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Monday, March 09, 2015

New Hybrid Courses Combine Live Learning with Online Enhancements

For the past two semesters, Introduction to Earth Systems Science — a large lecture and lab course at UC Merced — has been morphing into a hybrid of live lab and online “lecture.” according to University of California, Merced.

Photo: University of California, Merced

The course is a popular choice for undergrads from all disciplines, because it fulfills a general education science requirement. Professors Mike Beman and Peggy O’Day saw it as a good test case for UC Online EducationOpens a new window, a systemwide effort to encourage faculty members to incorporate online learning into their curricula.

Using grant funds from UC’s Innovative Learning Technology Initiative (ILTI), the professors from the School of Natural SciencesOpens a new window are developing and implementing their hybrid-online approach.

I thought this would be the right course because the class just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Beman said. “That’s great, but you can’t do the same things in a big class that you can in a smaller one.”

In Introduction to Earth Systems Science, students don’t go online and watch recorded lectures. Instead, they get an e-book divided into modules with short readings, links to more reading and enhancements such as video clips and animations that illustrate the lessons.

Each lesson has a self-test so students can make sure they are learning the material. If not, they can go back and review any or all of the material as many times as they need to.

Students also attend two hours of lab each week, where they take part in a variety of activities that can include field trips.

Because we can offer lots of lab sessions each week, we can actually teach more students,” Beman said. “Each lab has smaller groups and is a more interactive and intensive experience than before.”

The course is a work in progress, O’Day said. For example, a capture tablet the professors can use to draw equations or models and add them as videos to the online portion is now being tested and will likely be incorporated later this year.

This is very different from a traditional university model,” she said. “The first semester was a steep learning curve.”

Source: UC Merced University News