Skype: 310-961-4877 gary.bartanus@alumni.ubc.ca

Project: Blended Learning Environments

Providing the best of two worlds for a diversity of learners

 

HYU Project: Developing Blended Learning Environments

(April 2010 to present)

Introduction

When I began teaching at Hanyang University, all my courses were traditional face-to-face classes. Now, as a result of a personal long term project, all of my courses have been converted to Blended Learning. Most consist of three blended environments: 1) traditional face-to-face (F2F); 2) WordPress site/blog; and 3) a Learning Management System (LMS). This allows students who are shy in classroom settings to enjoy success in online activities (or vice versa) and it also affords more opportunities for me to address some well researched aspects of modern learning theory.

Note: My work in Blended Learning is also posted on the Integrating Technology with Learning competency page of this site (intentionally) because it is mainly what I do. If you have already read it, please tap/click here to quickly move to the next project page.

Tap/click to view project data

Project Data

  • My roles: assistant professor / instructional designer
  • Number of collaborating faculty members: 5
  • Number of redesigned courses: 10+
  • Number of affected HYU students: approx. 2000

The Three Environments of My Blended Courses

F2F CLASSROOM

  • Pros: Easy interactivity; clearer communication of subtleties; affords social learning
  • Cons: Intimidating for shy students; inflexible time constraints; expensive
  • Purpose: fosters social interaction, collaboration, & relationship building; provides space for student-teacher Q&As, & practice/graded activities

WORDPRESS SITE

  • Pros: Intuitive and attractive interface; responsive design; easy navigation
  • Cons: less secure/private than LMS; frequent updates occasionally break the site
  • Purpose: provides overview of course; hosts video tutorials to help students get started on LMS; acts as a portal to helpful resources and important sites

ONLINE LMS

  • Pros: Security & privacy; some interactivity; hosts assignment, feedback, & grading info
  • Cons: difficult for computer illiterates; unattractive interface; limited by LMS creator
  • Purpose: hosts assignment, grading, & supplemental info.; affords secure space for online collaboration, peer review, & teacher feedback

The Process

The courses begin with the usual F2F class where the usual introductions take place and course overview is presented. The mainly Korean students are informally surveyed and I usually discover that only one or two out of 20+ students have ever taken a BL course before. I then very carefully explain to them that blended learning is not passive learning and that, when they are online, they need to be motivated and attentively involved with the online interactivities and, by doing so, collaboratively building useful knowledge with one another – and for themselves. I then inform my mainly EFL learners that another word for “build” is “construct” and that, because my students usually work in groups (so they can socialize and learn together), I am what is called a “Social Constructivist.”

At this point, most of the students begin looking somewhat bewildered, so, to help them more fully grasp the concept, I explain that this means that I give as few lectures as possible and that current research indicates that students learn better when they work together on problem solving and projects than they do by sitting and taking notes. Once the majority of the class looks like they are beginning to appreciate this, I usually then ask the students for a show of hands on “how many of you love traditional lectures and want to listen to them in every class?” Inevitably, the response is an awkward stillness, punctuated with some nervous laughter. After a moment or two, I thank them for giving me permission to not lecture them in every class and proceed to show them the beginning of the orientation video (first of the six posted immediately below), point out their homework (posted on the course page) and tell them that, because it is such a heavy load of important homework (usually something like buy your textbook, familiarize yourself with the course site, get properly set up on the LMS, and prepare a 1 minute self-introduction to be presented in the next class.), they are free to go and use the remaining class time to get started on it.

Video Tutorials

Video tutorials are a vital part of the process. As the following samples demonstrate, they provide learners with just enough information to complete certain key tasks and, considering that I do not spend time storyboarding, script writing, editing, and polishing them to impeccable professional standards, they have proven to be extremely effective. Why? I think the reason is because students quickly realize that there are some huge advantages to hybrid courses – particularly in regards to being more adaptive to different learning styles and flexible for easy time management – so they quickly engage with the course objectives and dive into the work.

The Support

Part 1 – Presentation Skills

To engage the students even further, I have developed websites for them. Most of the courses I teach involve varying levels of presentation skills. Our department holds a high profile Professional Academic English Presentation Contest (PAEPC) every year and, in 2013, I created the PAEPC website. In addition to providing contest information, it also hosts inspirational and instructive videos of student presentations. Furthermore, I developed a way of combining those hosted videos with learning activities that teach students about both the important skills they need to learn and the rubric that grades them on those skills. The video below demonstrates:

To see a live demo of the Google Forms version of this activity, please click here.

Part 2 – Multiple Literacies for the 21st Century

In 2012,  I was asked to develop a blended course in multimedia writing. Designed primarily for EFL learners in Korea, a primary objective of this course was to involve learners with such literacies as filmmaking, digital storytelling and blogging. Another objective was to encourage the development of advanced critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. 

In October of 2013, I created a website to support the annual Hanyang English Film Festival (HEFF) by posting rules, important dates, tutorials, and inspirational student films. I also used the HEFF event and website to motivate and engage the students of my multimedia classes. As a result, many students from the multimedia class have also participated in the festival and produced some excellent films, as shown in the examples below. 

Student Evaluations

Following are some strong indicators that students generally approve of the blended learning environments and social constructivist principles that have been implemented since early 2010. 

Student Approval Ratings Since Spring, 2013

The following bar graph illustrates student approval ratings between Spring 2013 and Winter 2015: 

  • 2015 – Winter 97.5%
  • 2015 – Fall 92.57%
  • 2015 – Spring 95.17%
  • 2014 – Winter 97.00%
  • 2014 – Fall 92.17%
  • 2014 – Summer 94.00%
  • 2014 – Spring 89.00%
  • 2013 – Fall 92.80%
  • 2013 – Summer 95.00%
  • 2013 – Spring 92.80%
Tap/click to view PDF of all HYU student evaluations since Spring, 2010

Tap/click to view a sampling of student evaluations from the multimedia writing class

Reflections

Shortly after joining the Hanyang University faculty in early 2010, I became interested in improving the methods of delivering information to my students – especially those students who exhibited considerable difficulty in understanding my spoken English. I was a great proponent of both the theory of Multiple Intelligences and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, so I decided to build a website that would provide students with as many different information delivery modes as possible, including print, video, and audio. I also wanted to give learners access to materials being produced by recognized Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), so I began posting (in the Focus on Learning blog) both print and multimedia content from other reliable sources, including educational YouTube channels and RSS feeds.  

At the same time, I wanted to provide my students with up-to-date grading information that they could access securely at any time and give them a safe place to interact online for some writing assignments. As a result, I began using the Canvas Learning Management System. Most of my students had never worked with an LMS before, so it became necessary to produce a number of screencasts that showed them exactly how to set themselves up on the course LMS. Those videos can be found at the main WordPress site, Focus on Learning, on most of the Help pages. 

Future Plans

In a word: mobility.

With mobile devices that are now so fast and easy to use, with powerful new apps being developed every day, and with more people going online via their phones than with their desktop computers, there is little doubt that the next major paradigm shift in education will be towards mobility. I am already seeing it in my classrooms. 

As documented in one of my master’s projects, I have had entire classes where nobody could speak or understand English and, if it weren’t for a simple Augmented Reality app called Google Translate, we would have had a very difficult time. (I speak very little Korean.)

Thanks to the mobile app for Canvas, an entire class of 24 students can now get themselves registered and set up in the LMS during class time if I give them a few minutes to use their smartphones and help one another. A few years ago, when I didn’t allow smartphones in the classroom, this very basic task could drag on for weeks because many students could not understand my English voiceovers in the screencasts that I had prepared for them to use on their home computers.

Today, one of my key goals is to use mobile learning much more: to the point where the row of three columns at top of this page must add a fourth column and include one more element that should be used in all BL courses. It would look something like this:

F2F CLASSROOM

  • Pros: Easy interactivity; clearer communication of subtleties; affords social learning
  • Cons: Intimidating for shy students; inflexible time constraints; expensive
  • Purpose: fosters social interaction, collaboration, & relationship building; provides space for student-teacher Q&As, & practice/graded activities

WORDPRESS SITE

  • Pros: Intuitive and attractive interface; responsive design; easy navigation
  • Cons: less secure/private than LMS; frequent updates occasionally break the site
  • Purpose: provides overview of course; hosts video tutorials to help students get started on LMS; acts as a portal to helpful resources and important sites

ONLINE LMS

  • Pros: Security & privacy; some interactivity; hosts assignment, feedback, & grading info
  • Cons: difficult for computer illiterates; unattractive interface; limited by LMS creator
  • Purpose: hosts assignment, grading, & supplemental info.; affords secure space for online collaboration, peer review, & teacher feedback

MOBILE APPS

  • Pros: can be used almost anywhere and save time; apps can enhance communication and collaboration
  • Cons: not affordable for all; compatibility & connectivity issues; limited battery life; can be distractive
  • Purpose: give immediate help if peers or teacher are unavailable; encourage development of student relationships & learning community