Learning is characterised by students having both cognitive and social presence in the learning environment.
Cognitive presence reflects both the value and amount of critical thinking, problem solving and construction of meaning in students’ interactions with their peers and academic staff. Social presence is the extent to which students are ‘connected’. This is critically important in the early stages of courses when students need to get to know and trust their peers and tutors. Students who are able to make interpersonal networks are more likely to engage and succeed. Current approaches tend to the classroom as the ‘location’ of presence, with the VLE in a supporting role to offer materials for independent learning. The future approach has to ensure that cognitive and social presence is a feature of both online and face-to-face teaching. Active blended learning is offered as an approach.
“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.”
Chickering, Arthur W. and Ehrmann Stephen C. (1996), "Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever," AAHE Bulletin, October, pp. 3-6
Active blended learning brings together a number of concepts from learning theory and technology. It demonstrates how student learning is enhanced by capturing their time-on-task, as well as involving them in complex collective and individual problem-solving. Technology can support this both in physical and online learning spaces. This, in turn, assists educators by demonstrating student progress through formative tasks.
Active blended learning is a process of deconstructing the curriculum to identify the aspects that can be best delivered through face-to-face teaching and those that can be delivered online. It gives equal priority to signaling to the student that they learn both within the class and outside of it.
The function of online learning and teaching
Blended learning retains some conventional uses of the VLE within an enhanced functionality. This includes:
1. Curation of high quality, independent learning resources
These can include:
- Conventional ‘broadcast’ materials such as Panopto videos
- Documents including presentations and supplementary notes
- Links to relevant readings and external sources of information
- Suitable external learning resources
2. ‘Live’ teaching that allows structured participation in real-time
3. Provision of interactive activities
These can include:
- Discussion forums
- Discussion/chat with other students and tutors in real-time
- Answering tutor’s questions
- Voting /polling
- Shared documents
- Submitting short ‘low stakes’ work for quick feedback
4. Sense-making activities
These help students to understand and consolidate learning. This includes opportunities for reflection, debate and testing ideas.
Principles for active blended learning
- Recognise learning as a social, as well as intellectual activity.
- Reinforce connections between students and staff.
- Create a sense of belonging.
- Maximise opportunities for engagement, participation and interaction in both physical and online learning spaces.
- Recognise and support digital capability of both staff and students as a key component to the success of online/blended learning
- Provide online learning materials that are accessible for all
- Provide intellectually robust and challenging learning materials and activities that prepare for, motivate to and consolidate learning.
- Explicitly scaffold learning activities to indicate expectation and support student management of their own learning
- Provide a range of materials and methods for students to engage with.
- Effectively use data and learning analytics to identify student engagement
It is important that tutors remain highly visible in the online learning space.
- Synchronously through opportunities for real-time engagement
- Asynchonously through regular communication, discussion boards etc.
Students need clear direction to manage online learning. This should include:
- Explicit articulation of the relationship between online and physical engagement.
- Expectations of appropriate behaviour
- Details of anticipated time on task for activities
- A detailed structure of the anticipated learning process
How We Can Help
Canvas experts are available 24/7 to help answer questions about Canvas tools. Just click on the help link in the Canvas main menu for options. The Teaching and Learning academy are also here to answer your questions, just raise a ticket via helpme.ljmu.ac.uk.