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November 26, 2007 (Refreshed November 29 2010)

E-Coaching Tip 53: Hybrid Teaching and Learning Strategies — Combining Social Networking Features with Blogs and Discussion Boards

If you are like other online instructors, you often wonder about what learning tools are best for what learning outcomes? In other words you probably wonder if anyone has matched the new wave of learning tools, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, and discussion boards to   various learning outcomes and skills.

As is obvious the panorama of learning tools is dynamic and increasingly so.  In many respects, it is similar to trying to match desirable communication outcomes to tools such as smart phones, laptops, ereaders, and blackberries. Our current set of communication devices have been widely and enthusiastically adopted because of their flexibility and mobility. For example, books can no longer be assumed to be a physical object. We can read books in various formats, from paper to dedicated ereaders to multipurpose computers, now including the iPad and similar slate tablets.  These digital devices make books easy to carry and add important features such as color, animation, audio and the ability to search.

So, in the midst of all these possibilities, how do we decide how and when to use these new tools for effective instruction? Here are a couple of ideas on mixing and matching these tools.

Just as new interdisciplinary fields are emerging from the intersection of two, three or more fields, we may want to create new instructional tools by combining features from two or more learning tools.  For example, we may want to combine a feature or two from social networking, photo or video sites with a blog, a wiki, or a discussion board.  Combining these tools might make it easier to reach a course goal, such as engaging students in multiple course projects requiring individual analysis and thinking, professional commenting and teamwork.

Hybrid Pedagogical Strategy with Individual Course Projects

Here is one hybrid pedagogical strategy that you may want to consider using for your course project or for other complex assignments.

You may think it is important to have your students create their own course project but still want to involve and engage other students or a small group with the creation and development of multiple projects.  In this case, try this.

  • Create a personal project blog or discussion board area for each student.
  • Each student then uses this personal blog or board as his/her working space for the course project.
  • Each student posts a project topic or abstract as the first proposed phase of his or her course project. This step uses one of my favorite pedagogical strategies,  “phasing” course projects to ensure timely progress and personal responsibility and collaborative shaping and conversation during the first phase of a project.
  • Other students — either from a designated small group or the class  — review the project abstract or proposal idea and add comments, ideas, suggest resources, or adaptations, or cautions. This is similar to the “comment” and tagging” features of the photo-sharing sites such as Flickr (www.flickr.com) or blogs of all types.  All comments become part of the individual project as it is evolving over time.
  • Each student responds, replies, tweaks and designs new approaches to the project as appropriate. 
  • At different points the faculty member also blogs and comments on the project progress and input.  This can be private or public or a combination of both.  This is an ideal mechanism for a faculty member to provide expert feedback to the students.
  • Each student integrates the ideas and suggestions as appropriate into his or her project. This cycle of posting and commenting and project evolution shifts the project from being the sole production by one student to a collaborative group project.
  • Each student also posts regular notes that update his/her status similar to the “update my status” feature on Facebook. (www.facebook.com) This status can be something as simple as “I am researching some of the suggestions this week,” or “I am not making much progress right now.”
  • Each student posts the completed project as required by the course assignment.
  • Each student’s group or class members then review the final product and again make comments or evaluations.

This hybrid strategy can be abbreviated for either small group work or for other much briefer assignments.  Another use is to just keep the blog as a learning journal and the basis of a conversation between the faculty member and the learner.

Tweaks and Comments on this Hybrid Pedagogical Strategy 

Here are a few comments and observations about this strategy and how it compares with blogs, wikis, journals, and the social networking sites.  An earlier ecoaching tip #47 contains a table listing some of the key differences between a journal, a blog and a wiki. You may find this useful to refer back to as well.

  • This hybrid pedagogical strategy is most like a blog in that it is individually “owned” and created by one student. It is similar to a wiki in that there is an end product — a project report, paper or presentation of some ilk.
  • This strategy shares characteristics of a journal in that it is “authored over time” and serves to track and record activities and progress.
  • It is also like a journal or a discussion board in that it is “organized chronologically from first posting to most recent.”
  • It shares the ability with blogs, wikis, journals, etc. “include media of all types, such as pictures, video, text and weblinks.”
  • This hybrid strategy shares characteristics of social networking sites such as the Flickr and Facebook sites referenced earlier. This means that learners are probably comfortable with this type of interaction and pleased that it is part of their learning environment as well.  These social networking sites encourage regular, even daily and even hourly checking-in and commenting and seeing where everyone is and what they are doing and what they are thinking.  This sharing of where they are in a project and what they are thinking next can encourage awareness of metacognitive strategies and how projects and thinking evolve over time.
  • This strategy promotes community in that students no longer focus only on their projects, but through their review and commenting develop ownership and critical thinking about many of their fellow learner projects.
  • This hybrid strategy promotes community and cognitive presence shaping and sharing a sustained focused conversation over time.

No doubt there are many more tweaks and adjustments to this hybrid strategy that might be appropriate for your course, for your content; but the best part of this strategy is the social aspect of learning and creativity that it promotes. Yet it still provides for a way to “sense” the individual and their particular knowledge and skill development for grading and assessment purposes.

Tapping into the Power of the Elearning 2.0 Tools – Closing Thoughts

The Web 2.0 environment as defined by Wikipedia on 11-25-07 is a “perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis, and folksonomies (collaborative tagging) — which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users. With every generational turn of these tools and services the web 2.0 tools are becoming better tools for learning and candidates for many more hybrid pedagogical strategies.

What is one of the most fundamental truths about learning? That learning is active and specific and internal to the learner. Web 2.0 tools empower the learner to comment on their own work, the work of peers and the work of experts. The new tools enable real-time and asynchronous collaboration.  They encourage, stimulate, and enthuse learners to create new content and to support and challenge each other in the process.

If you can, try this hybrid strategy with even one discussion board activity and see how it works for you and your students. If you would like to activate the blog tool within your Blackboard course, check out the resources at the Educational Technology center, and they will get you started.  You and your students will be glad you did. Using blogs in your classroom enables you to provide you and your students with interactive, collaborative, multimedia rich, writing, journaling and reflective experiences that can be private or open to all in the class.

References

Boettcher, J. V. e-Coaching Tip 47: Journaling, Blogging and Wiki-ing http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip47.html

O’Hear, Steve and Edited by R. MacManus. (2006)  E-learning 2.0 - how Web technologies are shaping education August 8, 2006.  Accessed August 14, 2010 at http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/e-learning_20.php. This is part of the Read/WriteWeb popular weblog that provides Web Technology news, reviews and analysis. It is the lead blog in the Read/WriteWeb Network, a growing network of blogs about web technology. http://www.readwriteweb.com/about.php

O’Hear, Steve and Edited by R. MacManus. (2006) Elgg — social network software for education. August 11, 2006 / Also part of the Read/Write Web blog cited above.

Verschoor, J. (2010) Using Flickr in Education.  My Integrating Technology Journey.  June 21, 2010 Retrieved November 29 2010 from http://jenverschoor.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/using-flickr-in-education/

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2010 in a book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tipscoauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org.

 

Hybrid Teaching and Learning Strategies -- Combining Social Networking Features with Blogs and Discussion Boards

 

 

Ecoaching Table of Contents

 

 


Revised May 20 2013
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2013