Those Long Pauses in Evening/Weekend Courses

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Whether we want to admit it or not, a growing number of our students are interested in replacing some class time with online experiences. For professional students, the need to manage multiple activities (e.g. school, work, family, and civic engagement) may make time shifting a priority. For undergraduates, learning through technology is something they’ve done their whole lives, occasionally beginning as infants (e.g. Leapfrog systems). While the benefits of face-to-face learning are undisputed, it is hard to ignore the increasing need to deliver content and experiences online as well. This summer's seminar on Blended Course Design not only added new skills to my multi-method approach to teaching, but also helped me rethink course design, challenging me to identify areas where student learning and interaction may be as effective, if not more effective, online than offline.

The seminar could not have come at a better time for me, as this fall I am teaching an evening MBA core marketing course that meets every third weekend. During the seminar, I kept a running list of new ideas to incorporate into my class, and so far I have implemented most of them. While maintaining the same number of classroom contact hours, my goal was to keep students engaged and provide guidance during the long stretch between classes. One of the biggest things I did was reorganize my course into modules. Each 3-week module got its own place on Blackboard where students could find all the necessary resources and assignments between classes. Another innovation was an online profile that students completed before the semester started. This allowed me to launch team activities our first weekend while still ensuring that teammates were balanced in marketing and quantitative skills and were geographically clustered to facilitate meeting between classes. My mid-semester feedback, also collected on-line, suggests that the improvements are working.

The seminar also highlighted a number of new online tools, revealing an opportunity to continue to expand my toolset. Luckily, the Faculty Center for eLearning offers workshops that allowed me to learn how to use tools like Adobe Connect and Adobe Presenter. I am grateful that our university is willing to invest in its faculty in this way, and if you haven't taken advantage of any of the opportunities available, I encourage you to do so. As a result of the opportunities I've taken, I am currently facilitating my offline classes better and am prepared for the day when I start replacing some face time with online content – and I am confident that I can do so without sacrificing student learning.

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