IATEFL Chile plenary presentation

July 30th, 2012
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Great conference in Santiago last Friday and Saturday – well worth the long flight. Pete Sharma was excellent as always and Penny Ur’s sessions were both spectacular. Her talk on higher order thinking skills in task design and teaching really made me think of how to help teachers apply those concepts to the content that they author in the English360 platform. Based on Penny’s talk I had an idea for a nifty continuum for drill design that might be useful – a good example of how a great conference session can act as a catalyst for further thought.

Anyway, I told the audience that the slides from my talk would be available on the blog, so here they are. Comments welcome.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. Hi Cleve,

    A very interesting presentation, I think you have encapsulated some of the most important issues at present in face-to-face/platform blending very well – I would have liked to attend but it’s a long way from home!

    There is one point which I would like to comment on to give my view regarding task and content distribution in the face-to-face classroom and online platform. I notice in your presentation the concept of sub-tasks ‘which move back and forth between online and face-to-face venues’ (Hinkelman 2005) and the concept of integrated course design where learner paths are forged alternating between the two environments or ‘venues’ in a linear fashion.

    I don’t know if this was brought up or discussed during your presentation, but I would be very skeptical of the success of such a model, though a great idea in theory. The reason being that learners, invariably, will not complete the on-line tasks when they are expected to – of course some learners will, others won’t and then there is a problem.

    In my working context we have busy corporate learners who find it difficult to always attend class on a regular basis, never mind finding the time to complete the online component of the course as and when required (as I am sure you understand from experience).

    If these tasks, either in class, or online are pre-requisite for the successful completion of the activity (Task A, then Task B, then Task C, etc.) and the learner does not complete one of the steps, then the whole system collapses. This linear view, in theory, is perfect but in practice a threat to successful learning and this I fear, is one reason why some criticize the effectiveness of blended learning courses delivered in two venues.

    The co-dependence of content in both environments is key to relevance but creating rules for completion of tasks which bridge both environments is setting yourself up for failure.

    I think one of the main issues and challenges is to maintain the co-dependence of the environments but to remove the idea of linearity. Take the following example: In a blended 50-50% face-to-face/online platform approach the time constraints of the two environments are distinct. Face-to-face has a clear time-restraint, it’s synchronous, it’s at the same time every week, or pre-planned to take place at a specific time. The online part of the course has no such time constraint.

    If we are talking about a blended approach where learners are expected to complete the co-dependent content online in line with the face-to-face course and they have weekly sessions they have 7 days to complete it; when they want and how they want, they should be able to complete it before their face-to-face class or after their face-to-face class but one should not pre-suppose the other; if it does, there will be problems in terms of completion of learning tasks as pre-requisites for successful completion of tasks have not been met.

    In my view there are two possible solutions to this. Firstly, the most common: reduce the importance/prominence of the online component and make it glorified homework, this way the question of its completion will not have a direct impact on the smooth running of the face-to-face sessions, the online component supports the face-to-face training, a typical model for blending as we all know.

    Secondly, the more challenging solution is to recognize the complexity of the relationship between the two environments, create co-dependent content and activities but ensure their independence within their co-dependent relationship. This, I think, is the challenge going forward for 50-50 Blended learning in terms of content, course design and delivery.

    Thanks for the thought provoking PowerPoint!

    Best wishes,

    Tim Crook
    Go English Communication

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