Case Study 1: Broad Conceptualization
McCracken and Dobson (2004) provide an example of how learning purpose, context, and blended learning ingredients lead particular learning methods. They propose a process with “five main design activities” (p.491) as a framework for designing blended learning courses. The process is illustrated with a case study of the redesign of a class at The University of Alberta called Philosophy 101 (pp. 494 – 495):
- Identifying learning and teaching principles. The teaching and learning goals were described as requiring active participation, sustained discussion, and, most importantly, inquiry and critical analysis.
- Describing organizational contexts. Team teaching with three professors and up to eleven graduate teaching assistants to engage a class of 250 students in dialogue around ethical and political philosophy.
- Describing discipline-specific factors. The designers are described as being concerned about stereotypes of philosophy as “bearded men professing absolute truths” (p.495). The desire was to represent philosophy as an activity, not a set truths to be absorbed.
- Selecting and situating appropriate learning technologies. Learning activities focused on the process of engagement: presenting and defending a thesis and responding to opposing views. For example, a face-to-face lecture would feature contemporary ethical dilemmas with newspaper headlines or a video clip. Or, the instructors would stage a debate in which they would assume the role of a philosopher under study and then argue from the philosopher’s point of view. Online threaded discussion supplemented small group seminar sections.
- Articulating the complementary interaction between classroom and online learning activities. In the Philosophy 101 example, it was noted how the face-to-face engagement was complemented by more deliberative, asynchronous discourse.
Even this simplified description illustrates the multilayered, multifaceted nature of blended learning environments. With such a large canvass, the most important design principle might be to start small. “Creating a blended learning strategy is an evolutionary process.” (Singh and Reed, 2001).
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