Saving Time?

I am working through a blended unit plan right now as part of my Sloan Consortium “Blended Mastery” online course.  I am coming up with some cool ideas for how to use Canvas and Google Docs as well as videos of lectures to accomplish goals I used to accomplish only face-to-face.  However, I was initially drawn to this research and our Patterson grant group because I wanted to see how blended learning could help me transition from 4 nights of HW a week to 3, from 4 class meetings to three.  I wanted to know if this could save me time.

What I’ve realized, however, is that most of the online assessments (both formative and summative) would be completed by students outside of class, i.e. in homework time. And that (HW time) is what is being slashed with the new 5-day week.  Our face-to-face (F2F) time is pretty much the same (though some color blocks are losing 10 minutes a week).

I see the great value in moving things around.  For example, moving in-class lectures to out-of-class videos will condense required content to the essentials (more efficient) and will allow students to reference and review that content at any time from Canvas.  It also frees up class time for more interactive experiences.  However, in making that switch, I must be aware of potential negative consequences.  This past year, I was having students read content in a textbook, then we’d do an interactive lecture in class to go over key points.  That had the benefits of A) forcing students to first try and pick out the points of greatest significance from the reading themselves, and then B) having that same content reinforced.  The “flipped” model takes away the role of the student in analyzing the text, and removes that reinforcement (unless of course they choose to review the video, but even that is the same information conveyed the same way, not two unique casts on the same material).

Thus, while my Sloan course is prompting me to come up with lots of great ideas for online assessments and activities, it isn’t helping me (yet) to solve my problems of how to cover the same amount of material in 25% less homework time.  In fact, I want more homework time so they can do the cool online activities and explorations.

Would love to hear your thoughts…



One thought on “Saving Time?

  1. Maybe you won’t be able to “cover” the same amount of content. That is the potential of the shift in schedule and if it IS the reality then we have to be honest about that and determine what content we will cover and how we can (or if we can) support students who aim to take the AP exam in the spring.

    However, that being said. When I have used some flipped strategies in the past I have been surprised by the efficiency with which most students grasped concepts and were able to apply in class effectively. Until we start to utilize some of the strategies in our own classes we won’t know the outcome … it is just a thought experiment. More exciting to me, however, are the accidental outcomes (and pedagogies) that might emerge from our practice this year – and beyond.

    I hear, and feel, your concerns over content outcomes! I was highly cognizant of it when I was reviewing the changes that I want to make to Advanced Biology for next year. In fact, I am looking for ways to remove content from the central aspect of the course so that I can make room for more important ideas (to me) such as the role of public health with disease. So where is the content going? I am going to have additional resources (1-take video lectures, quizzes, video links) to “cover” those other concepts for those preparing for the exam that are available within the units so that the concepts are conceptually organized hopefully aiding in a sophisticated mastery of the material as opposed to memorizing a list of “other topics”.

    Ultimately there is a limit. We are struggling with the factors of time, content, and deep learning. Our understanding of how people learn will inform the teaching strategies that we select, the organization of our courses, and our assessment practices. But there is still going to be a limit. And our work this year may demonstrate just that … but perhaps we will find more important outcomes. Bottom line is that for educators like you, Katharine, that really care about meeting learning outcomes, this can be scary and frustrating work. We do our best, learn from our experiences, and courageously voice our opinions as we better understand the complexities of this work.


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