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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

Breaking Through the Barriers of Learning Strategies and the Misconceptions of Learning Trends

Erica Osher Reifer (New York University, USA)
Kristopher Moore (New York University, USA)
Phillip Servati (New York University, USA)
Session Information
July 9, 2014 - 11:20am
Blended Models and Course Design
Areas of Special Interest: 
Innovative Blends
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Innovation and Experimentation
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 10
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 6

An agile 5-step process that flattens barriers to blended learning in higher education one module at a time.

Extended Abstract

Blended Learning is a major turning point in higher education; it offers opportunities for increased collaboration, problem-based learning and independent learning, while arming students with stronger digital skills. That being said, many faculty and universities face numerous challenges when trying to implement blended learning models into their courses and schools. Four main barriers that have been identified are: administrative challenges (lack of awareness, policies, plans, goals, support related to blended learning), re-designing courses and/or programs, faculty preparedness, and quality assurance (Cook, Owston, & Garrison, 2004; Dziuban, Moskal, & Hartman, 2004). This presentation describes both the technology for, and the methodological approach to, blended learning module design and development that deflates these four barriers.

This agile 5-Step Blended Learning model is designed to enhance student learning and engagement, and can be replicated to support traditional learning environments and new ones, such as a flipped course, a MOOC or any future trend that arises. The student is no longer bound by the pace of the entire classroom and the faculty is no longer bound by the physical classroom or the current learning trend.

Take Initiative and Be Proactive

One of the major obstacles of establishing concrete and enduring learning models are that many universities have splintered instructional design resources spread throughout their campus. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain transparency, cohesive mission goals, and a uniform model for established effective teaching and learning principles.

It's not uncommon for universities to have several different teaching and learning "initiatives" according to external (provost) or internal (departmental) learning needs. These auxiliary initiatives were created to identify and target specific school disciplines or are taxed with supplying the entire university with an overall teaching and learning mission.

The problem isn't necessarily within these external or internal universities workflows or policies rather within leveraging the appropriate guidelines and support structures to bring these resources together in a cohesive fashion. In order to implement flexible instructional design practices that support a myriad of diverse and complex learning goals one must develop and promote scalable instructional design resources. A process that identifies and supports individual instructional needs as well as utilizing and linking together the university's overall teaching and learning standards. This methods allows schools to organize and scale specialized teaching and learning resources that best fit their overall needs and at the same time enjoy the benefits of university wide services.

Challenge the Scale

The challenge of re-designing courses and/or entire programs stems from the absence of experience and understanding on part of both the faculty and administration. Faculty lack the exposure and first hand knowledge of appropriate blended recipes and administrators aren't able to offer the necessary support and infrastructure, especially one that scales across an entire university.

One of the most common complaints that instructional designers hear from faculty is, "How much time will this take and this is time wasted if it doesn't work." And in part they're right, often just explaining exactly what a MOOC or a flipped class is and the work involved one can begin to see the defeat accumulating in their eyes. This is also where technology is often misrepresented and pushed to the foreground casting an intimidating shadow on both faculty and students. Well designed learning strategies should focus on content development and not technology advancements, technology should act as the vehicle and delivery modem that enhances learning objectives and compliments dynamic learning goals.

The solution is that of scale, which does not refer to a reduction in quality rather a concentration on one module, one week, one learning objective. With that initial experience, reflection, student assessments and evaluation, faculty are able to adapt, apply and implement the lessons learned to the next module. Through this iterative modular process, faculty address additional barriers of time commitments and technology, while experiencing and adapting to this new approach to teaching. Regardless of the amount of support required from administrators and instructional designers, the faculty member remains the driving factor in the creation process.

Understand the Writing on the Wall

The key principle to ANY successful learning foundation is solid and dynamic faculty engagement. Instructors need to develop an in depth relationship with the content being assembled, establishing key cornerstones that will anchor their expertise and promote content scaffolding. Crucial components to any learning strategy are the quality assurance and evaluation metrics that should complement new learning goals.

It is during this step that faculty tend to misinterpret learning assessments as teaching evaluations for their own teaching styles and prose, excluding the new strategies and technical structures. However, it is here that instructional designers should stake the majority of their "developmental" efforts. Creative and successful quality assurance techniques and strategies allow students to fully grasp and formalize their own learning experiences are where true "new learning" begins.

Teaching strategies that include dynamic assessments are where faculty members see the authentic value and efforts when designing and developing course content to promote dynamic cognitive absorption. A great incentive for creating evaluations and feedback is that many of these assessments can be scaled, repurposed, and scaffolded with new and old teaching techniques.

This blended learning blueprint is aimed at supporting the maturation from traditional teaching to active learning, while creating the necessary faculty buy-in along the way. It scales down the design process and focuses on specific learning goals and objectives for one specific module. This strategy also allows faculty to become better equipped to update and modify their course content and adopt the cutting edge learning trends while staying grounded and in sync within the discipline and department guidelines.

Lead Presenter

Erica Osher Reifer is a New York based designer and educator with an MFA in Design & Technology from Parsons The New School for Design. She began her career in the film industry where she worked on various editing and visual effects projects, including "Frida" and "?The Life Aquatic". The transition to education technology and design started with her work in information and web design, with an emphasis on user experience and interaction. In collaboration with Tufts University, she designed an online learning environment specifically aimed to support and improve the Family Medicine Residency program. In 2010 she was awarded the Open Society Institute and Parsons Fellowship in Information Design. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at Parsons The New School for Design and an instructional designer at New York University, where she provides ways for faculty to effectively marry the technology and pedagogy to enhance their teaching and learning.