Classes move to lecture & online mix

Five Queen’s courses to move to blended format, mixing online and classroom learning

Blended learning stimulates more participation.
Blended learning stimulates more participation.

Lecture time for certain large first-year courses will be cut significantly in favour of online learning.

This fall, Psychology 100 and Geography 101 in the Faculty of Arts and Science are offered in the blended format, meaning they feature both classroom and online learning components.

Dean of Arts and Science Brenda Ravenscroft said both faculty and students are concerned about the difficulty of fostering student engagement in large classes.

“[Instructors] were dissatisfied with the level of student engagement in the class and not because of the students but because of the way they were teaching it,” she said. “Students were predominantly in a passive role.”

Blended learning models offer greater options for how instructors can interact with the students in their course, Ravenscroft told the Journal in an e-mail.

In lectures for example, time is used for the application of material which students have had access to online.

Financial support for this initiative comes from a one-time fund to support pedagogical initiatives, Ravenscroft said.

Ravenscroft learned of lecture dissatisfaction through a proposal put forward by the Teaching Issues Committee, a group under the direction of the AMS Academic Affairs Commission. The proposal discussed the benefits of blended learning and made a recommendation to implement it in classes.

The blended learning initiative is one way of making education more flexible and accessible for students, Ravenscroft said.

Through the use of the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Study Process Questionnaire tool, students will be able to comment on their blended learning experience.

The blended learning courses will allow for higher enrolment without adding sections and tutorials.

“It’s not a revenue-generating project,” Ravenscroft said. “It’s placing the student at the centre of learning actually, and that’s the main goal.”

Blended classes will be a collaborative effort between professors and administration, she said.

“It’s not something we want to impose upon the faculty, it has to be something that the faculty wants to participate in,” she said.

Ravenscroft said she hopes instructors will recognize the value of the blended course model and implement it in their large classes.

The faculty received 10 submissions covering a range of disciplines after a request for proposals was sent to instructors. Five were funded based on their size. The focus was on large classes ranging from 250 to1,800 students.

Courses that are offered in the blended format are described as such on SOLUS. In the winter semester of last year, a blended format of Geography 101 was tested out and redeveloped for this year’s fall course.

There has been an enrolment increase of 15 to 20 per cent, she wrote in blended courses, Ravenscroft told the Journal in an email.

Throughout the year, Classics 205, Gender Studies 120, Math 121 and Sociology 122 will be redeveloped in the blended format and offered next fall.

Laura Gerencser, ArtSci ’14 is currently enrolled in Geography 101, but said blended learning isn’t what she expected.

“I was expecting to have times when I had to be in lecture and times that I would do readings,” she said.

The course’s evaluation includes four mandatory three-hour tutorials worth 40 per cent of the final grade, a mid-term and a December exam, Gerencser said, but the rest of the material is self-taught online.

She said the blended learning technique isn’t helping her to accurately learn the course material.

“When I’m in the lecture, I have to focus on the lecture. When I’m at home, there’s other things that I could be doing,” she said. “I’ll learn time management better but I might not learn the course as well because I might get distracted.”

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