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.
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.
Shared Objects: You’ll want to adapt activities in which students physically handle common objects (e.g., lab materials, handouts) (Chick, 2020).
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 writes, think-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.
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. Zoom, PowerPoint, 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:
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 Assessment: Moodle 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 Discussions: Moodle forums, Word 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 Hours: Zoom 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 Chat, Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp 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!
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:
Additional Resources for Hybrid/Blended Learning: