Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice
Planning For A Challenging Digital Future – Week 3
Week 3 the last week of the Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice, covering the topic on “Planning For A Challenging Digital Future”. We looked at how it is challenging to implement new ideas into practice and most of all trying to convince the bosses to agree in the value of using emerging digital technology to embed in current learning environment.
I found the Googledoc so useful to put together value added case for blended learning to allow decision makers to come to the right mind set of embedding proven and successful blended learning practices. Here is the link to the google doc Collecting the evidence of the value of blended learning
The areas we looked at were:
- What do learners want?
- Can your learners make the case?
- The costs and benefits of blended learning
- Managing a culture change
- Effective change management
- Professional development and collaboration to embed blended learning
The course during the week covered several methods used by various learning practitioners, sharing their stories and how they have implemented digital technology in their learning environment. Their arguments were so inspiring and can relate to our own organisation.
What do learners want?
Reading web pages and watching all the videos I have learnt that engaging with learners how they would like to learn is very important. The other bit about blended learning is the use of the right digital technology to enable learning which was showcased aptly in the course video using QR code. I really like the simplicity of this free digital tool yet so effective.
Digital courses which are created can be used anytime anywhere which means flexibility in learning and learner can choose to replay the course over and over until it make sense. We already offer small part of our sessions as eLearning where learners can replay as many times as they wish it.
Can your learners make the case?
Not all learners will have sufficient experience of digital technology to be able to address the question. They may not yet have developed the digital skills to make it, so this could be a valuable session for helping them develop such skills. However, you may be surprised at how creative they are in making such presentations, and even for those who are not very skilled, the process will be enjoyable, and will certainly get them thinking.
The costs and benefits of blended learning
Making the transition from a conventional teaching model to a blended learning version is a complex decision-making process. It is important to consider the extent to which the innovation is beneficial to both learners and teachers:
- If it improves the learning experience but at the cost of increased staff workload, it will be unsustainable;
- If it improves workload but diminishes the quality of the learning experience, it will be unacceptable.
The critical questions are:
- Can we improve outcomes without increasing the per-student workload for teachers?
- Can we maintain or improve outcomes for a larger cohort, or a more diverse cohort?
Course Resource Appraisal Modeller (CRAM)
CRAM is a modelling tool that enable the teacher, trainer, or teaching team to design, model and redesign their approach until it looks as if the workload is reasonable. The cost of staff time and the per-student teaching-related income is also important to estimate, because this affects the sustainability of the course. If it is not sustainable, it is vulnerable.
Equally, CRAM allows teachers to plan realistically the cost of their time to innovate. If it is to be done well it takes time. So the tool enables you to work with your colleagues to ensure that the up-front investment in innovation is worthwhile in terms of the payback over the medium term.
The course video covers on how to use the tool to plan a course:
- the teaching and learning activities both conventional and digital,
- the technologies to be used,
- learner time needed for study in class and beyond the classroom,
- teacher time needed for preparation, updating, learner support, assessment, marking, etc.
The tool helps with understanding the time costs of innovation with blended learning, the benefits for the learners, and the benefits of sharing the innovation load.
This is an unusual approach to course planning for teachers. It is activity-base costing done in terms of the activities of teachers and learners.
Download the CRAM tool here.
Download and extract this ZIP folder that contains two sample plans that can be opened and edited using the CRAM tool.
Here is a sample plan for a conventional course [PDF] and one for its blended learning version [PDF]. These documents are reports exported from the CRAM tool. The report for the Blended Learning Course explains the differences introduced to the Conventional Course.
- Read through both to see how the two designs differ, especially with respect to the learner experience, the teaching preparation and support times, and the Summary of the sustainability of the course over time.
- Run the CRAM tool, and from the File menu: Open the model for the Generic Conventional Course (the code is in the ZIP folder download).
- Change the learner numbers in the 3rd run to 60 to see the effects of scaling up.
- Open the model for the Blended Learning Course (the code is in the ZIP folder download).
- Change the learner numbers in the 3rd run to 60 and compare the effect on teacher time and sustainability between the two versions.
- Note that although the Blended Learning course is more costly to develop initially, it provides a more active, social and personalised learning experience, and it yields a greater profit by the 3rd run.
- Then experiment with other changes to see what happens to the bottom line.
Managing a culture change
In the course video, the following key factors for successful culture change are identified. These are common across the education sector when implementing change with technology. We have also provided some other important considerations.
- Leadership – leading by example, directly supporting culture change
- Vision and strategy – demonstrating the reasons for change
- Developing staff buy-in – overcoming barriers with individuals, demonstrating the value of technology
- Using champions – sharing good practice between colleagues and teams to encourage positive change
- Reward and recognition for staff – showcasing good practice, rewarding innovation and risk-taking
- Working with students and other stakeholders – asking students, employers and professional bodies what they want, and involving them in change
- Using evidence to support change – making sure that pedagogy drives the use of technology, not the other way round
- Providing a supportive environment – encouraging a safe environment for colleagues to experiment, ask questions, develop confidence
- Developing skills – providing opportunities for professional development
- Providing a robust technology landscape – ensuring the infrastructure is robust, fit for purpose and easy to use
Effective change management
From the course video we heard from individuals across the VET sector talking about how they would like to see more leadership, collaboration and sharing across the sector to reduce costs and drive innovation.
- Jisc guide to Change Management , which sets out alternative theories, and links to prior experience in the sector;
- AoC position paper analysing the Heart of Worcestershire College eLearning Academies project [PDF], which demonstrates an effectively managed project to collaboratively deliver a new qualification, an apprenticeship framework and elearning materials;
- CAMEL project, which uses local cross-organisational collaboration to exchange ideas and practices, through regional workshops.
To achieve effective change, which is embedded across the organisation, there needs to be close interaction and teamwork between the interdependent units and groups involved in the change process. In the case of blended learning which involves many stakeholders, these are likely to include:
- Teachers and trainers, to design and develop and test new digital pedagogies
- Teaching support staff, to provide good online learner support
- Learning technology /specialists, to support innovation and digital awareness
- Media and technical specialists, to co-design good quality resources and tools
- Library staff, to source online resources, tools and services
- IT staff, to inform strategic decisions about technology purchases and infrastructure requirements
- Marketing staff, to use digital marketing to promote online and blended learning courses to wider groups
- Leaders and managers, to support and champion change
- Students, to help develop change and provide feedback
Professional development and collaboration to embed blended learning
The case study provided examples from across the VET sector of ways to engage in professional development activities and how collaboration can enhance practice and drive efficiency. In the video, practitioners describe a range of on-going CPD activities, including:
- Using Twitter and LinkedIn for building professional networks, receiving updates and sharing good practice;
- Using professional organisation resources, such as Jisc and the Association of Colleges for updates;
- Joining the Special Interest Group on FELTAG;
- Applying for awards or for small amounts of funding to support change;
- Working with colleagues in other colleges or professional organisations to co-create resources and test materials.
Here are some useful links that I have explored which were provided during the week from the course page:
Check my reflective blog along with few others below from the course Getting Started and Embedding Practice:
The following links are from the first course Blended Learning Essentials Getting Started offered as MOOC on FutureLearn by the University of Leeds, same facilitators as in this course:
Blended Learning Essentials Getting Started: Systems, Tools and Resources Week 3
Blended Learning Essentials Getting Started: Designing Blended Learning Week 4
Blended Learning Essentials Getting Started: Teaching for your Learners’ Futures Week 5
This course is offered on FutureLearn as MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) from the University of Leeds following on from the Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started course last year. I have learnt a lot from these two courses and hopefully I can put forward ideas to my bosses to improve our training. If you are interested, the Getting Started course is starting again in March 2016. Here is the link if you wish to enrol.