5.1 Creating a Syllabus/Course Overview
Following the learning frameworks outlined above, you are now at the stage where you can write your course/module syllabus and course/module overview, or transfer/transform information from a prior course/module.
A course information form has been designed to incorporate all the recommendations outlined in Chapter 3 when creating your CEPHEI course syllabus (Appendix 2). Table 6 shows examples of course overview templates which contain all the andragogical elements outlined in Chapter 5 that should be included for effective learning.
Remember to follow:
- Bloom’s Taxonomy when writing learning outcomes.
- Backward Design when planning your course or module.
- GRASPS when creating an end-of-course/module summative performance task.
- Assessment for learning for pre-class/start of class assessments.
- Assessment as learning for during course, formative assessments and for you end-of-course/module summative performance task.
Table 6: Example Course Planning Templates for CEPHEI Courses
In the next section, following Gagne’s Nine Events for Instruction (reorganized for blended learning), we look at how to design instructional activities for the instructional activities for your course.
5.2 Pre-class Content
In blended learning, a student’s first contact with course materials happens online, prior to class, on the learning platform. At this stage, students are expected to start working alone, online, without the direct support of their instructor. It is at this stage that information transfer takes place. The following aspects should be included in the online component of the course.
To provide a clear pathway for students, each module should start with an overview that clearly highlights the aims and expected outcomes for that module and the key terms. Key terms are terms which students need to know in order to be successful in their learning should be provided at the start of each module. Figure 11 shows an example.
Figure 11: Example Module Overview
Prior Knowledge Activity (Questions asked before students watch the video)
Prior knowledge is the knowledge a learner already possesses before they meet new information. A learner's understanding of a new concept can be improved by activating their prior knowledge before watching a video or reading a text. The aim is to get students to draw on what they already know and to raise their curiosity about what they may not know. This is done by setting a prior-knowledge question that gets students thinking about the subject area prior to watching the video. Prior-knowledge questions should get students thinking about what they already know about a subject.
Graphic Organizer (Questions asked while students are watching the video)
To guide the students to take notes when they are watching the pre-class video, give them a graphic organizer. This is a guided worksheet that supports the students through the learning process. It helps students to pay attention to the most important parts of the pre-class media. Graphic organizers should include a lot of white space for students to take notes. They should include diagrams and headings.
Information transfer occurs through a pre-class video. These videos should provide the big picture. They should grab the students’ attention and get them interested in learning more about the topic. Videos should not exceed 15 minutes. Longer videos should be cut into smaller chunks. More detailed information is given in the next chapter regarding creating videos. Ideally, the video should contain closed captions or be supported by a text for students who prefer to read.
Accountability Element – Quizzes (Questions asked after students have watched the video)
To hold students accountable for watching and engaging with the videos, quizzes should be provided that test students remembering and understanding of the concepts (the lower level of Bloom’s taxonomy). They often include multiple choice, matching, ordering questions. These are assessment for learning. These should be set up so that students can repeat the quizzes as many times as they wish. If the students have not understood the concepts after watching the video the first time, they have the opportunity to re-watch the video and re-take the quiz. The aim here is learning, not testing. These quizzes can either be interleaved (embedded) into the video, or placed after the video.
Social Component (where students can pose/discuss questions after the video)
Questions should also be posed to students in a social space online after they have watched the video. The aim of these questions is to jumpstart students’ processing of the concepts. Questions should be higher order (moving upward in Bloom’s taxonomy) and should get students thinking about where they will go with this information and how they will use it practically.
5.3 In-class Instructional Activities
In a blended learning classroom, class time is devoted to active learning. This is where students put their knowledge into practice in student-centred, active, authentic ways. This is where students should understand the relevance of what they have learned. This section presents some strategies and techniques for in class.
Start-of-Module Review Activity (Bridging Element)
The first lesson in each module should start with a start-of-module review activity that asks the students to remember and understand the concepts in the video. This is assessment for learning. This could involve the students creating a mind map, drawing a Venn diagram, filling in a chart. Whatever format is used, it should involve the students reviewing the key terms and concepts. It should reactivate and consolidate the information they acquired prior to class.
Student-centred In-class Instructional Activities
Information gained from the pre-class tasks should be used to inform instruction. In blended learning, students acquire information prior to class via videos and text and are then expected to put this into practice in class through student-centred active learning activities. As such, it is imperative that only information gained from the pre-class tasks is used to inform in-class instruction.
A Start-of-module Review Activity (bridging element)
In blended learning, it is important to provide students with a bridge from the information they acquired in the pre-class activities to what they are expected to do in class. Therefore, the first lesson in each module should start with a start-of-module review activity (bridging element) for students to reactivate and consolidate the concepts in the pre-class video. Ideally, this should be a visual activity e.g. completing a Venn diagram, mind map, chart, equation, etc.
Strategies for Students with Incomplete Understanding
In blended learning, students are required to watch videos/read text prior to class in order to gain the information they will need to put into practice in class. The use of pre-class videos is advantageous, as students can rewatch the videos as many times as they require in order to understand the concepts. However, despite this, it is still possible that some students may come to class with incomplete understanding. Thus, strategies should be deployed to support students who have incomplete understanding, so that their understanding is brought up to the required level needed to actively use those concepts in class. Strategies may include peer teaching.
Student-centred In-class Instructional Activities
In student-centred learning, students and instructors share the focus. Instead of listening to the instructor exclusively, students and instructors interact equally. Student-centred learning is effective because: students learn important communicative and collaborative skills through group work; learn to direct their own learning, ask questions, and complete tasks independently; and are more interested in learning activities when they can interact with one another and participate actively. Thus, in-class instructional activities should be student-centred and ask students to put into practice what they learnt prior to class. Examples of student-centred instructional activities include project-based learning, case studies, simulations, etc. More information about these is given in the section below.
Scaffolding of In-class Instructional Activities
Scaffolding refers to a variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process. Thus, in CEPHEI courses, activities must be scaffolded, so that first students see a worked example, then a semi-worked example, then do the activities on their own/in groups.
Differentiation of In-class Instructional Activities
Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Differentiation can take place through differentiation content, processes, products, the learning environment, and support. On CEPHEI courses, inclass instructional activities should be pitched at varying levels of difficulty to support students’ differing levels of ability.
Authentic In-class Instructional Activities
Authentic experiences are experiences that mimic the real-life activities that students will undertake when they join the workforce. Thus, in-class instructional activities should be authentic in that they mimic the types of activities that students will be undertaking in their future careers.
Range of Learning Strategies
To give students a broad range of skills and experiences, a range of learning strategies should be used. These may include project-based learning, design thinking, case studies, inquiry, role-playing, simulations.
Accountability elements are used for in-class activities (assessment as learning) to hold students accountable for their learning. In-class instructional activities should include an accountability element (assessment as learning) which is assessed via a rubric. The activity and rubric can be designed by the instructor or by the students. Self- or peerassessment is encouraged.
Peer teaching occurs when students, by design, teach other students. It is beneficial as: students gain more time for individualised learning; direct interaction between students promotes active learning; and per teachers reinforce their own learning through instructing others.
Examples of student-centred in-class instructional activities include the following:
In project-based learning, the subject is taught through the project. This is an example of assessment as learning. “Project Based Learning is an active learning process through which students acquire knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. The result is usually a public product or presentation for a real audience. Through doing this, students develop deep content knowledge, critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills.” ("What is PBL?," n.d.).
With design thinking, students work in groups to identify real-life problems and then redefine and reframe them to find unconventional approaches to solving them. Solutions may be products or services which are created for real-world people or organizations. In design thinking, students brainstorm, prototype, experiment, and test their ideas to identify their initial level of understanding, and then move deeper by challenging their assumptions. When doing this, it is important for students to develop a deep understanding of for whom and why they are designing their service or product. Thus, students must develop a deep empathy with the end user of the product or service. This helps them to develop interpersonal skills.
The Interactive Design Foundation, based on the model used at the Hasso- Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d school) suggests the following stages for running a design thinking project ("Interactive Design Foundation," n.d.). However, they emphasize that these stages are iterative, not sequential.
- Empathize (with your users)
- Define (your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights)
- Ideate (by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions)
- Prototype (to start creating solutions)
- Test (solutions)
(“Interactive Design Foundation,” n.d.)
Case studies provide a particular instance of something used or analysed in order to illustrate a thesis or principle. They are an efficient way to get students to work on real-life problem solving. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching provides guidelines for designing case studies. The centre believes that, for cases to be effective, they must: tell a good story; be recent; include dialogue; create empathy with the main characters; be relevant to the students; serve a teaching purpose; include a dilemma to be solved; and have generality ("Case Studies," n.d.). Vanderbilt recommends that instructors ask themselves the following questions when creating a case:
- What do you want students to learn from the discussion of the case?
- What do they already know that applies to the case?
- What are the issues that may be raised in discussion?
- How will the case and discussion be introduced?
- What preparation is expected of students? (Do they need to read the case ahead of time? Do research? Write anything?)
- What directions do you need to provide students regarding what they are supposed to do and accomplish?
- Do you need to divide students into groups or will they discuss as the whole class?
- Are you going to use role-playing or facilitators or record keepers? If so, how?
- What are the opening questions?
- How much time is needed for students to discuss the case?
- What concepts are to be applied/extracted during the discussion?
- How will you evaluate students?
("Case Studies," n.d.)
5.4 End-of-Module Instructional Activities
Students should be encouraged to use additional ways of integrating their knowledge after class, to reflect on what and why they are learning. This can be done by setting reflection tasks that ask students to examine events from the classroom and determine what they have learnt from their experiences and how they might act differently in the future. These tasks help students to develop interpersonally and intra-personally. These activities also help students to understand how to transfer the information/skills to future jobs. Reflections are also a useful way for the. Instructor to gather data on how students are engaging and learning.
5.5 Bringing It All Together
When planning instructional activities for your course, the following template can be used (Table 7). At this stage, you may decide to create your own materials or curate third party content. However, if using third party content, be sure to follow the guidelines in the copyright section in Chapter 7.
Table 7: Example Template for Instructional Activities Design