comCommunication between teacher and learner, and learner to learner is an essential part of the learning experience. Considering and planning opportunities for communication is a vital aspect in designing a blended or online unit.

Social presence is important in blended learning as it creates an integration between the face-to-face and online environments. Regardless of the mode of your unit, it is important to be conscious of finding ways to maintain a dialogue with students.

Developing a learning community

Strategies to create a community in blended units:

  • Visit, monitor and contribute to online discussion forums
  • Reference online forum content in face-to-face sessions
  • Use synchronous web-conferencing with group discussion
  • Create a Week 1 self-introduction activity
  • Create a student glossary (See Dr Sebastian Krook’s case study)

Communicate your unit design

It is important to communicate the design of a unit to the students, why is it structured as it is, what is the rationale for the assessments. Make them aware of your expectations.

On top of providing the unit guide, you may wish to communicate the design and your expectations through:

  • an orientation module (see Dr Steve Guinea case study for an example)
  • in your first face-to-face meeting
  • share a course plan with the students that shows the path they will take through the content, and how various parts integrate with each other

Common language in blended learning communication

Term Definition and use Common media Benefits
synchronous
  • communication in real-time, whether face-to-face or virtual
  • commonly facilitated by web-conferencing (Adobe Connect, Zoom, Skype)
    • creates social presence/community
    • conversational flow
    • able to ask questions
    • minimises sense of isolation (particularly for online learners)
    asynchronous
    • communication happens at a time suitable for the user
    • 'anytime' learning
  • commonly facilitated by discussion boards and email
    • flexibility
    • appeals to learners with competing commitments (family, work etc)
    • allows learners time to refine and reflect before sharing contributions
    polysynchronous
    • blending face-to-face, online synchronous and asynchronous learning seamlessly
    • students in face-to-face situations able to communicate with others in face-to-face and virtual locations
    • all of the above
    • useful for when learners are in a variety of locations

    Sources: Hrastinski (2008); HigherEdIQ (2015); New Media Consortium (2016).

    ACU academics speak


    Clare-Johnson
    In the online classroom I do some delivery of content in short lectures, but primarily through conversation using the different modes of communication the online classroom presents. We use virtual whiteboards where people can write on the whiteboard and we use chat facilities

    Professor Clare Johnson - Centre for Liturgy & Prof of Liturgical Studies & Sacramental Theology. To watch Clare's full case study follow the link.

    Resources

    References

    Hrastinski (2008) Asynchronous and synchronous e-Learning. EDUCAUSE.

    Higher Ed IQ (2015) Everything you need to know about designing polysynchronous learning spaces

    New Media Consortium (2016), Horizon report p. 12. 

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