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New for 2014! Technology Test Kitchen - BYOD to learn, explore, and share knowledge within this lab environment

Technology Test Kitchen


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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Best Practices for Transforming a Course to a Blended Community for Improved Student Metacognition

Michaela Holtz (Northern Illinois University, USA)
Sheela Vemu (Northern Illinois University, USA)
Additional Authors
Julia Spears (Northern Illinois University, USA)
Session Information
July 8, 2014 - 1:00pm
Blended Models and Course Design
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Best Practices
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Plaza Ballroom D
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 1
Virtual Session

Transforming large introductory Human Biology course using technology, effective teaching strategies and assessment to ensure student learning at all levels of Bloom's taxonomy.

Extended Abstract

Experiential learning activities are often excluded from large introductory courses due to class size which appears to be prohibitive to a pedagogy geared toward active student learning and engagement. Faculty who teach such courses may often focus on coverage and the dissemination of facts, preferring the lecture as their method of instruction. However, the modern classroom and resources available to instructors has given rise to a new approach for teaching and learning. Transforming these types of courses promotes a learning environment in which students are cognitively (i.e. develop critical thinking skills necessary to deep learning) and socially engaged (i.e. develop relationships with faculty and peers). Course Transformation Project (CTP) at Northern Illinois University is drawing upon both, the need to adapt to higher and more diverse enrollments and the advances in knowledge of learning and digital tools. The CTP turns large lecture courses into blended courses that combine large group lecture, media rich interactive online activities, and small group experiential learning. CTP does also, in turn, speak to the issue of the value-added learning that occurs among undergraduates in the areas of critical thinking, communication, and creativity as well as the quality and strength of the general education program at Northern Illinois University. There were six courses transformed in 2012-13 academic year with one of them being an introductory human biology course for non-majors.

From the early literature and prior observation in introductory biology large classroom we recognized that one of the main challenges for students was to develop the intellectual behavior essential to learning and mastering key concepts. In this CTP course we aligned learning outcomes with questions from all levels of Bloom's taxonomy. One of the tools we incorporated into the introductory biology course was the LearnSmart I smartbook. LearnSmart is a formative assessment tool that adaptively assesses students' skill and knowledge levels so that we can track which topics the students have mastered and which require further instruction and practice. The goal of implementing Learnsmart was to develop the two basic cognitive levels: remembering information (knowledge) and understanding information (comprehension). Another reason for this intrusion into the cognitive domains of the learning biological concepts was to increase the probability that students who have not developed solid or well-structured study habits would learn and retain the scientific concepts using various active learning with case studies as a central mode of content assimilation. The higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy such as ‘Analyze' and ‘Synthesize' were developed using the case studies that had active learning component weaved into its assessment such as creating a model that explains the malfunction of specific organelle in a disease platform. The activities included the following list 1) Constructing the knowledge by discussing the case study. 2) Applying the knowledge from the class lecture or textbook to develop new knowledge. 3) Identifying the gaps in the concept by uncovering wrong answers using Learsmart. Course goals included, but were not limited to, developing students' critical thinking skills, expanding their knowledge of the human body, and encouraging interest in a field of study outside their own.

The design of the course followed a constructivism approach, fostering students' metacognitive abilities driven by identification of gaps in thinking and circumventing those gaps with new skill development. A metacognitive approach was employed through the software coupled with adaptive textbook reading and group case study work. These principles were built upon a model; promoting inquiry based learning using a variety of multicultural global connections to strengthen interdependencies with case studies and experiential group learning project. Integration of these principles and tools gave students a unique perspective and understanding of presented material. Once the 70% criteria for LearnSmart completion has been observed in the metacognitive skill chart, the students were allowed to take the post connect Quiz. Connect quiz was followed up with a short essay on key terms. At the end of the semester, students completed final cumulative post connect quiz based on LearnSmart modules and essay. These essays required student to create a pattern using the key concepts from the various modules on LearnSmart. They also required the skills of analogy, hypothesizing and forming questions while synthesizing the material from various modules. The students were able to create new knowledge that helped them understand the ideas from start to finish and also provided them with estimation of how well they understood the concept and skill attached to it.

This presentation is targeted for faculty, instructors and administrators interested in blended learning strategies, student-centered approach to teaching, effective student engagement, and assessment tools to ensure student learning. PowerPoint presentation will be used as a starting point to review the pedagogy of course design in a blended format. Participants will have the ability to engage in interactive group activities and partner exercises that facilitate critical thinking. We will demonstrate the metacognitive analysis of responses to questions which can mimic a blended classroom format by using clickers.