A year from now, Professor Lyn Van Swol's CA 368: Theory and Practice of Persuasion will be in full-swing as a blended course. Blended courses have a substantial online component while retaining face-to-face time in class, and have gained popularity in recent years.
Prof. Van Swol will be testing the waters with the blended course approach after this spring break by converting her course's structure for a week. For the past several months, she has been building portions of her course in Case Scenario and creating online modules in Moodle. She has been recording her lectures for the class to view online, but she will likely opt for creating PowerPoint videos with voice over to make them more engaging and web-oriented. Additionally, she has been collecting videos she will use for instruction, ranging from public service announcements, to commercials, to TV shows, and other formats that utilize persuasion. The end result will be a more module-based course, where students learn portions of material at a time and spend time self-testing to complete the modules.
That capability for assessment is a big reason blended courses are so attractive as a learning environment. Prof. Van Swol said that she can't do assessment easily in a large lecture course, but the data collection of the online component will give her that ability. Week to week, and even module by module, Prof. Van Swol will be able to see how well her students are understanding concepts and engaging with course material, and then she will use assessment to redevelop content if she needs to. Assessment should enable her to react to students' needs faster than she normally can in a traditional class setting.
The possible benefits of having a blended course extend beyond assessment, however. CA 368 has many video-intensive lectures, so it will naturally transition to online modules. And Prof. Van Swol is excited to put a lot of the well-established persuasion theory content online and use face-to-face time for more recent developments in the field. She will also be able to move away from lectures she has given time and time again and instead focus on her interests more.
While preparing for the Spring 2015 launch of her blended course has been a lot of work up front, Prof. Van Swol looks forward to the benefits it will bring both her students and her.