Week 2 Blog: Blended & Online Learning (Take 2)

Retrieved from https://www.learncube.com/challenges-and-strategies-for-teaching-online-language-classes.html

For this week’s blog, I will use the following questions to guide my post:

  1. What are your experiences and perceptions r/t your own use of blended learning and/or tech integration in your professional context? 
  2. What challenges and opportunities have you experienced?

Our last class was quite informative and helped me to look more critically at different classifications of courses including blended and online courses.  I must admit I was guilty of thinking that there was no difference between online and blended learning because both included the use of technology in the classroom. After completing the class readings and attending the class, I learned that blended learning usually occurs with the physical presence of the student and teacher simultaneously in a classroom, with the focus on using technology to aid learning, versus online learning which is distance learning through technology and does not require the presence of both teacher and student at the same time. I wonder though, if blended learning is practical or realistic for every school situation? 

I think that there are many factors involved to ensure the success of blended learning in the classroom such as up to date and accessible technology.  Once running smoothly, I’m sure blended learning will be fantastic, however technology is very expensive and most schools have strict budgets that do not allow for the latest gadgets or upkeep of technology.  There must be adequate training and ongoing IT support provided to both teachers and students for the successful use of technology.  We are fortunate at SaskPolytech to have IT available for office and classroom support.  That being said, our office and classroom computers operate quite slowly as is, and simply cannot accommodate all the latest technology, which literally freezes programs when tried. We are told that new computer systems are not in the budget so I have taken my own laptop to work in order to run certain programs.

Image retrieved from https://ohtorch.com/3190/features/smart-boards-the-latest-technological-innovation-to-be-utilized-at-olympic-heights/

In our classrooms at Saskpolytech we have are lucky to have a smart board in one classroom and a handy computer projector in our other classroom, to use in day to day teaching. 

We also use both ‘low-fidelity’ and ‘high-fidelity’ simulation for nursing students when instructing clinical skills.  In ‘high-fidelity’ simulation, a mock hospital room is set up and the students can run through realistic nursing hospital scenarios with ‘patients’ – realistic high-tech mannequins.  Students can start IV’s, take blood pressures or listen to lung sounds on the mannequins, as well as interact verbally with them.  Students are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, in a safe environment, without potential to cause harm.

Our program offers both on campus and online course options for students.  When I examined the continuum of technology-based teaching (retrieved from opentextbc.ca, adapted from Bates & Poole, 2003) provided by Alec in our last class, I realized that my Practical Nursing Program’s ‘online courses’ would fall into the category of ‘hybrid classes’ because though students learn mostly online, they are also required to attend a certain amount of classes/labs on campus and join clinical experiences in the hospital. There are a lot more assignments and reading discussions required for online students in comparison to on-campus students due to less face-to-face classes and to increase interaction between students. 

In the article, “What you need to know about online nursing education” by Sallie Jimenez, Steven Litteral states that though online nursing courses may be more convenient, it is often misunderstood that online is easier than traditional classroom education. “To be successful in online education, students must be disciplined enough to make the time to do their work”.

However, online students also state that they enjoy the flexibility of schedule to allow for working during the day and choosing when to spend time on homework.  They also liked the fact that they could take classes by distance, living up to 6 hours away from the main campus, or choose to do clinical experiences either in Regina or Saskatoon. 

Usually when our faculty teach online, we don’t simultaneously teach on-campus and vice-versa, due to high time demands factor.

On the GetReskilled website, there are eight common challenges for online learners discussed, including: motivation, accountability, organization, confidence, lack of technical skills, being proactive, loneliness, and persistence.  In my experience, it is a lot harder to recognize if a student is struggling other than seeing poor grades or they self-identify, when compared to on-campus or face-to-face students.  The earlier any issues are recognized, the sooner assistance can be provided to ensure success.  The lack of face-to-face interactions can sometimes make things difficult in an educational environment. 

Image retrieved from https://www.fipp.com/news/features/online-learning-trends-challenges-and-the-consumers-fueling-it

When all things are considered, I feel that most adult learners choose to take online courses rather than on-campus courses for various personal reasons, and will therefore be prepared to meet most challenges.  Technology definitely has positive effects for education, such as engaging learners and creating ‘personal’ learning in the classroom, but should only enhance a learning experiences and not replace it.  Blended learning may be a wonderful idea in theory, but may not be realistic for full application in the classroom.

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