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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A virtual analysis by Michael Patrick Rutter, Harvard Correspondent

"A new analysis of four blended-format courses taught last fall offers practical guidance for faculty members interested in fresh pedagogical approaches." continues Harvard Gazette.

Photo: Harvard Gazette

The pilot study led by the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and released today after months of checks and balances showed that students responded most to lesson structure and execution, placed a premium on person-to-person interaction, and found redundancies between in-class and online instruction.

While the variability among the four College courses made general interpretations a challenge, the student assessments did reveal some commonalities that were not necessarily course- or instructor-specific. 

Among the key findings: 
  • Students tended to conflate the teaching approach with the blended format, responding more to the teaching itself than to how specific online or blended elements worked.
  • Students appreciated the quality of the HarvardX materials, and most found them interesting and engaging.
  • For the most part, students spent roughly the same amount of time on homework and preparation for the blended class as they did for a traditional Harvard course.
  • Students valued the increased flexibility and ability to learn at their own pace, but still wanted in-person interactions with faculty and among themselves. They said that sections — small-group discussions outside the class ― were especially vital, enabling feedback, time for Q&A, meaningful collaborations, and a deeper sense of intellectual community.
  • The most common student complaint was that online learning opportunities were often redundant with in-class components, as faculty experimented with how to best use class time and encourage participation. In-class activities worked best when they were well-structured, such as when students were given discussion questions, problem sets, or worksheets in advance.
  • In any setting, students cut corners to save time, earn participation points, or get through required assignments or assessments. Many adopted efficiency strategies while watching the online lessons, causing some to integrate the materials in less-than-meaningful ways.
With the findings in mind, Bergeron’s research team developed a set of recommendations for faculty who are planning to blend existing courses, designing new ones, or are interested in critically assessing new teaching approaches.
Read more... 

For the full Bok Center report, you can contact michael_rutter@harvard.edu

Source: Harvard Gazette


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