#blend13 – Day 1

So much to think and digest.  I feel like I went to the local well-reviewed five-star restaurant and couldn’t make up my mind about which thing to order off the menu.  Everything was just so good!

I attended the following sessions:

  • Making the Move to Blended Learning – A Faculty Summer Camp Experience by Karen Hesting and Jennifer Haber
    This session was amazing.  I couldn’t stop taking notes and felt fully engaged in what they had to offer by way of ‘stock’ information and by way of their combined experience.  The session was well attended, nearly filling the room.  My biggest purpose in attending this session was to find out what someone else was doing to help further the adoption of blended learning strategies and/or course builds by faculty.  Getting faculty to adopt or buy in can be a pretty tough process, especially since most faculty tend to think “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Education is always in a state of flux – of change, of reaction to change.  There’s no denying that. It’s not good enough to change for change sake, but it is good ‘enough’ to change if it warrants better opportunities for success – for our students if we change up how we teach – and conversely how they could learn.  Hesting and Haber offered some great concrete steps and examples from their own experiences with launching blended learning courses and programs.  The information from this session and it’s related website will definitely help expand what we’re trying to do here.
  • Blended Learning Initiative: Implementing a Faculty Professional Development Program by Michael Matthews and Charles Graham
    This session more than anything spelled out just how to do PD with faculty practically – similar to the one by Hesting and Haber.  While both sessions focused much on the same subject matter, they both went about it differently, and seeing the contrast between the two was insightful. Graham and Matthews provided an expansive process and that was in it’s third iteration, due to launch this coming fall.  They described how implementing the BLI required at least 3 months of pre-planning and data gathering from faculty and other stake holders.  In their case, they’d been tasked by their administration to come up with a way to address increasing enrollment with an ever shrinking amount of resources (time, space and money). Blended learning implementations can address all those areas, but only if done strategically – with planning and intention. Their site, and the related course they developed (and continue to revise), addresses the practical pieces of helping faculty understand how to develop hybrid or blended courses. This is a great resource that warrants some greater review.
  • Towards a Taxonomy of Blended Course Designs by Sydney Brown
    This session was one I really anticipated attending.  As one of the participants at the conference said, “You can’t measure the success of something, unless you can define it.”  For that reason (and others), I feel there’s a necessity to put ‘flesh’ to what blended learning is. In some cases it may be easier to indicate what blended learning is not.  In other cases it may be easier to describe the affects of blended learning or what it looks like, rather than provide a definitive definition. This session went a bit beyond coming up with a definition and sought to describe blended learning ‘types’ – and from my understanding – sought to provide a means by which courses could be laid out based on the type of students taking a blended course.  Brown indicated the taxonomy has many functions – it can help instructors redesign their courses, evaluate their courses and troubleshoot courses for areas of weakness and strength.  The taxonomy seemed to assume a homogeneous set of students – leaving little room to support (within the framework) students who need additional help, and students who need to be challenged more. Her intent is to think through and conduct research to refine and possibly vet the research.  She further indicates that the taxonomy could be used to allow students to choose they type of blended course to take, such as a B4 or B7 or B9 course, all based on the taxonomy.
  • Institutional Blended Standards: Develop to Improve Development by Samuel Gedeborg
    Sam’s session was super-engaging.  Just as the earlier two sessions on blended learning adoption and faculty development drew me in, so did this one, and this one again, provided a contrast – a variable to compare with how someone else ‘does this blended learning thing’.  The great thing about building out standards (and descriptors that go along with those standards) is that it helps to better define – at least at the institutional level what ‘blended learning’ is. This further encouraged my own research based on the idea that an institution can come up with a feasible definition – and then mechanize the use of that definition toward faculty adoption and development. Sam’s presentation is available here.

I still have several other sessions to attend, and I haven’t even begun to talk about Alec Couros key note presentation at the end of the day. I’d never been exposed to Alec Couros as a person or his work.  I’ve got to scour the web to try and find a recording of the presentation the he did – I just couldn’t soak up what he had to say fast enough.  Alec was not only doing a ‘presentation’ he was actively engaging the audience, included audio and video in his presentation that was completely on topic and at the same time very engaging.  He even functionally tweeted at least a dozen times during the course of the presentation – I was flabbergasted at just how tech-soaked the presentation was, w/o being invasive, detached or awkward.  I really did feel like a sponge that had been soaking for hours and was asked to take just another drop of water into my being – I just couldn’t soak it up, digest it and ‘save it’ fast enough.

Still learning quite a lot and I have more to go.

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