Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Calculating Conversions

This summer, I’m teaching a hybrid class for the first time; we meet half in the classroom and half online. Traditionally, the “seat time” for this course would be about six hours a week. I’ve tried to design online lessons and activities for three hours a week, plus there’s the usual amount of homework.

It’s really made me sit and think about how “teaching and/or learning time” can be calculated. I’ve taught this course many, many times in the traditional classroom setting, and I’ve taught fully online courses, but I’ve never tried a hybrid before now. To design each week’s online module, I took a week’s lessons and considered what would work better in the traditional classroom and what would work better online. It’s a huge consideration, and one on which I’ll need to spend quite a bit of time debriefing myself.

What’s caught my initial consideration is how to measure “teaching and/or learning time.” If students sat in the traditional classroom for thirty minutes while I alternately lectured and led a discussion, calling on various students for intermittent responses, students could spend a good portion of that thirty minutes passively listening about the text. (Or perhaps surreptitiously texting… Ahem, I mean never…) If I create an online discussion thread where students have to post two questions and then answer the two questions posted by three other students (essentially answering six questions), students may spend fifteen to twenty minutes actively writing about and responding to the text. (While listening to music and talking on the phone? No. See, in a hybrid, I only imagine the online session behavior, and I imagine it is spent rapt. Some pencil chewing…Lots of text referencing…Shush. It’s my imagination, and a girl’s gotta dream…) So does that fifteen minutes of writing count as less than the thirty traditional minutes of listening? Do I try to calculate three literal hours of online work, or because the nature of the online work is more active (students have to “prove” they’re there by producing something), is the time calculation converted somehow? If hybrid students accomplish the same amount of assignments in a week I previously gathered from students during a fully traditional teaching of the course, can we call it done? Is time spent in class letting one or two students (or even ourselves) dominate a group discussion time better spent? What about the time spent waiting while late students are caught up or people without materials are assisted? It’s forcing me to look back at my traditional teaching and consider how well I spent that time…

I won’t really know my own answers to these questions until I finish the course and see these hybrid students’ research essays and final exams. Kind of a “the proof is in the pudding” philosophy, I guess…It’s funny. At first, teaching a hybrid kind of felt like getting away with something, but in truth, I’m more accountable for my time than in the traditional classroom. In the traditional classroom, I taught for six hours because I kept them six hours. Now I really have to think about what those three online hours need to look like to constitute me having taught them…It’s certainly a growing experience.

co-posted Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

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