Final Week of BlendKit2012

Five weeks pass pretty rapidly!

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In this final week of BlendKit2012, we focused on quality assurance.  Kelvin Thompson suggested the following questions to ponder:

  • How will you know whether your blended learning course is sound prior to teaching it? How will you know whether your teaching of the course was effective once it has concluded?
  • With which of your trusted colleagues might you discuss effective teaching of blended learning courses? Is there someone you might ask to review your course materials prior to teaching your blended course? How will you make it easy for this colleague to provide helpful feedback?
  • How are “quality” and “success” in blended learning operationally defined by those whose opinions matter to you? Has your institution adopted standards to guide formal/informal evaluation?
  • Which articulations of quality from existing course standards and course review forms might prove helpful to you and your colleagues as you prepare to teach blended learning courses?

These are interesting questions, because as Kelvin noted in the reading, there are no universal standards for blended course quality.  One could go further and say that there are no national standards, no state standards, and I would be hard pressed to say that there are institutional standards across our multiple schools and colleges.  While I like the SLOAN-C definition of blended courses (page 7), there really is not even a standard to what constitutes blended learning.  Given that, Kelvin shifted to look at how different institutions have addressed quality in online courses.  While these in many cases are minimum standards, Kelvin suggests in this week’s readings that these “…provide the closest analogue to articulations of quality for blended learning courses.”  Here at VCU, we have used both CSU Chico State’s rubric and the Quality Matters rubric as informal guides to quality, so the resources Kelvin provided in Table 1 below help round these out:

Table 1. Selected examples of online course standards

Title URL
Quality Matters
Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program
Online Course Evaluation Project
CSU Chico’s Rubric for Online Instruction
Michigan Virtual University’s Standards for Quality Online Courses
(Best viewed in Internet Explorer)
Texas Virtual School Network’s Scoring Rubric for Online Courses
Mountain Empire Community College’s Online Course Quality Review Form
Florida Gulfcoast University’s Principles of Online Design

I really like the direction Kelvin took in the second half of the reading.  His (and my) issue with most “standards” is their one-size-fits-all prescriptive nature of the beast.  They also tend to focus heavily on the design of a course without considering the effectiveness of the teaching done with the design.  I would prefer that they be used as a self-assessment instrument rather than as an administratively required one.

Kelvin suggests finding allies to help improve the effectiveness of blended courses.  I agree.  Allies can be peers, but they can also be your own students.  A tip I picked up from Jeff Nugent and have used in my courses is a simple embedded Google Form in the LMS that allows students to provide quick feedback or questions during the online portion of a class.

Kelvin provided two forms this week.  The first is a Before/During/After Checklist with common to-do items based on best practice.  The second is a Blended Course Peer Review form that aggregates good practice from the standards above and provides an instrument for discussion between the teaching faculty and the peer reviewers.  Unlike QM or others, it has distinct “blended” aspects covered.

I again want to thank Kelvin Thompson and the good folks at UCF for providing this thoughtful exercise.  The lessons were well paced, not overwhelming, and integrated with a community of practice.  I used the blogging option rather than the Canvas discussion forum option, so when the dust settles, I would like to go back and see what I missed on that side of the course.

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