The challenge for those teaching mixed-mode writing courses (half the class meetings are online; half are face-to-face) is the disconnect between members of the class due to limited personal contact. The solution is to build a learning community in the course by creating collaborative/group assignments/projects that bridge the gap between the isolated online and social F2F aspects of the course. This guide is created to provide resources that help instructors overcome the challenge and create a learning community in a mixed-mode writing course.
Prepared by Bob Mohrenne
“Blended Learning.” Simmons College, 2008. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://at.simmons.edu/
Created by Simmons College to provide faculty with resources for transitioning to a blended format, this site offers advice for conceptualizing a blended course, challenges, ways to implement, and resources. One of the most valuable aspects of the site are interviews with faculty and the handouts they provide. None of the faculty or information pertains directly to writing courses, but all offer insights on teaching and working in a blended environment.
Blended Learning Toolkit. University of Central Florida, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.
Much of the information provided on this site is theoretical—teaching and design theory—but there are course shells for different courses and programs as well as handouts for creating/stating objectives. It is most valuable as a tool for newcomers to online teaching but provides materials for teachers at all levels to consider what they do, how they do it, and how students are likely to receive it all.
Brindley, Jane E., Christine Walti, and Lisa M. Blaschke. “Creating Effective Collaborative
Learning Groups in an Online Environment.” The International Review of Research in
Open and Distance Learning 10.3 (2009). Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.irrodl.org/
Theories of social constructivism and connectivism are considered in this report on a three year study of small group activities, mostly discussions, and levels of participation related to graded and ungraded activities. The results offer some insights into how to best design assignments and motivate students, not the least of which is the insight that in designing group activities, an instructor should “Choose tasks that are best performed by a group.” A consideration many online instructors likely overlook.
Forman, Janis, ed. New Visions of Collaborative Writing. Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook,
Among others, this anthology contains essays on creating, assessing, and persona in collaborative assignments and was written before the advent of online learning. Though it doesn’t provide the practical exercises I’d hoped for, the readings do suggest some assignments that could be adapted for online or mediated course.
Gedik, Nuray, Ercan Kiraz, and M. Yasar Ozden. “The Optimum Blend: Affordances and
Challenges of Blended Learning for Students.” Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative
Inquiry 3.3 (2012). Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.tojqi.net/articles/TOJQI_3_3/
Using reflections, assignments, and interviews with ten students in a blended learning course, researchers concluded that students preferred this mode of learning because it offered both the interaction of a F2F course and the increased learning opportunities of an online course. They also found that students thought the workload and technical barriers to be troublesome. Instructors should apply these conclusions in course design by finding a balance in the assignments.
Faculty Focus. Magna Publications, 7Mar. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.
Kelly offers three suggestions that provide alternatives to the usual Q&A format that many discussion board assignments employ. Though they aren’t practical for all courses, they provide good fodder for thinking about alternatives.
Lauron, Aldwin G. “Fostering Collaboration to Enhance Online Instruction.” Turkish Online
Journal of Distance Education 9.2 (2008): 109-121. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.
There are many things to take into consideration when designing an online or mediated course, and Lauron discusses all of them here. It’s a good source for those teaching online for the first time but adds nothing new to the discussion.
McGee, Patricia, and Abby Reis. “Blended Course Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices.” The
Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 16.4 (2012): 7-22. ERIC. Web. 21 Feb.
The research seeks to answer the question: “What patterns exist across publically available documents that articulate best or effective practices in hybrid or blended course design?” The resulting article summarizes a lot of theory and points readers in the direction of corresponding sources/authors, but the information is more theory and less practical.
Remesa, Ana, and Rosa Colomina. “Social Presence and Online Collaborative Small Group
Work: A Socioconstructivist Account.” Computers and Education 60.1 (2013): 357-367.
Science Direct. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.
Persona in online courses is important to the successful creation of a learning community; without a learning community where students feel safe and valued, they are less likely to participate and learn, which is why I was drawn to this article. Unfortunately, the study is flawed because it looks at sixteen student-teachers, fourteen of which are female, making it difficult to connect with “regular” students and more diverse groups.
Zhou, Wenyi, Elizabeth Simpson, and Denise Pinette Domizi. “Google Docs in an Out-of-Class
Collaborative Writing Activity.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in
Higher Education 24.3 (2009):359-375. ERIC. Web. 21Feb. 2014.
Zhou, Simpson, and Domizi provide a mix of theory and practical approaches that help me to understand the possibilities for using Google Docs. Most valuable is that the reading is supplemented with assignment examples, rubrics for instructors, guidelines for evaluation, and peer evaluation forms.
These are two web-based programs (no software purchase necessary) that provide opportunities for video and audio interaction between participants when participants have web-cams and/or microphones. Both offer the chance to share and interact with documents, present lectures, and have small or large meetings with students or on their own. It should be noted that both services require a subscription or can be purchased on a pay-per-meeting basis. My institution purchased a license for Adobe Connect, so that is the only one I can speak to directly.
Adobe Connect is a great option for online collaboration and interaction with students in online courses. It provides several opportunities for writing teachers:
The LMS that your institution employs is likely to have a system similar to Adobe Connect and GoToMeeting; it will likely have a chat room and both video/audio functions as well as opportunities to share documents with attendees. Since the technology is constantly changing and your LMS is constantly updating, you should see what's available to you. Our current LMS is Canvas, and I can only speak to what it offers.
Since I've had more experience with Adobe Connect, it is my best point of comparison. Connect has a lot of flexiblity and few limitations for writing teachers and allows for more opportunities for real-time interaction and collaboration, which is likely to result in a better learning community. The downside is that Connect requires a subscription; using your LMS doesn't.