The move towards a blended approach to teaching and learning has been in place at UTS for many years now. Our journey went into overdrive last year as we shifted teaching and learning to a fully online experience. Now that we’ve headed back to campus, we’re striving for a happy medium of blended learning, employing active learning strategies to keep students engaged and connected both online and in face-to-face settings.

But, how do we explain to students the benefits for this new way of teaching and learning in ways they will understand? 

Below are three of the main shifts in delivery model that we have experienced over the last year, and suggestions for how to explain these changes to your students. Share this information in class and in the ‘teacher-talk’ explanations in your Canvas site, including the ‘How to be successful in this subject’ page. 

1. Fewer face-to-face lectures, more online teaching

Some students say that they miss face-to-face lectures, but the reality is that attendance at lectures has declined over the last decade while student requests for recorded lectures have increased. By pre-recording lectures, and breaking them into smaller chunks interspersed with interactive activities, you will give your students the chance to engage with the content in a more meaningful way.

Communicate to students:

  • A live lecture is often an intense, rushed experience without much time to digest what you’ve just heard.   
  • A pre-recorded video gives you the opportunity to engage with important concepts at your own pace and at a time that suits you. You can replay the video multiple times to make sure you have understood the concept and can come to class ready to apply your learning or practice your skills with peers.
  • By completing any associated activities attached to the lectures, you will enhance your understanding of the concepts covered and improve your chances of success in the subject.   

2. Fewer traditional lectures, more interactive activities 

Many subject coordinators are replacing lectures altogether with self-paced activities like online readings, videos and audio texts followed by interactive quizzes, discussions, surveys and H5P artefacts directly related to the content.  These activities enable students to engage with the content and each other in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts covered.  

Communicate to students:

  • Online discussions in Canvas allow you to unpack what you’ve read, watched or listened to before and/or after class. This gives you the opportunity to practise your written communication skills to articulate your ideas and questions before you come to class. 
  • Classes become a far richer experience if everyone starts from a higher shared level of understanding.
  • Participating in online group collaborations prepares you for current workplace practices and helps you create a peer support network.   

3. Balancing face-to-face time with activities to enhance quality

While it may seem that you will have less face-to-face time with students, this does not mean that there will be a reduction in the volume of learning or a drop in student results. Chances of student success improves when delivery relies on active learning, and the right mix of online independent and collaborative activities can improve the quality of your face-to-face interactions. 

Communicate to students:

  • Online discussions in Canvas allow you to unpack what you’ve read, watched or listened to before and/or after class. This can help you to articulate your ideas and questions before you come to class and practice your written communication skills.
  • By completing online practice activities with automated feedback, you can check your comprehension of the important concepts as you go. 
  • Completing simple or routine activities outside of class frees up time in class to focus on elements that are more challenging to understand, or would benefit from more sustained discussion in person.
  • Assessments have been re-designed to be part of your learning process, not just an evaluation of how well you have learnt the material. Time spent on completing the assessment tasks and reflecting on the knowledge, skills and processes you employ – especially in collaborative or team-based work – is an important part of your eventual success.

By promoting active learning strategies in a blended learning environment, we are also responding to employer expectations. They prefer employees who can collaborate effectively, solve problems creatively, think critically, take initiative and communicate well – all of which are characteristics of active learning.

Thanks to Julie Robert and Olivia Rajit for their contributions to this blog

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