IEPA 050 Hybrid Course in a Nutshell

IEPA 050 Reading and Writing is a high-intermediate and low-advanced course for non-native English speakers – international students heading for the U.S. colleges and universities.   Typically, I have from 16 to 20 students and we meet three times per week for two hours each class.  The students have some basic knowledge about how to write an essay but also need to expand their vocabulary and improve grammar in writing (parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, connecting clauses in expanded sentences, etc.).

Unlike other lower-level courses, this course uses authentic reading texts for conducting scholarly research and writing an argumentative essay and summary-responses.  These two major types of assignments require a mastery of a host of skills and subskills such as summarizing and paraphrasing, active reading and annotation, identifying and critiquing opposing viewpoints, evaluating and using appropriate evidence, using and formatting outside sources in APA style, just to name a few among other necessary skills.

Because it is an intensive and high-paced course, my students should learn a lot of  material within a relatively short period of time.  Therefore, adding an online component should expand and augment student learning and yield better academic results.  Most of the instruction will be given online through video lessons.  I plan to make the recordings as interactive as possible.  For example, students will be asked to pause, then answer some questions or do a quick task before they can continue with the lesson and immediate feedback.  Each video lesson is going to be within 5-12 minutes long, followed by a Q&A session on Discussion Forum.  Some of the video instructions will be completed with an online quiz to monitor progress and to ensure student accountability.  It will be essential for the students to go through online instruction and evaluation (quizzes) to learn some skills and expand knowledge necessary to do the follow-up activities in the classroom.  The emphasis in class is for the students to be able to apply their internalized material to new contexts, to be able to do what I plan for them to do in this course.

However, it is just as important to be flexible.  As Karen Teeley stated, as a teacher, I should be able to adjust my course layout to meet student needs.  For instance, if content is too complex, I should be prepared to teach it additionally in class, repeat and modify my explanations and get immediate feedback from students to monitor their comprehension.

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My Hybrid Course: Geography of Asia

The course I will be delivering in a hybrid format is Geography of Asia: Geo 327. The course is offered approximately twice a year. Enrollment is typically between 60-75 students and usually attracts sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I currently teach both offerings of the course which are delivered in F2F and Online formats. I am certain that being a regular user of Blackboard and online teaching, is certainly an advantage when designing a hybrid course. However, my challenge lies in that I am concurrently re-envisioning the course content as I develop the hybrid format. My course is scheduled to meet for an hour and twenty minutes on Thursday morning.

Online Components

  • I am designing assignments that encourage the students to think spatially using web mapping tools available via ArcGIS. I intend to have the students work on these assignments in teams using Discussion Boards and Wikis to discuss and collaborate with one another.
  • Students will work in teams to do the assigned readings, collaborate via Wikis and prepare a 20 minute presentation which they will lead in class the following week. Every team will get an opportunity to present a topic of their choice related to the region of Asia that is being covered in readings and in lecture.

F2F Components

  • I will present a short 20-30 minute lecture on the assigned chapter readings
  • Students will then present their Wiki collaborations and 20 minute presentation
  • Discussion time will be reserved for the lecture material and student presentations

This is a very rough idea/outline of what I intend to do with the hybrid delivery, but I will get there, it might take a summer, but I will make it happen

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Foundations of ESOL/Bilingual Education

TCE 573 syll pic

Update:  In the last 24 hours since writing what follows, I had a idea emerge that has been a long time in the making.  It has to do with “gamifying” the course or at least sections of it.  I’m thinking of using The Amazing Race as a framework.  (I actually got this idea from one of my students in my online course this term who does this in her K-12 class.)  I also watched The Museum of Four in the Morning and am inspired to integrate this into the Course Outcomes assignment.  Their digital portfolio will be a Museum of their Four in the Morning ahah moments that relate to course outcomes.  I’m thankful for this time to revise and be creative.  It’s what I hope to allow students to do within the course as well.

This is the first course in our program. Most of the enrolled learners are pre-service undergraduate teachers.  The course provides them with insights that will help them understand and work with English language learners (ELLs). Course concepts, such as characteristics of ELLs, articulating a critical social justice framework related to the role of culture in language development, and implications for classroom instruction are important for all educators.  The content of the course is interesting and relevant!

With that statement of enthusiasm, I don’t wish to be the only being in the class who finds the content intriguing, particularly the stimulating language acquisition theories. A goal of mine is to allow opportunities for my learners to make connections between the content, their experiences, and their future.  As they make connections, I want to encourage a metacognitive awareness of their learning experience and for them to be able revise their beliefs as they interact, reflect and learn.  With that in mind, here’s what’s keeping me busy this week.

There will be a course outcomes assignment.  We will turn the course outcomes into questions that learners can choose through multiple ways (negotiating as we go) to answer throughout the term.  The use of digital portfolios seems a natural fit.  There they can explore, add evidence, resources, reflections, etc. that answer the “course outcome questions.” They can then add to this digital portfolio in upcoming classes in our program. I want this to be a process, not a one-time 3-4 page paper/product for learners.  I will give some support in class and optional drop in office hours; most of this will be done online.

Community Cultural Interactions and Observations: These will be done both in f2f class and on their own time outside of class. Learners will have opportunities to interact with ELLs in the community, to interview K-12 teachers, OSU students/instructors, and expert guest speakers.  Their journal reflections will be posted online to the LMS.

Language and Culture Autobiography.  In the past, there were one-time paper assignments, such as this. A change as a result of this hybrid initiative is to move at least parts of it to the digital portfolio and allow students to add and revise as they learn.  There will be a multimedia component to it.  Brainstorming, peer reviewing, Q & A time will be done in class.  It will be posted privately on the LMS with a short multimedia section on the digital portfolio.

Tech Springboards:  These are short 1 hour assignments and a part of the digital portfolio.  It is a fun ways for students to process the more challenging concepts in the course. i.e. A. Take a theory and create a fakebook, pretending you are one of the theorists, or make an online animation or comic strip that depicts a theory.  B. Use TED Ed, Jeopardy Labs or Arcade games and create a review for your classmates.

Now that the assignments have been more or less decided, the fun part comes! The joy one experiences in creating clear directions, etc is immeasurable.

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Re-engineering engineering communication

The new hybrid course for WR 327e (Technical Writing for Engineering Students) will be an adaptation my current f2f sections. The existing curriculum is already kind of cool: Students work individually and collaboratively as “Engineering consultants” for 9 weeks, designing OMSI-style interactive exhibits in response to a (fictional) RFP from the OSU College of Engineering (CoE).

The Scenario
In this “real-world” scenario, the CoE has requested proposals for permanent exhibits designed to answer the question “What Do Engineers Do?” for visitors to new and existing buildings within the college. In the process of creating their proposals, students complete four formal writing and communication assignments:

1. They write definitions of engineering concepts for a technical audience (CoE decision makers) and a non-technical audience (exhibit visitors).
2. They write a process description and procedural document. The process description introduces stakeholders to individual exhibit designs, interactive components, and exhibit learning outcomes. The procedural document provides visitors with step-by-step instructions for interacting with the engineering exhibits.
3. They design and deliver professional-quality, image-based team presentations that introduce the exhibits to CoE decision makers.
4. They produce a final formal proposal that synthesizes the team’s individual writing assignments from the term into a single, cohesive, and persuasive document.

In addition to these four formal assignments, students complete other coursework that provides opportunities to practice skills in collaboration, professionalism, project organization, problem solving, and peer evaluation.

I like the curriculum for the f2f course (I’ve learned a lot of cool stuff about engineering!), and students say they really enjoy the creative components and the collaborative work (aka social networking :) ). So I plan to keep the “real-world” scenario and assignments in the new hybrid course. But I’ll have to make substantial changes to the structure to fit a hybrid schedule–and I’m very excited about the potential learning outcomes of those changes!

F2F Structure: The Way It Is Now
My current f2f WR 327e course is delivered in a Tuesday-lecture-and-new-information/Thursday-skills-application-in-the-lab format: I deliver new content via lecture, presentations, and videos during one session per week, and students work collaboratively (in teams and with me) on classroom computers during the other class session. Homework consists of online team collaboration, readings, and writing tasks.

The results produced by this format are pretty solid: students learn new skills and write better papers. But there’s no ignoring the fact that most students find lectures boring and hard to follow. In fact, the human brain isn’t even designed to effectively absorb and retain new information delivered in a long-lecture format. So the move away from long-winded monologues can only be a good thing for students (and for me).

Hybrid Structure: The New Way
The hybrid course by definition requires a very different kind of structure for content delivery, and that structure provides a number of benefits. For example, students can pace their learning to meet their individual needs. And the College of Engineering only needs to schedule one computer lab to accommodate two WR 327e sections. But, to me, the most exciting benefit of the course redesign is this: I get to eliminate potentially (or inevitably?) boring and forgettable in-class lectures that put a damper on my students’ (and my) day. And I get to replace those lectures with narrated interactive presentations, links to professional engineering documents for student analysis, and great videos (like this Ted Talk on Body Language by Amy Cuddy)–all delivered online. Reading quizzes and class discussions of writing principles will also take place remotely, ensuring that weekly lab sessions are freed up for f2f collaboration, assignment clarifications, and 1-on-1 instructor/student interactions.

In a nutshell, here is my vision for the hybrid WR 327e course: Multi-media, image-focused, and interactive online materials combined with instructor/student/peer collaboration and application in the lab will actively engage students in their own learning experience. And I’ll be a step closer to achieving my own secret goal: to finally convince students that engineering communication is important, achievable, and yes– even a little bit cool!

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My hybrid course in a nutshell: Remixing Jane Austen

For this hybrid course, I’m creating a hybrid version of OSU’s First-Year Seminar course (commonly called U-Engage).  U-Engage are all built around some common learning outcomes, and there are some required activities that support these outcomes.  They are all different, though, focused on an academic theme or significant question.

I’ve taught U-Engage before, so I am drawing on that experience. But the specific focus of this class, remixing Jane Austen, is something new.  While the focus of the course will be the novels of Jane Austen, these texts are really a jumping off point to examine the broader question of how culture is made, and how creativity builds on the past.  This topic lends itself well to a close examination of how information is organized, preserved and used – on both a practice and a policy level.

The works of Jane Austen are, of course in the public domain and in the last two decades they’ve been remixed and re-created into an astonishing variety of forms — written as mysteries, romances, graphic novelspicture books and choose-your-own adventures.  The stories have been remixed as board games and role-playing games – and filmed in modern settings, as period pieces, turned into web series and more.  Part of the out-of-classroom work in this course will be exploring some of these many forms.


For their primary project, students will create their own remixed narratives using a variety of tools.  In-class time will be largely be focused on hands-on activities in a digital lab-type setting.  In these labs we will explore different tools and how they can be used to create narratives, and dive into the legal/economic frameworks that affect creative work  - particularly fair use and copyright.

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Homework that encourages socializing and learning from each other

In Engineering classes it is common to allow (and encourage) students to work together and collaborate on homework assignments. This clearly provides a great opportunity for students to learn from each other. But, in  my mind, more importantly, it simply makes doing homework more fun and builds social communities. Anyone visiting Kelley Engineering Center can observe small groups of students huddled around tables working together on homework and, at least outwardly, seeming to be having a good time. Sometimes you will see emissaries sent from one table to another to share insights.  I worry that moving more and more work online will impact the wonderful social aspect of being a student.
Two years ago, the publisher of the textbook for one of my classes encouraged me, and eventually convinced me to use their automated, online homework system. For the instructor, this obviously has the clear advantage of not needing to grade hundreds of homework assignments by hand every week. The publishers also loaded me up with studies showing better learning outcomes. But, I wondered, is it still fun to do homework and do students have reduced social interaction.  Anecdotally, I find fewer students from this class working together in the atrium.
Some will argue that these social interactions now occur online on discussion boards and social media. I am not convinced that this is a good substitute! Perhaps there are social scientists out there that have studied this, but from what I have found, most focus on the development of on-line social interactions rather than the decline of human-human interactions.
Thinking ahead to designing the hybrid course for ECE390, I am adamant that homework assignments will remain firmly in the real world, on tree-killing paper, handed in coffee stains and all. How can students effectively discuss complex, three-dimensional problems online? We need to sketch, point, model, laugh, cry and pull out our hair. Is there an app that does all that?  I still much prefer the “my dog ate my homework” excuse to the “my computer crashed” excuse.
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Pleasing the Audience

Reading about some common pitfalls of online teaching got me thinking about a bad habit I’ve fallen into in my own face-to-face classrooms: Despite my best intentions, I regularly weigh down my students with text-based content and assignments designed more to meet course outcome requirements than to create a rich and welcoming learning experience.

In my Tech Writing class, I happily nag my students to keep their audience in mind when they write for the workplace. I ask them: What do your readers expect, need, and want from your document? What resistance or bias will your audience bring to the reading experience? And what do you—the writer—want your audience to think, feel, and do after they’ve read your work? I insist: The key to creating truly successful workplace documents is using well-considered answers to those questions to drive every content, design, and delivery decision you make.

And then I proceed to post two pages of clear, detailed (and totally boring) assignment instructions on Blackboard. Or I deliver a presentation about IEEE citations supported by a dozen deadly bulleted slides.

This is a clear case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

In the classroom, my students are my audience, and I need to keep them in mind. They expect to read, write, listen, and learn. They need new knowledge and skills. But they also want—desperately—to be engaged and to care about their learning experience. (As for resistance and bias, most of my students would rather dig a ditch than listen to a lecture on genre or cite a source.)

So, going forward, I want to do more of what I say—and that means keeping my audience in mind as I create lessons and assignments. I already give students a lot of what they need to learn; as I develop curriculum for my new hybrid course, I hope to give them more of what they want: the opportunity to be engaged and to care. I hope to take Elizabeth St. Germain’s advice and act as a curator of inspiring learning resources so that my students can design and enjoy their own learning experiences.

I recently took my first step: banishing bulleted presentations from my curriculum and replacing them with visually rich Assertion-Evidence (AE) slides.
(For new ideas on visual presentations, watch Melissa Marshall’s talk on AE Design.)

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Online Collaborative Activities for Non-Native English Speakers

These are just tentative ideas on work in progress, which is to design a new hybrid course for international students – learners of English.

I’d like to address “Online Course Design Pitfall #5” written by Elizabeth St. Germain in response to those instructors who underestimate the importance of collaborative interactive learning.  I’m planning on using some of the available resources on Blackborad and Google Docs, implementing the following teaching strategies:

  • To assist students in their reading assignments, I’ll post the text with some basic annotations already made and difficult vocabulary explained for them.  This should guide and facilitate their comprehension.  Their assignment will be to create a summary outline, using a special template provided.  This task will be submitted and graded as homework.  This is one way to make sure students actually read texts!

  • Unfortunately, students often don’t read assigned texts.  To address this, I’ll use “Fishbowl” discussions where everyone is assigned a role and participates.  Assessment of this type of activity will be done in quizzing the students online after the discussion on what they have learned.  Students’ responses will also be graded as classroom participation.

  • Finally, students will write a summary-response paper in class.  By then they should be well -prepared and up for the task, following a sequence of online and classroom activities: from guided reading to summarization to discussion to quizzing and, finally, to writing a response paper.

Another important focal point of this course is writing a research paper. My intention is to make this project as collaborative as possible both in the classroom and online.  Once the topic is identified, students will be engaged in the following collaborative/individual tasks:

  • Brainstorming ideas using Google Docs

  • Developing a research question in a lab individually or w/ a partner  and graded as classroom activity

  • Developing a rough outline on Google Docs individually or w/ a partner and graded as homework

  • Developing guidelines for locating quality research websites as the whole class activity

  • Library guided research as the whole class activity

  • A follow up library research online quiz

  • Students pool their findings form the library/Internet search: Jigsaw “experts” post relevant quotes on Wikis

  • Thesis Statement development in class.  This activity is finalized by submitting the assigment to Google Docs and graded as homework

  • Detailed Outline in class.  This activity is finalized by submitting the assignment to Google Doc and graded as homework

  • Drafting

  • Group peer editing in class

There are two challenging tasks I’d like to describe briefly.  The first one is to make sure that the topic/prompt selected for the research paper meets the objectives of the course and, at the same time, is conducive to collaborative learning.  My understanding is that it needs to be an “umbrella”-like topic with related subtopics so that students can work together on some steps of the project while focusing on their individual essays.

The second challenge is to make the course material come alive for the students.  For this purpose, I’m planning to use multimedia digital resources to supplement the syllabus.  To connect their coursework with real life, I’d like to use some video clips and follow up questions to present students with real-life cases that would illustrate the ideas and concepts of the course.  Students will have an opportunity to analyze and reflect on the issues of the course through watching the videos.

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Potential pitfalls – Collaborative learning

A couple of caveats on top -

  1. I have a very hard time writing about learning concisely.
  2. I don’t have a computer right now and I am writing this on a tablet. So far, in my experience, WordPress on a tablet doesn’t mesh well with #1. Fair warning.

So #1 + #2 = I’m focusing on one pitfall — one that I’ve been struggling with for a while – how to foster collaborative learning in the online environment.

Like a lot of others, I’ve used discussion boards and I have a lot of experience with discussions that didn’t work out quite like I’d hoped  - long lists of replies that don’t go beyond “I agree,” or “I liked Sue’s  post,” discussions that read like a series of disconnected opinions, or discussions that never get off the ground because all of the posts come in an hour before the deadline.

But maybe a hurdle here is that I’m trying to figure out how to replicate in-class discussion.

As a librarian, I know that knowing how to learn online — from people as well as from texts — is an essential skill.  Looking at that real-world context, I see two main ways that people engage and learn online and I think these translate pretty well to the classroom too –

  • Interacting with people different than me, I am being pushed to see things from another perspective or to consider topics I’ve never considered.


  • I have a question, I need help to answer it.

The replicating-class-discussions problems are mostly tied up in that first way of learning — and that’s a really tough one in out-of-classroom contexts too, as anyone who has ever been sucked into an unmoderated online comment section can attest.

Listen to Yourself (xkcd)

So maybe instead, it would be helpful to start with the other type of questions — the simpler ones that fall under I have a question, I need help to answer it.

These are situations where someone has a pretty specific, defined need and they need a piece of information, an opinion, a visual or something to fill that need.  This could be something they could just access — like this blog post about repainting Ikea furniture, or they might need to find a person, or a community.  This is really common in the world of technology troubleshooting.

This kind of learning is important.  It does take some skill.  And it’s not hard to motivate people to engage in it, at least as learners who are already self-motivated by their own need for the information.  And once you’re part of a community, it’s pretty common to want to give back – to answer questions on the forums, or to put up your own posts when you’re the one that figures out how to do the thing.  When you’re a part of the community, you know what’ll be useful, what’s likely to get you a positive reaction.

top half of a young man's head with a lightbulb suspended above it

some rights reserved by Flickr user Matthew Wynn

This gives me some ideas for my hybrid U-Engage course.   

There might be value in talking explicitly to students about creating and finding learning communities, showing examples of how that works (and having them share their own experience) before setting up part of the class discussion board for this purpose.

Asking students to create digital content that shows how they solved a problem common to people in the class community seems like a potentially fruitful way to start getting them engaged with the idea of teaching and learning online.


Additional thoughts -

In some ways, this seems particularly interesting in a U-Engage class because the “how to” or “DIY” content could be grounded in the subject material of the class (digital remixing), or it could be about all of the How to Be an OSU Student skills that are part of the first-year experience program.

This raises the thought of audience — problems that come up because of the subject matter of this specific course might be better handled within the familiar class community — on Blackboard or some other shared site.  On the other hand, the best audience for How to Navigate OSU strategies would probably be broader than that — publishing somewhere more open is potentially riskier, but might make that kind of activity feel more authentic.

Of course, this doesn’t really get at the issues raised at the beginning because this kind of learning isn’t the challenging, potentially risky learning that we’re usually hoping to spark in class discussions.  I am starting to have thoughts about this kind of learning too. But I don’t think I’m going to get there in this post — it’s long enough already.

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This picture of my dog shows how I feel as I embark on this journey to redesign the hybrid course: Inquisitive eyes, but I’m not sure I want to wake up quite yet.  Here it goes…Given my passion for learning technologies, I’ll put a twist on this with ways I celebrate emerging technologies because they allow us to avoid these pitfallsIMG_2940

Online Course Design Pitfall #1: Upload your course materials, then call it a day. The beauty of emerging technologies is that they allow us to do things we couldn’t do in the past to support learning.  In collaboration with of the four c’s: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking + the fifth, culture,  there are many online possibilities to enhance student engagement and learning.  Finding ways of working with course content in ways that employ the four c’s and create a culture of learning is one of the favorite parts of my work.   It can be frustrating at times, because it requires ME to use the four c’s. However, when it comes together, it’s exciting.  Here’s an example of how I introduce myself to my learners by leveraging some of the technologies out there and trying to set an example of how they too can interact with the technologies in ways that allow them a unique voice.

Online Course Design Pitfall #2: Let the course management system drive your thinking. Technology standards and outcomes are a part of all my classes.  I frequently motivate and remind learners in my courses that the skills they learn by using technologies are transferable.  The same applies to me as I design spaces that allow learners to collaborate, communicate, be creative and flex their critical thinking muscles.  Sometimes this comes together on the university learning management system.  Other times, other sites meet specific needs best. It’s important for me to have a working knowledge of available sites and their functionality, so I can make informed design choices in creating a culture of learning.  This reminder to myself of transferable skills on learning management systems is particularly timely as the university faces the decision between Blackboard and Canvas :-)  Here are a few social media sites I refer my learners to for further exploration.

Online Course Design Pitfall #3: Insist on being the “sage on the stage.” I’d likely trip and fall off the stage if I start seeing myself in that way.  There are educators that belong in the limelight with their lecturing or storytelling abilities.  I find my comfort level within the realm of facilitator and aggregator. The description in this pitfall opens up the concept of the vast amount of information that is available to learners at their fingertips.  As a facilitator and curator, part my role is to aid learners in the understanding of digital information literacy.

Online Course Design Pitfall #4: Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it. I enjoy the work of Howard Rheingold and others who speak on the topic of learners as producers of knowledge rather than consumers.   This is another place in blended and online learning that has potential for learners to synthesize, create, and share, often in new ways.  It can be fun to step-it-up and have them share with a real audience.  Creating assignments that avoid this pitfall is probably my personal favorite part of utilizing online learning technologies.  There are many engaging sites out there that learners can use to create.  Here is my toolbox I draw from as I design my courses.

Online Course Design Pitfall #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other.  This is perhaps the way I’ve changed the most since I started teaching online.  When I first started, I believed I needed to be actively involved in responding in all of the spaces.  Over the years, I have come to see the real need to step back and provide safe spaces for learners to learn from each other without the presence of an instructor voice.  As I move forward in learning about blended spaces, I want to explore ways of doing this better both f2f and online.

These pitfalls are important to keep in mind.  A challenge for me is in balancing the time it takes to create quality spaces, assignments, and assessments that foster the four c’s and create an engaging culture of learning.  It’s a reason I started aggregating sites I find useful and exploring their possibilities by blogging.  It gives me easy access to learning technologies as my courses continually evolve.

Happy learning to all as we create, learn and share!

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