Plunging into ‘design for online and blended learning’ with trepidation

I had found this topic to be a simultaneously interesting and challenging one – very much equivalent to the few seconds before my first bungee jump, off Mossel Bay Bridge, enroute to Cape Town.  I was very interested and excited about it in the beginning but only realised what I was in for and just how out of depth I was, when I was at the precipice of my first plunge. The feelings that this topic evoked at the outset were one of uncertainty and anxiety, which I am sure is a completely natural response.  I later realised how unnecessary it was!!!!  I had a number of questions as to whether or not it was sustainable in the long run.  How would it work?  How do you assess online collaboration?  Once I did indeed take the plunge into researching and reading more, about it, I found myself gravitating to its potential as a tool for learning and preparing students with technological work place skills, with enthusiasm and confidence.  After all, I did have the harness of a very connected PBL group who were taking the plunge with me!

Midway through this particular topic, I could foresee the prospect of designing a blended LLB curriculum that incorporated the best of traditional and online teaching and learning.  I will reserve further elaboration on this for my last blog.

Although the design of online learning would encapsulate and the foundational characteristics if traditional learning the paradigm shift is the effective incorporation of technology.

One of the most beneficial characteristics of blended learning is that it combines the traditional face to face  instruction/support with the online environment which work hand in hand in ensuring that students not only receive  content, but also engage with the content on virtual platforms. Thus, teaching and learning is taken beyond the four walls of a lecture hall into a space that requires students to explore, investigate  and engage with material, collaborate with each other through peer to peer learning.  It enables students to access online resources and enriches their learning experience.

These types of courses should  ideally  be designed around its outcomes,[1] i.e.

  • What are the goals of the blended course?
  • What are the objectives?
  • What are the skills that you want students to develop in the course and take away from it?

In other words, know what you want to achieve first, before deciding on the technology that you want to use to achieve it. Activities should be designed to enable students to engage with the content, i.e. encourage the interactive/collaborative element, failing which, the learning community will ‘fall flat on its face.’

Online and blended online learning should essentially integrate instruction in a manner that is pedagogically valuable[2].  Outcomes of such a model are best achieved through mixed delivery modes, augmented by meaningful activities which bridge the lacunae between face to face and technologically mediated modes of delivery and the moderation of interactivity[3]

The thing about bungee jumping is that although it starts with fear, anxiety and trepidation, the resultant antithesis of an addictive adrenalin rush keeps you coming back for more.  The harness could snap.  It has risks, however for me, nothing beats the resultant feeling of accomplishment which is very much what I felt at the end of this topic.  I ended up knowing more than I did before I plunged into it.  I like that adrenalin rush!

[1] Lim, Doo Hun, and Michael Lane Morris. “Learner and instructional factors influencing learning outcomes within a blended learning environment.” Educational Technology & Society 12.4 (2009): 282-293.

[2] Hartfield, Perry. “Blended learning as an effective pedagogical paradigm for biomedical science.” Higher Learning Research Communications 3.4 (2013): 59.

[3] McGee, Patricia, and Abby Reis. “Blended course design: A synthesis of best practices.” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 16.4 (2012): 7-22.

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Author: frombabies2lecturehalls with Neetu Chetty

I am the Program Manager of Law at the IIE Varsity College Westville campus, running the School of Law. My research explores augmenting legal education through alternate pedagogies, make it more relevant, bridge building between academia and practice. My blogs draw on my real life experiences, associations and relationships in expressing my reflections. I don't see the world through rose coloured glasses but, I do step back and see the larger picture and consequences of it. I am a mom of 3, and so you will see how I gravitate from the personal to the reflective in my writing. I like being unconventional. Unconventional makes for exciting reading, experiences, strategies and innovations. Enjoy reading my blog!

5 thoughts on “Plunging into ‘design for online and blended learning’ with trepidation”

  1. Hi there Neetu. I have never been bungee jumping – not much of an adrenalin junkie myself 🙂 – but I felt that same sense of excitement and anxiety at the beginning of this Topic. I was really excited to be learning about online- and blended learning, but started to realise the magnitude of the subject as we delved into the Recommended Readings. I really want to continue to learn about this topic and your comment about creating a blended LLB course sounds so interesting. How about a cup of coffee some time? Would love to hear all about how you progress with this. Thanks for a great blog!

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    1. 🙂 Thanks Dominique. It’s interesting. As we progressed I just took a step back and saw a bigger picture of how LAW qualifications need to develop to keep up with the ‘evolution’ of education, practice , the world in general. As for that cup of coffee? …..just tell me when:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too thought this topic was the most difficult one to grapple with, but I didn’t experience any anxiety even though I was out of my depth, just like most of us probably were. 🙂
    A lot of the aspects to be considered in an online or blended course are the same as in a normal course, except that there is less room for improvisation (for example, due to insufficient preparation or insufficient scaffolding) that the instructor does in a normal classroom. And one must think carefully and work out how to break the ice between online participants, far more rigorously than in a classroom.

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