Category: Hybrid Classes


When I started teaching Research Methods in the Master of Education cohort, senior colleagues convinced me that constructivist teaching was the ONLY way to conduct online classes for adults. In fact, attempts to conduct direct instruction online were seen to be nearly the work of the devils – U of Phoenix and Capella. It wasn’t respectful of adults as self directed learners who had expertise of their own.

And I bought that argument for a while, but it made me uneasy. After all, there are many technical aspects of research theory and practice that are not easy to discover on your own … just look at seasoned researchers who make mistakes and end up in the news! “Guidance” via more words and redirection to students’ own experiences and the textbook (none of which really meet our needs for this class fully anyway) did not work very well for two semesters.

Then, I discovered Camtasia Relay.

This little program allows me to record mini-lectures over PowerPoint presentations. In 15 to 30 minutes, I can give direct information and guidance to my online students … every week. This keeps them on track, reassures them that I’m still really “there” as their instructor, and has significantly raised the comfort and satisfaction my students have for the course.

It also allows me to use my computer display, with voice over, to show students many of the tools and techniques that I use in research and analysis. Using dummy information (gathered from the class on non-personal questions), I can demonstrate how to calculate statistics or used thematic content analysis to answer a research question. In theory, you could use this capture technology to show and talk about any subject matter you could show on your computer – with or without Power Point.

One of the best things about the software is that it works for both Mac and PC … a rarity in the ed tech world. And with Camtasia Relay 2 coming out, many of my concerns may be addressed.

Up to this release, I’d been concerned about what I would do when I had a hearing impaired student in my class (which has happened in prior terms). But Relay 2 promises voice to text – something I need to verify.

I’d also been bothered by the fact that I have to unplug my second monitor whenever I did a recording. The new version manages multiple monitors and multiple microphones!

It also promises better integration into Moodle, which is currently my CMS of choice. Heaven!!

So, if you teach online and feel that your voice and expertise is missing from your classes, check out Camtasia Relay!

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One of the fanastic sessions I was able to attend at SLedCC ’08 was done by Dr. Bo Brinkman of Miami University entitled: Using Second Life and Linden Lab as Case Studies to Problemetize the Creation of New Technologies. What follows are my notes from the session. I have not yet found an online copy of the conference proceedings.
Dr. Brinkman teaches undergraduate Computer Science courses. One course he teaches is about the societal impact of technology in which he challenges computer science and engineering students to think critically about technology solutions. A challenge to reaching this objective is that his students grew up with technology and so have trouble reflecting upon the disruption (positive and negative) caused my introduction of new technology.
To help students take a more critical stance, he uses Second Life as a technological phenomenon that is not fully mature. It is a program or platform that is at the initial development end of the adoption spectrum. As such, it is something that is not proven to be valued and necessary – not a household appliance or entrenched communication medium. And it is causing some disruption at various levels in peoples lives and society.
Second Life, in fact, is creating cognitive dissonance throughout industrialized society. It is challenging ideas of what is property, the contexts in which earning money is legitimate, what is communication, what is real, etc. In Second Life, we have fewer traditional ways of enforcing acceptable behavior – in fact, we often find that “acceptable behavior” is a contested concept.
As such, Second Life was very successful in creating cognitive dissonance with his class (better than with videogames). It helped students challenge folk wisdom (which he calls “myth”) and understandings. Since most students don’t have emotional ties to it, they can look at it more critically than they would at something they trust such as Facebook. Once they HAVE developed a critical stance, it can be turned also to things that they trust such as Facebook, MySpace, etc.
His method:
– post a common myth or misconception or point of controversy and have them discuss
– check to see if it is really true
– critical writing: pick a point of controversy and have them analyse a point of view on it
– take a point discussed regarding SL and extrapolate to similar first life situations
Critical thinking is one of those difficult points that we often desire to instill in students of all ages, but I hear it frequently mentioned at the university level. Think of what reflective, critical learning can be done in the area of business, ethics, epistemology, law, etc. in a world in which the “residents” are from many cultures throughout the world. It is a fertile ground for questioning one’s point of view – and that of society.

The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (commonly known simply as MERLOT) has been a well-kept secret for 10 years.

In essence, it is a collection of educational materials, contributed and rated by author educators. The peer review ensures some degree of quality, which is lacking in many other online content sites. Much of the collection is freely available – without charge – to the general public, although some content is restricted to access by members or partners only.

Materials are grouped by category, and the site is searchable.

Discipline communities have also grown up within MERLOT as a whole, to help educators with instructional and professional development applicable to their unique needs.

While the idea of freely contributed and distributed learning modules is enticing, several difficulties exist with MERLOT. While materials are categorized and searchable, the process still can be cumbersome and time consuming if you are looking for a module on a specific concept. Even if you find one, you need to look through the whole thing to see if it will fit into your particular curriculum without raising issues or topics you are not ready to address.

The materials are also not sorted or categorized by appropriate age group. Many modules can be used for K-12 classes, although the site generally seems written to cater to the needs of higher education faculty.

Finally, many of the materials are web sites without any specific guidance for an instructor regarding what type of objectives the module was intended to meet or where it would fit into a curriculum.

All these problems aside, MERLOT is an excellent place to start looking for online support materials if your text book company does not already have a web site for that particular book. And, it may be a good place to connect with other educators or even an outlet for your own materials, if you think they would be helpful to other teachers or faculty members.

Mark Harvey (Theatre Department at UMD) has an example of a hybrid class he would like to share with others.
This course meets face to face on 2 days each week (Monday and Wednesday), but the third day originally scheduled is moved to online threaded discussions.
Take a look at Introduction to Theater Arts (Hybrid Class) to see the logistical and pedagogical adjustments that allow this class to be such a success!