Inquiry through Blended Learning - Tip Sheets

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Facilitating Effective Online Discussion Series

ITBL Series – Reasons for Online Discussions (PDF)
The online discussion board tool is often one of the first features that many instructors try to use. You may, however, find that your first experience using a discussion board falls short of what you had hoped for. It is important to understand why discussion is a good teaching strategy and know what outcomes you can expect from a discussion. When instituting discussions online, it is also important to plan up front and make online dialogue relevant to course content.

ITBL Series – Motivating Students for Discussions (PDF)
Utilizing an online discussion board can deepen student learning and extend dialogue about core course concepts. Creating and facilitating effective online discussions requires just a bit of preparation and a few proven strategies. Motivating students to participate in online discussions is at the core of many frequently asked questions.

Evaluating or Marking Online Discussion Participation
Online discussions can provide valuable forums where complex content and perspectives are examined, and understood through collaborative processes and knowledge sharing. The discussions can take many forms such as debates, small group work, and case studies, for example. However when we incorporate online discussions into our courses we must, at the same time, consider whether and how to assess

Student Roles / Faculty Roles
Online discussions can provide valuable forums in which complex content, and perspectives are examined and understood through collaborative processes and knowledge sharing. They can take many forms such as debates, small group work, and case studies, for example. Roles and responsibilities of instructors and students need to be delineated to help things run smoothly.

Creating Community Series

ITBL Series – Facilitating Student Introductions (PDF)
Learning about each other is a critical part of building community in the classroom. A comfortable community encourages people to participate in and take risks that help learning occur. For example, learners participate in discussions and ask questions rather than remaining silent. In online classes, creating this sense of community is just as vital to student engagement and learning, if not more so, since online learners are often concerned with a sense of invisibility as they cannot "see" each other.

ITBL Series – Establishing Class Norms (PDF)
Classroom norms are agreed upon guidelines for how students conduct themselves in a classroom environment. Just as in face-to-face settings, online classroom norms are an important part of creating a positive learning environment. Norms give students an understanding of class expectations, help students feel comfortable, and establish a sense of trust between classmates. Norms also make the course environment safer and learning as a result is more likely to occur.

Orienting Students to Blended Learning
Building community requires open communication and information exchange at several levels and should begin on or before the first formal day of class. It begins with introductory activities that help students get to know each other, the instructor, and the course structure and expectations.

Active Learning in Face-to-Face and Online Courses
The information for this tip sheet comes from Mel Silberman's (1996) book Active Learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject . Silberman has been using active learning techniques in university classrooms for over 25 years. His book Active Learning 101 strategies to teach any subject has concrete ideas which can be used for face-to-face classes and many can be adapted to an online environment. This book is an excellent resource to have on your bookshelf.

 

Assessment Series

Using Assessment Tools for Blended or Face-To-Face Courses
Giving prompt feedback is one of the key principles in Chickering and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education . They state that reflection is critical to learning and " knowing what you know/don't know focuses learning". Students require feedback on performance before, during and after a learning experience.

Using Classroom Assessment Techniques to Provide Feedback
Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo & Cross, 1993) are simple methods that faculty can use to collect feedback, early and often, on how well their students are learning. The purpose of classroom assessment is to provide faculty and students with information and insights needed to improve teaching effectiveness and learning quality. The feedback gleaned through classroom assessment can be used by faculty to inform adjustments in their teaching practices. Faculty can also share feedback with students, using it to help them improve their learning strategies and study habits in order to become more self-directed, successful learners.

Creating and Using Rubrics for Student Assignments
A rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work or "what counts". For example, a rubric for a paper or research project will list the items that a student must include in order to receive a certain score or rating. Rubrics also help students to figure out how their work will be evaluated. Generally rubrics specify the level of performance expected for several levels of quality. These levels of quality may be written as different ratings (e.g., Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement) or as numerical scores (e.g., 4, 3, 2, 1) which are added up to form a total score, which is then associated with a grade (e.g., A, B, C, etc). Rubrics can help students and faculty define "quality". Rubrics can also help students judge and revise their own work before handing in their assignments.

Organizing and Formatting Series

Why use Blackboard Announcements for Blended or Face-to-Face Courses?
As a default, current announcements are the first thing students see when they access a Blackboard course. Since announcements are accessible to an entire class, all students can view the announcements at any time. As an added benefit, the instructor has complete control over the announcements. The use of the Announcement Tool can stretch far beyond the posting of "announcement" type material. This is the ideal place to post time-sensitive material for students to access outside of class time.

eLearning Tools Series

Supporting Student Collaboration through the use of Wikis
A wiki is a collection of Web pages that can be edited by anyone, at any time, from anywhere. The possibilities for using wikis as a platform for collaborative projects are limited only by one's imagination and time.

Supporting Reflective Learning through the use of Weblogs
A weblog is an online personal journal. Easy to create and use, blogs - a short hand term for weblogs - are a forum for Internet publishing that have become an established communication tool.

Connecting Students and Content through Macromedia Breeze
It is often stated that students need to interact with the instructor, with other students and with the content of a course for optimum learning to occur. The Breeze presentation tool offers a number of ways to help students engage and interact with the content.

Engaging Students in Real Time with Elluminate Live!
Changing student demographics and new technologies provide motivation for the university as a whole and for individual instructors to design greater flexibility into course structures and learning environments. Elluminate Live! allows instructors to "meet" with students and colleagues in real-time even though they may not be physically in the same room.

Using “clickers” to Engage Students and Enhance Learning
“Clicker” is the colloquial term for a personal response device similar to a TV remote control. The radio (or infra red) signal from the individual student clickers is picked up by a receiver connected to a computer in the classroom which collates: records and immediately displays the results graphically. The technology is easy to use and can be made available to students at a reasonable cost. They are already very popular in scores of colleges and universities around the world. Each clicker can be registered to a specific student (or not, depending on the teacher’s choice).

Teaching Strategies

Connecting Theory to Practice through the use of Case Studies
A case study is a scenario or problem written in the form of a story. It presents an issue relating to an event, activity, or problem, which students are asked to research, debate, and/or solve. Case studies offer a number of educational benefits, including forming connections between course content, real issues, and student experiences, motivating students, making interdisciplinary connections, strengthening student skills in analysis and critical thinking, and promoting active learning.

Inquiry Learning
Inquiry is at the heart of the University of Calgary’s Institutional Learning Plan, and a central feature of course redesign. Instructors who want to foster inquiry in their classes put less emphasis on lectures, while incorporating more critical discourse, research, and group work. Discussion and reflection are critical features of the inquiry process.

Improving Student Writing through Peer Review
Peer review is an active learning strategy with a number of benefits for learners. It focuses on the writing process, improves students’ critical analysis skills, and allows them to improve their work before it is graded. Facilitate the peer review process online by using tools such as Blackboard, email, or the Peer Review Tool.