Real Life Stories
Meeting Students Where They’re At!
Kelly La Venture and Becki George of Northland College Wisconsin presented a workshop on hybrid instruction at the recent Canadian International Conference on Education (CICE) at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia from June 16-19, 2014. After their workshop, in conversation with Profweb’s Norm Spatz, they elaborated on their motivation for creating and teaching hybrid classes. Kelly’s and Becki’s remarks are testimonials that providing flexible learning approaches builds contentment among students – helping Quebec college students master ICT profile skills.
- Students live in an online environment. And so the more online classes and resources we can deliver, and the higher the quality of both, the more satisfied students are.
- A lot of students are used to having resources online already because Wisconsin has a pretty good statewide system of online delivery in the K-12 system. We're building on a strong foundation.
- Exactly, but they're not always finding online resources at our college. We're trying to serve students by, at minimum, putting courses, gradebooks, and syllabi online, some of those basic things they're used to seeing. Yet, we need instructors to provide much more than that.
- A hybrid course, however, is more than having the course plan online. Where do you see your own online presence going?
- I see it going where the students take me. At minimum, to provide online learning plans that cover specific objectives and competencies, instructor video lecturettes, interactive assignments and assessments, and student resources. My goal is to provide flexible self-directed learning and meet students where they're at. I had a student on Learning Plan 5 and simultaneously a student on LP 1 during the second week of class. She understood the course material and moved quickly, whereas he struggled with LP 1, so we Skyped often and worked through the material in a way that suited him, built his confidence, and helped him master the content. At the core of teaching are my students, and I have to adapt and provide flexibility to meet their needs. You can't always lecture or you'll lose students.
- What place do you see for face-to-face instruction?
- I like face-to-face teaching and it has an important place in academia, but we're moving into more of a coaching relationship now. Coaching and conversations happen online, during class time, in the office and cafeteria, one-on-one, and in small groups. Coaching provides flexibility and helps students' master content.
- What technical support has your school, Northland College, given you to put your classes online?
- A good investment was hiring Becki to serve as a liaison between IT and faculty. IT and faculty don't speak the same language. Becki's able to bridge that gap. When instructors hear, “We can't do that online. The system won't allow us to do that,” Becki figures out how to find a solution.
- And, have you seen a change in your course because of your online presence? At any point has your technology driven your pedagogy?
- That's an interesting question. Yes! I came from a technical college with very robust technology and technical support. Everything is online and we had SMART rooms, so I taught in a certain manner. Teaching at Northland meant changing the way I taught because we didn't have those capabilities. Now, I'm starting to move forward again.
- 90% of my students are hockey players; many Canadian. They enroll in Northland's business program where I teach management, but they come to play hockey. They're aged 22, 23, 24, and want flexibility. They have practice until 11pm, and for a morning class they're not functioning. They're used to having things online because they grew up in that system, so a hybrid model is helpful to them.
- The other phrase that we did not talk about in our session is the flipped classroom. If we're having things happen outside of class, in-class activities can then assess student learning. There can be one-on-one work with the instructor, and application of outside learning to classroom activities such as role-playing scenarios.
- How are you making your online material? What goes online and how does it get used in the classroom?
I try to put online what makes sense for students who attend class or prefer self-directed learning. How I make the material depends on what its use will be. Sure, there are instructor videos that go online which I call lecturettes – short clips that speak to a specific learning objective. I use iMovie for creation, and then publish to YouTube, as it's relatively easy and compatible with most LMS and mobile devices.
iMovie for Mac available on Apple's website
Articulate Storyline is software that I like. You can create and upload video, slides, and handouts, which students can download. There's flashcards, carousels, pre and post exams, and more, but software costs money. My lifetime license cost $600. It's time consuming, and you need faculty with a certain skill level because it's more robust than other software.
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I found out about Articulate during a fourteen-week training program on instructional technologies. I also learned about iMovie and Sandvox, which is a great, very easy $75 web design program.
When using instructional technologies, there is a lot of work on the front end, but then it's just minor updating. Major updates come from change of textbook, but if you do the work upfront, you gain time to correct nuances, make your course better for students, and help them master content.
It is important to note that many students in need of accommodations prefer online classes. Specifically, they like moving through the course at a pace that works for them and the capability to view, listen or read material as much as needed, and review work or seek help prior to posting or "talking" online. I also receive positive feedback about lecturettes, activities, and assessments created with Articulate because students have options. They can watch videos, read transcriptions, download slides and notes, and take pre post exams as much as needed to master the content, or do it all.
Our students are using learning technologies, and we have to meet them where they're at.