any new course or any course redesign. Then idea is to decide: what students should be able to do after completing an exercise or learning module (the learning objectives Then design the exercise to meet the objectives, And finally, design an assessment that can measure how well students achieve the intended learning objectives. As the slide says, stating learning objectives is not easy… or at least, we should have a common understanding of what learning objectives are.
A learning objective should invoke active verbs to complete the following sentence: Upon completing this learning module/exercise, students should be able to…. It is important not to confuse learning objectives for a specific exercise with learning outcomes, such as those promulgated by the AAC&U in their Liberal Education and Americas Promise initative.
I have listed many of the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and a few of my own. A close look should tell us that these are very broad goals that apply across courses and disciplines, and are in fact large programmatic and institutional goals. If Colleges and Universities aren’t aiming at these outcomes for their students, then what on earth are they doing??!!
As you can read here, the learning objectives in your course are tied to assignments. They are granular , meaning that they apply to easily identifiable skills, easily described by those active verbs. Of course each specific learning objective should be assessable and should support one or more of the LEAP essential learning outcomes.
How do you know if the learning objectives you state for a learning module are appropriate? Here’s a test: Ask yourself if…
Now let’s look at the traditional F2F lecture course I eventually redesigned. Students read the text and took online ‘pre-quizzes’ before coming to class. Quizzes were low stakes formative assessments with multiple attempts. In class, I lectured, and gave 3 summative exams (including a final exam). The 3 exams accounted for most of a student’s grade. As with many F2F biology courses, basic content is delivered twice! It’s like we think the textbook is essential and superfluous at the same time. And even with double-coverage, I often couldn’t cover all the topics by the end of the semester. So where do I find the time for the interactive, collaborative learning that could really benefit the students and that in any case, really reflects the gregarious way science is done.
In redesigning the F2F course into a blended course, I made three major decisions: I moved all basic unchanging content coverage online. I assigned the content as textbook readings, narrated and un-narrated PowerPoint presentations. I decided that I did not need to… and would no longer lecture in class. My goal was to make students responsible for learning the basic content at home, before they ever came to class. I should have predicted it, but I suddenly found myself free to use all of the class time to get students to engage with each other and with the content. Instead of listening to me repeat what’s in a textbook, students now analyze data, interpret and design experiments, formulate hypotheses… in short, think critically and scientifically about cell and molecular biology. The bottom line: I spent all my F2F time modeling how science is really done.
So here is what the blended course looks like. Homework still includes text readings, PowerPoints & online quizzes. But the home/online component of the course is dramatically expanded. Now it includes the Voice-over PowerPoint presentations, several discussions and short writing assignments. And finally, the summative exams have also been moved online. The major changes and additions are in bold-face italics. I introduced three activities and assessments that emphasize student engagement with content and each other. “ Muddiest Points” are be completed at home and handed in at the start of class. Then students try to answer their classmates question about material studied at home. After debriefing the muddiest points, I use the rest of the F2F time to challenge small impromptu groups of students to ‘do and talk science’ with clicker questions, … and experimental scenarios using index cards. I’ll show you a few examples of this later in the workshop. With all the new activities and assessments, the aggregate the low-stakes activities are worth 55%, considerably more than the summative exams which are now only worth 45%. This is one key to the success of a blended or online course. Another key is the integration of online and F2F activities to avoid a dismembered course (one that seem to be two separate, unconnected courses).
I just wanted to illustrate so-called granular learning objectives associated with some real exercises in my blended Cell Bio class, and how I put them into a table to help me think about them, the assignments they follow and the broader department and institutional learning outcomes they support.
Another vital key to a successful blended course is Integration, by which I mean that activities in class and online must support and build on each other. Up-front attention to integration will save you and your students a lot of duplication and busy work, the sensation that you are teaching a course and a half. More than this, blended learning is now way more than just a seat-time compromise between traditional F2F and fully online courses. Blended learning is increasingly recognized as a pedagogy in itself. And integration is a vital, unifying part of that pedagogy.
So here is what integration in my the blended course looks like. The purple arrows map major points where this integration occurs. Note that integration is a two way street (closing the loop as it were).
Was it hard to redesign my course to be blended? Time was certainly a challenge. Once I decided to move essential content online, designing F2F activities and the integration took time. I estimate that it took about 2-3 months of concentrated effort design the first iteration of my course and another month or so to revise it into its present state. But this was not truly the hard part of my course redesign. I suspect that course redesign might be easier in the sciences than other disciplines. The challenge for me was be the ‘letting go’. I can tell you that I have achieved a new and unexpected comfort zone in my teaching!
To sum up, I truly enjoy teaching my blended course, I cover all of the content online and can even update content with supplements to my online course materials. The biggest payoff, and source of enjoyment is the more active role my students play as self learners and peer instructors in my course.
Hi, I’m Gerry Bergtrom. I serve 2 masters at UW-M. I have been a faculty member in the Biological Sciences at UW-M for more than 30 years, and a Instructional design Consultant in our Learning Technology Center for about 5 years. As a science instructor, my biggest challenge over the years has been to cover a traditional body of content and at the same time, model how science is done. I never achieved both in my traditional face-to-face cell biology lecture-only course. But it is effortless now in my blended course! I will illustrate my transition from traditional to blended instruction and then share some specific examples.
So, how does the blended course work? Here are some preliminary numbers. All the exams contained similar objective multiple choice and true-false questions. Raw scores are scores before curving. Course letter grades were based on the final scores (which reflected all assessments, extra credit assignments and any adjustments. As you might imagine, I was disappointed that raw exam scores in the blended course, were lower (not higher!) than scores in my older traditional F2F course offerings. Final scores, on which final grades were based were actually higher in the blended course. Dis this inversion result from some kind of grade inflation despite poorer exam performance. Then I realized that in redesigning Cell Biology to be a blended course, I had intentionally downgraded the importance of the largely objective exams (tests of retention). Instead, I placed greater value on assessing improvements in student reasoning, scientific critical thinking and scientific literacy. This assessment of different skills alone could explain the inversion. I want to believe that the higher final scores (and higher course grades) reflect the acquisition of those deeper learning and analytical skills. But I acknowledge that these are preliminary conclusions based on a data set with low n’s. Therefore these last questions are still open.
Redesigning a traditional F2F Biology Course to Maximize Content Coverage and Learning Matt Russell, Ph.D. & Gerald Bergtrom, Ph.D. Learning Technology Consultants Learning Technology Center University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
One key to a successful blended pedagogy is Integration
Online activities (exercises, learning modules) should build on and reinforce F2F activities.
F2F activities should build on and reinforce online activities.
Careful attention to integrating online and F2F activities is the surest way to avoid the course-and-a-half syndrome !
Home Text readings, un-narrated PowerPoint slide presentations, online quizzes V OP lectures, Muddiest Points Discussions Short Papers online exams Integration ( closing the loop ): Mutual reinforcement of online and F2F activities Integration in The Blended Course: F2F: Index Card Qs F2F: Clicker Qs F2F: Debrief muddiest points
A more enjoyable, more effective way of teaching science.
Enduring, easily updatable course materials.
More content coverage.
More student engagement with content, concept and each other
Gerald Bergtrom, Ph.D. Learning Technology Consultant Learning Technology Center University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee [email_address] 414-229-4319 Redesigning a traditional F2F Biology Course to Maximize Content Coverage and Learning