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  1. Linda Collier
    May 11, 2013 - 10:50 pm

    Thanks for this Tony. To add to the equation, what is best on campus and what best online would also differ according to subject. Was there any discussion of funding support to bring students, teachers, and professors up to date on the new technology?

    • Tony Bates
      May 13, 2013 - 5:14 am

      Hi, Linda
      Thanks for your comment. No, we didn’t in the workshop discuss tech and instructional support, perhaps because UBC is an exception and provides substantial support to faculty (perhaps less so for students) in using technology for teaching and learning. However, I’ve been to many universities where this support is still way inadequate.

  2. Mark Freeman
    May 12, 2013 - 4:04 pm

    Great reflection thanks Tony.

    Response to Q1.
    IMHO some learning outcomes are developed a better synchronously initially ( e.g.collaboration, persuasion, negotiation and leadership) and then subsequently developed asynchronously. Maybe some fine tuning of psychomotor skills fall into this category as well.I think these are all best developed synchronously because immediate feedback is more critical to development. With connectivity, which can also include bandwidth good synchronous video to observe non-verbal cues, this can be done online. because of these connectivity issues, F2F is more reliable probably at this time. Trust (between students and with teachers)is also a critical ingredient that helps development and initial meetings face-to-face can often allow this to be built up more quickly. IMHO that is why it is best for project teams to start with a face-to-face meeting. And this is especially important when different cultural backgrounds of learners (and teachers) are involved. in formal learning is also more possible face-to-face because of the serendipitous teachable moments, such as conversations that occur as teachers and learners go to and from a class. once developed initially synchronously, then some aspects of these capabilities or learning outcomes can be refined to asynchronous contexts. For example, collaboration schools across cultural teams to have to work in different time zones.

    Response to Q3
    Also IMHO I think we will always need university campuses. They may change what their main service or purpose is over time but we will still need them. Students develop great networks through shared experiences that they can invest in, and draw on, for a lifetime ahead. trust building through shared formal and informal experiences, in and out of the classroom, do this. ( I’m sure that’s why a concert or football game means so much more when shared live.) Undergraduate probably prefer (and afford) more of the face-to-face on campus because they are on average less mature learners and less self disciplined. Of course many are mature learners and self-disciplined. Younger students want other sorts of outcomes from their campus experience and may not have the sorts of commitments and older students have that are competing priorities. Postgraduate coursework students seeking to develop finely tuned outcomes like persuasion, leadership and and negotiation, may be best to develop these face-to-face with other students and their teacher/coach. These capabilities may be best developed in non-camp campus face-to-face contexts, such as the site of the authentic problem that they are solving collaboratively. Our Global Executive MBA is an example of the latter.

    • Tony Bates
      May 13, 2013 - 5:17 am

      Thanks for your very thoughtful comments, Mark.

      Your comments about different cultural backgrounds is very much on the ball. However, I have taught online courses where up to 35% of the students were from outside Canada, from more than 30 different countries. Cultural differences certainly impacted on the teaching, and special effort had to be made to accomodate to cultural issues, but it can be handled well in an online environment. In fact, for these students, online learning would have been the only way to access such courses, which were very specialized.

  3. Howard Davis
    May 13, 2013 - 7:56 am

    Tony, just to flip your question a bit: how would your F2F workshop have differed if it had been held online? Would you and the participants have reached similar conclusions? Do you think you would have had the same intensity and focus?

    In your closing paragraph you note that “Online and hybrid learning provides a chance to re-think the role and purpose of the whole university campus, as well as what we should be doing in classrooms when students have online learning available any time and anywhere.” I think that’s the nub of the matter. As soon as we realize that learning can happening in online, F2F, and hybrid spaces, then the question is not only what is the whole campus experience about, but what’s the intents and purposes of education itself? We have to move, it seems, beyond higher and hire education to something else.

    I. You could argue, as Mark does, that F2F, is a good starting point for students to meet each other and develop rapport as part of a hybrid learning environment, but community building, if that’s what we want to call it, can also happen online and move to a F2F experience. Consider Meetup, and hybrid courses where students meet first online and then get together in a physical classroom. If a campus has faculty with particular expertise, specific resources, facilities, campus organizations, projects, events, etc., then that might warrant using the campus.

    2. If we consider online and F2F as learning spaces, then the question might be if we have a particular assignment, program, etc., which “space” helps maximize the learning experience, develops community, student engagement, etc., etc.?

    3. Boston Architecture College offers a unique distance Master of Architecture degree. It’s a low residency program in which students, who already have jobs at design firms around the country, work on their projects online, and then once a semester they come to Boston for an intense week-long studio and residency. Perhaps it’s the very nature of “design thinking” learning, but this model provides a tremendous opportunity for collaboration, skill building, critical thinking, and overall student engagement and faculty mentoring. I think that their hybrid model is even more powerful than the on-the-ground Master’s degree as students can connect and share design work online, which culminates each semester in their on-campus residency. All to say, that I think this model (I’m prejudiced–I was the former VP of online learning) has figured out how to best use each learning environment to its advantage.

    • Tony Bates
      May 15, 2013 - 2:49 pm

      Thanks for this comment, Howard.
      Your ‘flipped’ question is an interesting one. I think at an exploratory stage, for brainstorming, etc., a face-to-face environment was necessary, but after that the conversation could easily have been continued and elaborated online
      I know a lot of research was done by telephone companies when video-conferencing first became popular. The aim was to identify what kinds of meetings or topics were best done face-to-face, and which by video-conferencing. In general it was found that video-conferencing is better for ‘low emotional’ meetings, where straight information is being shared or where rationality and logic were likely to result in decision-making, whereas ‘high emotional’ topics are best handled in a face-to-face context (but presumably without weapons). Thus some forms of decision-making could be handled remotely, but others couldn’t. Now I can’t find that research, so if anyone can direct me to it I’d be really grateful.
      Your Boston Architecture example also suggests there is probably a lot of research already done around space planning in buildings that could throw some light on the issue of what works best in a face-to-face environment and what doesn’t. The whole recent discussion around tele-commmuting also makes me think some research must have been done in this area that would be helpful (although it’s ironic that Yahoo, an online company, would ban tele-commuting – perhaps they know something that we don’t!)
      All this is to emphasise that we need more evidence-based research on the differences between studying online and face-to-face; and if that research already exists we need to dig it up. At the same time, it might be helpful to start from the law of equal substitution – that in most cases it doesn’t matter – then establish evidence-based examples of where it does.

      • Howard Davis
        May 16, 2013 - 6:46 am

        Hi Tony, not to muddle your observation about “high/low” emotional meetings since I agree with it, but I have direct experience which contradicts the notion.

        I used to teach a course on “Contemporary Spiritual Writing,” which was primarily a discussion about spiritual issues as reflected in contemporary articles, journals, etc. The class was online, 100% asynchronous, and what was remarkable about the eight week experience (a summer course) was the degree of participation and intellectual and emotional commitment of the students. As I recall we had about 18 students, and the approach was fairly straightforward. The course was set up around “themes,e.g., spiritual journey, life transitions, etc. I set up the assignments, often, with a short presentation– a few pages of text and images, videos, etc. and asked students to read relevant articles in our anthologies. Students were divided into groups and expected to work through questions about readings as a team and then pose a team response and question to the class discussion board. Actually a pretty traditional approach. (They also kept a variety of journals.)

        What was remarkable, though, was the work on the group level. Students quickly bonded and invested themselves in the conversations as they wrangled with some pretty deep issues. Teams would post summaries of their conversation which included an “answer” to the question prompt, and then they would be a discussion free- for-all on the open class forum comparing/analyzing the summaries from the various groups.

        Maybe it was because the students were self-selected,and they made emotional/spiritual connections with life-death matters, but there was a resonance with the subject and a sense of engagement, which I rarely experienced in a F2F class. Students spoke freely about their spiritual journey and struggle, and there was an overriding civility and compassion that to my mind was amazing. Not to go on about this, but it ranks as one of the best teaching experiences I’ve ever had, and I’d say the students found it transformational.

        Certainly this isn’t unique to me–other instructors have had similar experiences. I guess we’re still left with your question about needing research to better understand how we pick our learning spaces for a hybrid course.

        One last note: later that summer as I was walking by the campus bookstore someone called out my name. It turned out to be one of the students from that class. She had recognized me because I had created an introductory video, but I didn’t recognize her since I didn’t require students to post pictures of themselves. How ironic, had she not stopped me (and we had a most wonderful conversation which picked up where we left off in class online) I would have walked by one of my students from that class.

        • Tony Bates
          May 16, 2013 - 8:13 pm

          Very nice story, Howard.
          Yes, I guess that sums up my law of equal substitution – it all depends on the context. A good teacher and well intentioned students can carry a class, no matter the medium (another one of my ‘laws!)

  4. Denise Nelson
    May 14, 2013 - 3:06 am

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for sharing your discussion of design models of hybrid/blended learning. Important considerations of whether the learning will take place face-to-face or online are the resources available for instructional design and the “teacher presence” effort to be expended. While resources may be saved in less use of facilities for f-t-f teaching/learning, extra efforts generally are required to design and deliver online. Some faculty and students will naturally be attracted to the face-to-face environment because of their comfort level with the environment and the decreased chances for technology glitches.

    • Tony Bates
      May 15, 2013 - 2:53 pm

      Good comments, Denise.
      I agree: I think ‘non-academic’ or non-content issues, such as availability of support, cost, student needs, and methods of working to design, develop and deliver teaching are all likely to be stronger determinants of when to go online and when to teach face-to-face than academic objectives, although there will always be some exceptions to the law of equal substitution.

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