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Challengesof blended learning

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Revisiting the blended learning review 5 years on. What have been the challenges of implementing the success factors?

Revisiting the blended learning review 5 years on. What have been the challenges of implementing the success factors?


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  • Outputs:WorkshopsKey message postersBriefing papersMethods recipe cardsSynthesis reports.As a result made a number of recommendations for institutions…
  • The project team selected and worked with nine institutions to co-create case studies which represented their strategic, policy and practical developments to support learners in a digital age. Data were collected over a six month period through multiple interactions with case study sites including an initial phone call to build a background picture, ongoing conversations with a consultant, document sharing, online workshops, and culminating in a site visit. So, I’ll share my experience of developments at Oxford Brookes, but also other institutions I know well through the JISC learner experience and SLiDA projects.
  • You can see that I’ve been working in blended learning for some time and much of what I’ve done has been increasingly focused on the learner experience.You asked me to talk about challenges, so what I thought I’d do is look back at some of the things we’ve proposed in this time and see what has been most challenging. What have been the challenges of implementing blended learning that works from the learners experience?In the blended learning review in 2006, we made recommendations for 5 ‘success factors’ for blended learning. What has been challenging about implementing these and how might I change them now?
  • The review of over 300 studies of blended learning aimed to reveal methodologically sound evidence of the impact of blended learning on the student experience. We used a best evidence synthesis to identify the key papers with the aim of creating a manageable knowledge base for the synthesis. The institutional visits and interviews aimed to give access to unpublished literature and to reveal practices that we could not know about as ‘outsiders’. Interviews were conducted with seven institutions with reputations as long standing implementers of blended e-learning.
  • Write down a quick definition now, share it with your neighbour. Here are some of my definitions, doesn’t really matter if yours are different. The point is, it’s vagueWe said in 2006 ‘Although difficult to define, the term ‘blended learning’ is finding acceptance among higher education staff. We suggest that the advantages of the term include its poor definition - which allows staff to negotiate their own meaningHowever, some characteristics of blended learning that are common are:and the implied improvement , what Peter called ‘enhancing and extending the classroom’, that is the designing for active learningSo, what have been the challenges of using the term’ blended learning?’
  • You might be able to put the definition you wrote somewhere along this line. Everyone stand up. As I move my pointer across this line, sit down when it gets to where you think blended learning (or the blended learning RGU aspires to) is….So, definitions were varied in 2006, and still seem quite varied.
  • I think we are getting some agreement though… Here are a couple of other definitions from institutions we interviewed as part of the SLiDA project. See they both mention maintaining face to face teaching…
  • Also, from our learner experiences work, we’ve found that students are quite clear that they want to protect their face to face contact time with staff. (this is one of the ‘key messages’ posters we produced at the end of phase 2)So maybe, part of the benefit of using the term BL is it is understood to protect f2f teaching.
  • Terminology isn’t just variable at any one time, it varies over time as well e.g. in these examples from Oxford Brookes. I think such variation is good, it shows that we are discussing what they mean …So, challenges here? … perhaps the need to constantly rediscover and redefine what we are talking aboutIncidentally.. The implementation has also changed over time….2002 – 2005 e-learning defined by baseline course presence on MLE(Implementation through: Schools produced local e-learning strategies, implemented by learning technologists)2005 – 2008 e–learning, defined by students’ experiences, (Implementation through: embedded into curriculum design and development, implemented by course teams.)2010 - 2015 Strategy for Enhancing the student experience. E-learning defined by ‘Digital and information literacy’ as one of five key graduate attributes. (Implemented through programme design, development, documentation and approval processes)
  • In 2006 We found that institutions who we had identified as successful implementers of blended e-learning had highly contextualised and specific rationales for their adoption of technology. Similarly, successful local implementations were often in response to a real relevant issues occurring at the course level.
  • In SLiDA we saw a number of contextualised example of digital literacies e.g. Salfordprogramme level developments …. which embed the development of digital literacy into the curricula, including: information literacy,personal,organisation and societal skillsin using technology, The examples:redefine digital literacies for specific professions/disciplinesarise from staff who are teaching on their research areas (e.g. social media)start from what students know and use alreadyRather than being a challenge, I think this has been a real success. I’m hearing a lot about staff skills in using technology. Although we may not be able to use our smart phones as well as our pre-school children, academics do have sophisticated skills in using technology associated with their own discipline. This is what students are missing and are unsure of. So, perhaps the challenge is to work out what blended learning (and digital literacy) looks like within your contextMore about this in the next one..
  • In 2006 we saw the importance of transformative course level designs as a way of characterising blended e-learning. Throughout the review, staff repeatedly identified engaging in course redesign as critical to their success. The valuable features of the course redesign were identified as: undertaking an analysis of the current course, collecting and making use of student feedback, undertaking the design as a team, designs which make explicit their underlying principles, and developing the course iteratively over a number of years.
  • We used these principles to design events for programme teams (Course Design Intensives). Lots of these about:Carpe dieum at LeicesterCourse Design Intensives at Oxford brookes. In general, course design has been a good way of embedding blended learning for us, and we’ve used it for other initiatives like assessment compact and now graduate attributes..Sometimes they’ve tied with uniqa processes e.g. ending in a mock validation panel in some we did for the Business School.
  • We are talking about whether to make them requirements for all programmes, or those programmes undergoing (re)validation. And talking about incentives for participation and resource requirements. Raising awareness of GasAwareness raising roadshows around the graduate attributes Open, searchable collection in RADARFocus on programme level designCourse design intensives for programme teamsCase studies of graduate attributes in action from around BrookesDocumentationIf we are re-thinking programme design, then we should also re-think how we document the learning experience most effectively.  QA (approval) processes require documentation, but I’m trying to emphasise that the documentation should be reflecting the programme design process, not be an end in itself, and should be used to communicate to all interested parties (including approval panels). BUT, challenges of CDIS – learning design tools (lots around, can’t really find any we like)- Student involvement
  • One of the challenges we’ve found is using tools, lots around, not really found one we’ve liked, although we do like visual representationsThis is compendium LD, from the Open University (others are available)
  • Another challenge is student involvement in course design. AT OBU, we’ve tried many times… with varying degrees of success.One of our SLiDA case studies had an interesting approach though….
  • In 2006 it seemedto be important to look at how students conceive of their engagement with the learning processes and activitieswithin a blended e-learning context. In order to support students, we suggested that it was vital to be consistent and transparent in communicating our expectations about, for instance, attendance patterns or how to engage in purposeful dialogue in asynchronous discussions.This is still an issue, e.g. I heardUsman Ali (NUS Vice-President HE) giving keynote just last week, talking about how students are still asking for consistency in how they are expected to use technology. We’ve done quite a lot of thinking about this in recent years…
  • A lot of what we found out from LEX studies is about what learners do – about their technology based practices – Helen Beetham and I have been thinking about the findings of these projects in terms of developmental models for a few years. It’s very noticeable that different learners say different things – that some seem to be further along than others. It’s very hard to generalise the findings across different learners.It’s also v. clear that we (unis) have a job to do here in developing learning skills/literacies to help learners progress through these stages. Looking again at examples from our SLiDA case studies. Not going to go on about creative appropriation here… but basically it’s about learners using technology in positive ways to support their learning. Usually beyond the boundaries of the course/uni provision. Often doing creative things we haven’t thought of. It’s about learners creating their own environments and social contexts e.g.‘Had a phone tutorial with my supervisor referring to a support document he emailed to me – I digitally recorded the tutorial and saved it as a digital file on my laptop. This has then been playing while I make the adjustments to the document’ (BLUPS)“One of the group members was not able to make it today so what we did we were connected by using MSN Messenger so we were discussing notes. We were feeding back to the other person (STROLL).
  • The first level of the framework is the requirement for learners to be able to access technology, resources and services. Just because learners own a lot of technology, doesn’t mean that they don’t rely on institutions. They particularly rely on institutional provision of networking and materials in electronic & accessible format. At this stage learners benefit from electronic resources, provided in a variety of formats, which can be accessed from on or off campus using institutionally provided and personally owned technologies. Virtually all theSLiDA institutions were concerned to adequately prepare their students to use an identifiable set of core technologies (Sites A, B, E, F, G, I). The clearest expression of this is focusing on induction, ensuring that all beginning students are aware of the digital learning tools they will need and that they know how to use themA&Wis the purest example of this, where the college has invested considerable time and resources in a universal e-learning induction program. Recognising the need for students to have flexible access to the induction materials, learners were offered online multimedia version in addition to in-class activities. This helps students to prepare for learning with technology even if they enter the university or college outside of the usual enrolment periods.
  • At this level learners become practised at using technology, developing personal, flexible strategies in response to their individual and situational needs. To help learners to make good choices about which tools and strategies to use in which situations, they benefit from support from staff, recommendations for peers and building confidence to experiment with technologyAnother example from SLiDAis providing support for using learner-owned devices e.g.A lot of students didn’t realise they had an audio recorder in their phone… [now] they actually make their own notes, upload them and create podcasts as a class. (CH, Staff interview, Site B)Actually really don’t need to do much to e.g. get them to use their own devices in different ways. And it’s not about technical support. It’s about changing their conceptions of the role of technology in learning. The challenge is about taking responsibility for learners’ development e.g. Preparing students for their experience of learning with technology or Enabling learners to use their own devices and services (maybe it’s even about seeing blended learning as learners doing their own blending??)
  • Thinking about this from the learners’ point of view is quite hard I think, particularly if we are used to thinking about us doing all the course and activity design. So let’s have a go…What can you imagine learners doing in your context, which demonstrates to you that they are taking full advantage of the blended learning on offer… text this to me….
  • And finally, in 2006 we recognised a need to co-ordinate, promote and disseminate results from evaluations. This was identified as a crucial aspect of monitoring institutional strategies and course redesigns.
  • We’ve thought quite a lot about this… The consultation consisted of: A questionnaire completed by 10 experts/producers of research attending the ALTconference in September 2007. Interviews with 11 high level stakeholders, defined as representatives of keystakeholder organisations. An online survey completed by 116 users of research in response to requests onrelevant mailing lists. Interviews with 11 intermediaries, seven researchers, three practitioners and threeinstitutional policy makers. A desk review of six existing research observatories.3.1.5 Summary of findings from the online surveya. People in this sample have multiple roles in relation to using e-learning research.b. E-learning researchers currently produce their outputs in a wide variety of formats,including applied (project report, guidance materials) as well as traditional researchoutputs. They share them in face to face contexts and local networks, although they wouldlike to make more use of technology to better effect, particularly to provide a portal. Theyperceive that outcomes would be more likely used if they were collated and synthesized.c. Individuals report using e-learning research for multiple purposes, primarily for keepingup to date, and a range of other, individualized reasons. Individuals use a combination ofways of accessing e-learning research which includes both traditional publications,technology mediated solutions and interactions with colleagues.d. To improve access research, people would like to see a portal and a collation/synthesizedfunction. There two themes came through clearly when asked both about thedissemination of their own research outputs and accessing others’ research.e. Some respondents were able to give lots of detail about what they wanted from a portaland the characteristics it should have. This theme was pulled out in the interviews.f. Effective communication needs to take place face to face in small, practical events such asconferences, workshops, presentations, seminars/small group discussions ordemonstrations or informal networking.
  • People wantedOne stop shopRigourous contentAnd networks and groupsEg. “It is clear from the responses that interacting through networks and groups offers additionalvalue over publications:“The e-pedagogy experts group has been invaluable - being part of the discussions has been more useful than the published outcomes because people speak openly but funded projects have to be presented equitably regardless of whether they are useful. For the rest I use the web to search for information.”(Respondent 19)
  • You can set up networks locally too..
  • From ‘ Use the term blended learning’ to Challenge is toDiscuss the terms you are using (whether blended learning, literacies or attributes) and be prepared to continue to revisit and revise them. Was Clear, contextualised rationales for e-learning, at the level of the course and with institutional support.. I think at the time we were so concerned with making argument about WHY use eL, now much more about HOW… Now ‘work out what blended learning (and digital literacy) looks like within your context’3. Was Use blended learning as a driver for transformative course redesign… Now Contextualise blended learning through supporting course redesign4. Was Help students develop their conceptions of the learning process. 5. Was Disseminate and communicate results of evaluations, now, ‘through networks and communities’
  • Transcript

    • 1. Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development
      The challengesof blended learning
      Dr. Rhona Sharpe
      Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development
      Robert Gordon University, 3 May 2011
    • 2. Contributions & credits
      Synthesis of learner experience projects 2006-9
      Helen Beetham
      Greg Benfield
      Ellen Lessner
      Eta de Cicco
      Review of blended
      e-learning 2006, with
      Greg Benfield
      Richard Francis
      George Roberts
      Institutional support for learners of a digital age
      2010, with
      Greg Benfield
      ShalniGulati
      Judy Hardy
      Books with Helen Beetham and Sara de Freitas
    • 3. Learner Experiences of e-learning
      Support of 9 funded projects from 2004 – 2009 to develop research methods…
      … which involved 186 learners in some form of sustained engagement over an extended period, such as interviews, audio or video diaries, or production of case studies.
      Synthesis and dissemination of their findings.
      wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/jiscle2
    • 4. Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (SLiDA) project
      Selection of 9 institutional case studies
      Representing strategic, policy and practical developments to support learners
      Data collected over six months (March – Oct 2010) through multiple interactions and document sharing
      Ongoing conversations with consultant resulting in co-creation of case study
      wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slida
    • 5. Success factors for blended e-learning
      What has been most challenging about implementing these success factors?
    • 6. Success factors for blended e-learning
      Use the term blended learning
      Work with and within your context
      Use blended learning as a driver for transformative course redesign
      Help students develop their conceptions of the learning process.
      Disseminate and communicate results of evaluations.
      Sharpe, R., Benfield, G., Roberts, G. & Francis, R. (2006) The undergraduate experience of blended e-learning: a review of UK literature and practice undertaken for the HEA
    • 7. 1. Use the term blended learning
    • 8. A blended learning continuum(University of Glamorgan)
      Jones, N. & Lau, A. (2010) Blending learning: widening participation in higher education, Innovations in Education & Training International, 47 (4), 405 - 416
    • 9. Blended Learning is an approach to learning and teaching which combines and aligns learning undertaken in face-to-face sessions with learning opportunities created online. (University of Wolverhampton, 2011)
      blended learning: combining virtual learning, both synchronous and asynchronous, with face-to-face learning approaches (London Metropolitan University, 2010)
      Blended learning definitions
    • 10. 1. Use the term ‘blended learning’
    • 11. E-learning Strategies
      2002 – 2005 e-learning defined byprovision: a baseline presence for each course on the managed learning environment.
      2005 – 2008 e–learning defined bylearning: theapplication of technology to ‘the provision of flexible, active, collaborative and professionally authentic learning’.
      2010 - 2015e-learning defined by literacy: ‘digital and information literacy’ as one of five key graduate attributes.
    • 12. 2. Work within and in your context
    • 13. How are institutions implementing their strategies for developing learners for a digital age?
    • 14.
    • 15. 3. Blended learning as a driver for transformative course redesign
    • 16. Course Design Intensives
      Team based
      Auditing
      Using feedback
      Learning Design
      Iterative
      Dempster, J, Benfield, G and Francis, R (in press) A staff development model for fostering sharing and innovation in curriculum design. Innovations in Education and Teaching International,
    • 17. Course redesign process
    • 18. Learning design tools
    • 19. Student e-champions
      Blended e-learning enacted through:
      Harnessing freely available technologies including those students already use
      Employed student e-champions, working in partnership with academics.
      Students produced extra content for modules, formative assessment opportunities, others recorded and shared sessions.
      Brett, P. & Cousin, B. (2011) Students as partners in blended learning. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 3
    • 20. 4. Help students develop their conceptions of the learning process
    • 21. Creative appropriation
      “One of the group members was not able to make it today so what we did we were connected by using MSN Messenger so we were discussing notes. We were feeding back to the other person(STROLL)
      ‘Had a phone tutorial with my supervisor referring to a support document he emailed to me – I digitally recorded the tutorial and saved it as a digital file on my laptop. This has then been playing while I make the adjustments to the document’ (BLUPS)
      Sharpe, R. & Beetham, H. (2010) Understanding students’ uses of technology for learning: towards creative appropriation, inRethinking learning for the digital age
    • 22. Supporting functional access
    • 23. Supporting situated practices
      A lot of students didn’t realise they had an audio recorder in their phone… [now] they actually make their own notes, upload them and create podcasts as a class. (CH, Staff interview)
    • 24. Learner-blended learning
      What can you imagine learners doing, which demonstrates that they are taking full advantage of the blended learning on offer?
      Text to 07786 204949, starting your text with the word lex
    • 25. 5. Disseminate and communicate results of evaluations.
    • 26. Landscape study for e-learning research observatory
      Beetham, Sharpe & Benfield (2008). Landscape study for the e-learning research observatory.
      wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/hearoc/Home
    • 27.
    • 28. EXAmple : ELESIG
    • 29.
    • 30.
    • 31. Success factors for blended learning – what are the challenges five years on?
      Discuss terminology and be prepared to continue to revisit and revise them.
      Work out what blended learning (and digital literacy?) looks like within your context.
      Contextualise blended learning through supporting course redesign.
      Taking responsibility for learners’ development
      Engage in networks and communities