Blended learning, in which classroom learning activity is integrated with online learning activity, has been on the rise over the past two decades. Nationally, a large portion of faculty and students express a preference toward blended approaches and substantial research supports the efficacy of this approach.
Now with the abrupt transition to remote teaching in Spring 2020, the concept of blended learning can be applied in a different way. Blended learning has taken on a new meaning:
- Every remote course will have significant asynchronous learning activity, mainly centered around Canvas, that students will do on their own time in a given week, for example, reading, viewing videos, taking quizzes, and completing writing assignments.
- Most remote courses will also have significant synchronous activity, mainly centered around Zoom, such as live lecture sessions, groups of students meeting online to work on projects or study together, and virtual office hours.
- At Oregon State University, the asynchronous learning activity will be centered around Canvas and the synchronous learning activity will be centered around Zoom. For a description of the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, see synchronous vs. asynchronous.
- Given the OSU credit policy, a three-credit course would equate to approximately three synchronous “contact hours” weekly plus six asynchronous hours of “outside work” by students.
- Faculty who skillfully integrate or “blend” the asynchronous and synchronous course components will provide their learners with greater opportunity to perform at a high level and meet the course learning outcomes.
To help you visualize how you can blend synchronous and asynchronous elements in your course design, sketch out a Remote Learning mix map. You can download the mix map template as a fillable pdf, and either fill it in digitally or print the mix map and write by hand. If representing your entire course in the mix map seems overly ambitious, then just consider a typical week of your Spring course as you see it today.
Give yourself 5 – 10 minutes to sketch your mix map:
- Within each circle, add course learning activities (e.g., weekly discussions, group projects, writing assignments) that will occur synchronously in Zoom, asynchronously in Canvas or in both places.
- Next to each activity list the approximate amount of time students will spend on the activity per week.
- Draw lines to connect each learning activity to other learning activities to depict functional relationships. For example, if there is a weekly quiz, does it cover assigned readings or lecture?
For inspiration look at samples of traditional blended learning mix maps.
You can “flip” your course by using the asynchronous learning activity to prepare students for an upcoming synchronous session. Also think about how you can push the boundaries of the remote teaching environment. Zoom can be used for asynchronous learning (e.g., to pre-record lectures) and Canvas can be used synchronously (e.g., a Canvas discussion forum used live during a class meeting).
Consider sharing your mix map with your students during the first week of the term. It may be as valuable as your syllabus in showing not only your expectations, but also how much time the learning activities will take, and how they will interconnect.
Your first Remote Learning mix map is a snapshot of your thinking as you start Spring term. In this challenging environment, you and your students will exercise flexibility, patience and compassion as you navigate unfamiliar teaching-and-learning terrain together. Based on lessons learned within the first 2 or 3 weeks of the term, you may make major adjustments in your course to build on what works as you guide your students toward the course learning outcomes. And maybe a revised mix map will be a good way to conceptualize the changes, which you can again share with your students.