FurmanFlex Instructional Approaches and Pedagogy

In a blended instructional model like FurmanFlex, there will be instances when students who join your class in-person or remotely will engage in an activity differently. In other cases, some activities may include both groups of students participating together, albeit in different physical spaces. Finding ways to integrate students in both settings in the same activity will both save you time and energy and enhance the collaborative nature of your course. These “overlapping” activities provide learning opportunities for students to engage and integrate across modes of engagement (Beatty, 2019).

As you outline your course pedagogy and activities, it is therefore prudent to first attempt to create or modify existing course activities to include some virtual engagement component so that both face-to-face (F2F) and remote students can interact concurrently as a full class, even if they are located in different places (e.g. one group in class, one group virtually). There may be instances where this is not feasible and you’ll need to develop two separate pathways (one F2F and one virtual) through which an activity is completed. However, the downside of this split design approach is that it will require additional time and planning on your part and may hinder a cohesive course experience for students who engage in your course through different modalities. Additionally, grounding at least a portion of your course activities in virtual platforms is the most flexible in the case of campus closure. Consider below several promising practices for active learning in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

FurmanFlex Face-to-Face Learning

If you will be teaching in the F2F classroom, you will be physically distanced and masked, and students will be in physically distanced seats. These facts necessitate both planning and adaptation. Different higher education groups have been doing experiments in masked, physically distanced F2F teaching. Insights from several studies at our ACS sister-school Rollins College can be found here (Chick, 2020).

How will you and your students interact in this new reality? Please consider these elements:

Your Classroom Presence: You won’t be able to wander around the room as much as in the past, so re-imagine your classroom presence, and your students’, in a more fixed location.

Group Interactions: Small-group interactions will be manageable in a masked, physically distanced classroom, but they require more planning. In particular, you may need to think carefully about how students utilize technology in your classroom.

  • Collaborative work is possible through a variety of virtual platforms, including padlet, Box, mindmeisterflipgrid, or channels in Microsoft Teams (all students have accounts), although at least some of your students will need to have the technology available in class to access these shared spaces. It is be possible, however, to maintain 6 feet of distance and “share” a computer so that one person updates a virtual project planning space for the rest of the group to see.
  • A low-tech option might be to use post-it notes on a wall/whiteboard space so that students could post in a way that maintains distance from each other and prevents the need to use a shared writing tool. Or, perhaps each person brings chalk/white erase markers to use independently.
  • One thing to keep in mind is the degree to which some of these processes may require a bit more time than the standard group work session.
  • If sharing or “reporting out” from small group activities in a physically distanced classroom needs to be more than verbal, a scribe or reporter from the smaller groups can use a laptop to prepare a report in a document that you display via the projector (e.g., a posting in Moodle, a padlet, or a Box document linked in Moodle).

Shared Objects: You’ll want to adapt activities in which students physically handle common objects (e.g., lab materials, handouts) (Chick, 2020).

  • Workarounds exist for handling some common objects (e.g., smartphone camera and AirMedia sharing).
  • Traditional handouts can instead be posted on Moodle and displayed on the classroom projector or on students’ portable devices if they need to see different documents or view them more closely.
  • You may need to implement enhanced protocols for the use of and sanitation of lab equipment.

Flexible Active Learning

No matter what modality or learning environment, there are more or less engaging strategies to invite students into the learning process. Many of the active learning approaches you have utilized in your pre-pandemic classroom can be adapted for physically distanced interactions. If you are searching for active learning approaches, there are a number of information-dense resources online, both for face-to-face and online instruction. Two to consider include the Teacher Toolkit  and Ditch that Textbook. These resources highlight several go-to approaches like quick writesthink-pair-shares, debates, digital gallery walks, jigsaws, exit tickets or Know-Want to Know-Learned charts. This article from the Chronicle about “engaged” teaching is also useful, including the resources noted at the end of the missive.

To read more about what others are doing to maintain active learning in a physically distanced classroom environment click here and for a number of useful suggestions, see here. You might consider this resource for physically-distanced activity adaptations and/or supplement these activities with active asynchronous interactions.

FurmanFlex Online Learning

It is highly likely that at least some of your students will engage in your courses through an online learning modality, whether for short or long-term periods of time. As you prepare your courses for fully online or shorter-term remote engagement, you will need to consider:

Upload/Share Course Content Online: For students joining virtually, you should plan to share any lecture slides and class presentation materials, supplemental resources provided during class, and any handouts and assignment descriptions online in Moodle. Maintaining one central location where students can find all materials for the class can minimize confusion when trying to find materials, assignments, and notes, especially if they are ill and must miss class. If you plan to record your synchronous class sessions, these can be shared online as well, utilizing these safety procedures. You might consider requiring students to take an online quiz before attending class as a source of motivation while providing instant feedback regarding their understanding of the material.

Record or Share Mini-Lectures for Online Viewing: Pre-recorded mini-lectures can be a great way to provide content for students to review before your class sessions or to return to for review. Short video content is also helpful for those who aren’t able to be present in class because of an illness. ZoomPowerPoint, and Camtasia (reserve recording rooms here) are all effective tools to capture your lectures. And remember, you don’t have to create all of this content yourself. Pre-existing open source content is available online, including:

  • LinkedIn Learning– a leading online platform with video-based content in business, software, technology, and creative skills
  • Open Education Resources– OER are freely available or openly licensed learning objects such as media, textbooks, articles, and digital tools that can be used in your courses.

Online Assignment Submission: Submitting assignments online is something most students are accustomed to and is a useful practice for all your students, including those engaging F2F and virtually. Moodle allows for seamless digital assignment submission. Moodle allows you to provide feedback and grades directly in the platform, preventing any need for print copies or email chains to exchange documents.

Facilitate Online Problem Analysis and AssessmentMoodle quizzes can be a great way to examine student learning online or simply gather low-stakes feedback on reading assignments or understanding of content. For more information about conducting assessment in online environments, see here.

Facilitate Virtual Classroom Sessions: To engage your online students in synchronous (live) class sessions, you will want to ensure that all of your F2F class meetings are accessible via virtual platforms for engagement. Two options for this at Furman include using Zoom or Teams for video conferencing. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to take steps to limit disruptions (video bombs) during these sessions. If you plan to record these sessions and share them with your course, you should follow these best practices to protect student privacy.

Facilitate Online DiscussionsMoodle forumsWord Press blogs, and wiki’s allow online discourse even in a digital classroom environment and are useful tools to build community and engage students online as they allow users to upload and edit content. Instead of text-based discussions, you might foster interaction between you and your students by allowing students to record themselves in a video format through a platform like FlipGrid. Students can then share the recording either with you alone or with the entire class. For more information about using discussion boards in online environments click here and for several examples of discussion board prompts click here. Our Moodle partner, eThink just recently provided a training on using Moodle forums at Furman, and the video for that training can be found here. There are also several robust examples of discussion board rubrics here.

Hold Virtual Office HoursZoom or Teams meetings are an excellent platform for conducting office hours virtually for students who can’t be physically present to meet with you. In fact, to reduce physical contact with all of your students, you might consider virtual office hours for both F2F and remote/online students. For more information about options for holding office hours online, visit here.

Virtual Small Group Projects: Applications like Moodle ChatMicrosoft TeamsWhatsapp or Marco Polo, and TimelineJS allow students to collaborate in a flexible manner with fewer time and space restrictions. Have students compile a course glossary together, or work in groups to produce a proposal. Collaborative writing exposes students to various writing styles and approaches and provides them with more feedback on their own writing and ideas. These tools allow document sharing and annotation, collaborative writing, and asynchronous and synchronous chat and video conferencing. Additionally, Zoom Breakout Rooms allow you to segment larger groups of students into small cohorts for break-out conversations or small group activities. Consider designing a group activity or assignment with one of these technologies.

Support Asynchronous Activities: Because of the high-touch nature of small liberal arts colleges, one of the more challenging aspects to hybrid flexible course design includes asynchronous online activities – those activities that occur over time (a few hours, a few days) with your structure and guidance. Even still, these activities are ideal opportunities for students to reflect, develop their thinking over time, and compose their thoughts (literally and figuratively). Asynchronous activities often involve technology for students’ communication, interaction, and/or reporting, but the technologies can be as simple as Moodle (Chick, 2020). Below are a few good resources for ideas:

Lab Activities: Online instruction provides particularly thorny challenges for those who facilitate lab and field-based instruction. Even with some level of in-person instruction, you may find additional opportunities to integrate virtual components to meet your learning outcomes for these experiences. We’ve assembled several resources for lab instruction in online environments here.

To prime your online planning muscles, you might enjoy flipping through this Online Instructional Activities Index. Keep in mind that even simple technology like twitter can be utilized for active learning online. You might also utilize this Online Teaching Toolkit by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE).

If you’d like to evaluate the structure of your course against standards of successful online course design, you might review this Measures of Online Course Development Success Checklist. This resource is provided to highlight promising practices in a condensed format, but please keep in mind that we grow as educators incrementally in a process over time. It is OK not to have all of these aspects perfected or implemented fully!

Integrating F2F & Online/Remote Students

As discussed, identifying “overlapping” activities where students in both F2F and online/remote modalities can participate simultaneously provide learning opportunities for students to engage and integrate across modes of engagement.

Utilizing several of the strategies outlined above, some examples of integrating online and in-class activities include a blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities that students participate in regardless of their physical location:

  1. Develop small group activities that involve a central reporting and collaboration platform like Box or padlet. Small groups of virtual students work in a Zoom breakout room while small groups of F2F students work in physically distanced spaces in the classroom. All groups develop content in the shared platform, provide feedback for each other, and build their own final product off of this group activity.
  2. Interacting with content asynchronously online can prepare students for synchronous activities – Students review content (readings, videos, etc.) and then either discuss (in a Moodle forum) or take an online quiz before participating a synchronous class session in which they debate a topic. Students might also work asynchronously online on group projects and then meet synchronous (e.g. via Teams) to plan and rehearse their final group project presentation.
  3. Online asynchronous interactions can reinforce or extend those that occur in the synchronous classroom and vice versa. Students provide feedback to each other online and then respond to the feedback in a synchronous session. Or students finish a discussion online that started in one of your synchronous classes.
  4. Let online student work inform your lecture. For example, have students post key definitions online for the whole class to edit and refine. Before your synchronous class session, review these and pick one or two that warrant further discussion.

Additional Resources for Hybrid/Blended Learning:

  1. University of Central Florida & American Association of State College and Universities. (n.d.). The Blended Learning Toolkit.
  2. Hybrid and Online Syllabi Examples. (2014). Center for Teaching and Learning. Baruch College.

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