Monday, October 1, 2018

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Future Directions: Online/Blended Learning?

This fall, I began teaching a flipped, hybrid course at a community college for a beginning ESL class. It has been quite interesting to see the benefits and challenges of this model. It is a 12 hour per week course, and students are supposed to do half of the work independently on a Canvas platform. The other six hours are traditional face-to-face instruction in which we try to reinforce and clarify the vocabulary, grammar, and other tasks practiced online. While I could write a great deal more about the pros and cons of this particular course, for now I will just say that this has got me thinking more about the role of blended instruction.

In the past, I was quite skeptical of online teaching - I had taught my share of online teacher training courses hosted on Blackboard, and to be honest, I just love face-to-face interaction with students. However, with my recent experience teaching two online courses on Canvas, I do believe strongly that there is a huge potential for online learning, and especially blended learning, to better meet the needs of students in certain contexts.

My future goals involve course/curriculum development in any of these contexts:

  • Academic/ESP Writing - To effectively teaching writing at the intermediate to advanced levels, individualized feedback is essential, especially in the form of conferencing. It's one thing to explain organization, grammar, etc., and giving examples and having them practice. But student will need a lot personalized attention to help them revise and edit their own work. A flipped model would work well for this: Students could learn on their own through instructional videos and examples, post exercises to discussion forums and online quizzes. Online writing submission and instructor feedback would be augmented by weekly live online tutorials and/or a face-to-face conferencing session (if students were on-site). Instruction cost could be reduced by hiring trained writing tutors to hold the conference sessions. 
  • Professional Presentation Skills/Communication - Again, a flipped model could provide students with the instructional aspects of presentation organization, body language, and style elements. They could also practice with recordings and online discussion. A weekly face-to-face session would then allow for students to actually practice and perform. 
  • English Skills Improvement for non-native speaking EFL Teachers - Some teachers outside of the United States may wish to improve their own English skills in order to better teach the language but lack the resources to travel to an English-speaking country. An online training course, including live webinars would be a great solution. From my experience teaching educators from South Korea, I believe many EFL teachers would benefit from instruction in academic writing (composition, especially) and speaking. 
My goal for this next phase in my career is to find opportunities to develop courses in one or more of these areas. Stay posted.