A research-informed approach to the design of blended learning modules for large classes

O'Neill, Geraldine and Galvin, Aine (2014) A research-informed approach to the design of blended learning modules for large classes. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


The large class context can present a challenge to engaging students in their learning and staff often struggle to achieve this engagement in an efficient manner. The role of the lecture as the primary source of content in this context is being increasingly challenged due to the growing use of the on-line environment as both a source of information and an opportunity for student engagement. Persistent budget cuts to Irish higher education institutions over the past number of years has resulted in higher staff-student ratios and in some cases a reduction in traditional face-to-face tutorial allocations. Consequently there is a need for a research-informed approach to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the design of the blend of face-to-face and on-line learning opportunities in large classes. In 2013, UCD Teaching & Learning initiated a project to investigate the international and national best practices in blended module design for large classes with a view of implementing these designs in a number of modules over a two-year period (2013-2015). This presentation will focus primarily on the results of the literature review on best practices in this area. However, the paper will also give some early results on the staff views on these initial designs and their implementation to date. Further data is being gathered on the implementation of these six and a further set of modules for 2014-2015. These results will be presented at a later date. Literature Review Using 'blended learning' and 'large class' in the key-word search in academic search premier, ERIC data-base and Google, yielded studies and examples predominately from the PEW project in the USA; the REAP project in Scotland; and the ALTC in Australia. In theming our findings, there appeared to be five key, not mutually exclusive, approaches: 1) Flipping the class-room, 2) Peer learning, 3) On-line automated feedback/self monitoring, 4) Using the on-line environment for students to generate, share or create materials, 5) Use of senior students or learning assistants. Many of these approaches attempted to address the efficiency of staff time, student engagement and the need for student feedback and self-monitoring. In addition to the approaches above, the literature search also highlighted the blended learning models that were used to assist in their documentation. These included Oliver et al's model (2002), Littlejohn and Pegler's lesson plan (2007) and more theme-based models. Initial staff views on these approaches and models These five approaches and the different models for blended module design were introduced through a series of workshops to the module co-ordinators on the project. The initial in-depth interviews of the six staff in year 1 (2012-2103) revealed that many had used the flip classroom, while others had designed for more peer support and automated feedback. The theme-based approach to the module design was particularly popular and some used Oliver et al's model (2002) for an overview to the design. This presentation will also give a visual overview of some of the designs to represent the blended approaches used in the first six modules.

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