I decided to participate in a Canvas Network MOOC this semester. I’ve tried a couple of MOOCs in the past with not very much success. Usually the topic interested me, but not enough, with my busy schedule, to keep me engaged in the activities, discussions, assignments and readings. In this case, the topic is of extreme interest to me, so maybe it will hold my interest. I have a couple of reasons why I think this particular experience may be more successful:
1. The topic is Becoming a Blended Learning Designer. Although I have a lot of experience with fully online instruction, I’m hoping this course will provide new insight for me into blended learning.
2. The course is affiliated with the University of Central Florida, an institution with a high level of authority and expertise in this field.
3. The course is being conducted in Canvas. I have a lot of experience in LMSs (Moodle, Blackboard, Brain Honey, BUZZ, Haiku, Schoology, Edu2.0) – this is one LMS that I don’t have experience using so I’m interested in seeing what Canvas has to offer.
I have to admit that I have already started the course late. It began on Monday and it is now Wednesday. The facilitators have let me know, through the first recorded webinar, that this is ok. In fact, they addressed the needs of the asynchronous participants and latecomers explicitly – letting us know that they understand their audience, who bring with them a variety of learning needs and expectations. Even though I was late to the party, I have been able to jump in and get started with very little effort. Our first assignment was to read an article and post a reaction to it.
Much of the information in the article Understanding Blended Learning was already familiar to me. I am an experienced fully online instructor in a graduate program and my field happens to be teaching K-12 teachers to teach online. I also provide professional development and consulting to schools in both online and blended teaching. Where I have struggled in the past is in helping teachers make the transition to blended learning for their own professional growth. Teachers who want to teach online, typically are motivated to do so either by employment potential or because they are enrolled in a program with that focus. However, the movement to mainstream blended learning has propelled many teachers, some of whom are very resistant, to accept a new classroom structure that is foreign to them and for which they have little interest or investment in changing.
My past attempts to model a blended approach have been less than successful. In particular, I found it very challenging to engage teachers in the online component of the training. In all cases the tendency has been to revert to waiting for face-to-face time for any meaningful learning. So for me, I was most interested in the two case studies at the end of the reading. What I liked about the first case study was the practical and applicable broad conceptualizations of practice. The second case study was especially relevant to my situation since it involved teaching teachers about teaching online. But, as I stated before, I find that teachers enrolled for college credit are often more motivated than in-service teachers. I guess my question is how can I engage practicing teachers in a blended learning experience when they are resistant to change and when they have little experience with the potential for blended learning? Or more philosophically, how do you change a mindset? It is the practical aspects of implementation, at the teacher level, that are most critical and can have the greatest impact on the success of any blended initiative and I often think it is much easier to attack the problem by moving fully online before transitioning to blended. Is it only when learners are immersed in a fully online learning experience, that they begin to see the transformative power of technology for learning and to erase all of those old cultural standards and norms of school that have been ingrained into our psyche? I am very anxious to more fully explore my own perceptions about this topic.