Three Things You Know about Blended Courses (Face-to-face + e-learning)
Posted on:2 June 2015
Our e-readiness survey of 30 Universities in November 2013 indicated that all universities have an e-learning strategy (see http://ereadiness.kenet.or.ke) . Only one of the 30 universities did not have an operational Learning Management System (LMS like Moodle). The surprise was that only 11% of the 420,000 reported to have taken nearly all or all blended course in the immediate past academic year. This was despite the fact the 75% of the students reported that they would prefer Blended Courses (i.e., face-to-face + e-learning) when compared to either fully online or traditional face-to-face classes. That means that faculty members were NOT teaching in a blended fashion but continued to use traditional face-to-face teaching methods.
There are therefore 3 things you should know in order to improve uptake of blended courses (research shows that blended courses have superior learning outcomes and promote active learning):
Developing the capacity of faculty / lecturers to teach blended courses should be a continuous process with an adequate instructional budget. It is best to use e-learning / blended learning faculty champions in our institutions or well-known experts from other universities that have been successful in teaching blended courses. Initially, it is also possible to enroll faculty members in online blended teaching certification programs offered by leading organizations such EDUCAUSE (http://www.educause.edu) or Online Learning Consortium (http://www.onlinelearningconsortium.org).
Developing high-quality content for blended courses is time-consuming and expensive and requires an adequate instructional budget. The instructional budget allocation is for training faculty on content development, payment of faculty for initial development of the content, reduction of teaching workload in the semester when course being developed and tested, employing instructional designers and setting up a well-equipped campus-based content development lab for faculty developing the materials (this is more like a TV studio these days). High quality Open Content is available on the Internet but faculty need to learn how to be curators of the open content and resources in order to create an engaging blended course. The courses developed in a particular university can be re-used by other faculty and in time the costs drop or could be posted on YouTube to build the brand of the university.
The motivation for blended courses for a university should be superior learning outcomes for the students and flexibility in scheduling classrooms. For example, working and adult students taking blended courses could meet only once a week rather than two times per week and that is convenient for the students and increases the classroom capacity of the campus. However, students still need physical learning spaces for high-speed access to e-learning content rich in video content, discussion groups, and access to e-books and digital libraries. In fact, research shows that blended courses increase the initial cost of instruction but in long run can be scaled up to reduce average cost of instruction, especially with effective use of FREE Open Content.
The KENET Special Interest Group (SIG) on Educational Technology plans to start organizing capacity building workshops and an annual e-learning forum for universities and faculty to share experiences in offering online and blended courses. We shall announce the dates in the next two months.
The E-readiness Survey 2015 scheduled for November 2015 shall collect data on the uptake of e-learning and blended courses in Kenya from about 45 universities that are members of KENET.