Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hybrid Course Retrospective

I took a look at the approaches to "blended" courses that both Stanford and MIT have taken in recent years. These schools came to mind due to their use of the "Open Course Ware" idea: putting lecture materials, quizzes, homework, projects, and everything else associated with the course online completely for free. These are accessible to anyone, and while there is no one to assess progress or grade papers or exams, it can still be a valuable way to learn. In fact, I actually used content from these schools a few years ago when I was first starting out with computer science, and found them incredibly helpful. 

Both schools publish guidelines for professors to follow when constructing these courses, and a common theme among them definitely seems to be not letting the actual in person interaction fall by the way side. Instead, the idea becomes that students read up on the material before the lectures, and then come in to classes more prepared to engage in interactive activities. This includes things like simulations, group work, case studies, discussion, and so on. Definitely an interesting approach and probably one that can be difficult to effectively construct. There are some other less interesting aspects also enumerated like forums for discussion, wikis, and keeping course announcements online. 

The element of having students interact and engage in the material after having learned about it on their own seems to be mirrored by LIS 201's assigned readings and subsequent discussion sections. This was incidentally the part of the course that I found to be the most effective for learning, and was for me a more interesting way to engage with the material than lecture. 

As I mentioned in the blog post for last week, I feel that I was able to convey my thoughts more clearly online through blog posts, as I had more time to constrict them and more resources at my disposal to reference. In spite of this, I still found the discussion sections to be valuable, as getting those different perspectives and making new connections on the spot were very useful for furthering understanding of a topic. 

I don't think the online components of this course were particularly tied to the content. Sure it's a little weird that these blog posts are public, but beyond that, this is a perfectly valid approach for many classes. In fact, I think most English courses I've taken since high school have had some kind of online forum component, which is effectively the same as this blogger, only private. 

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