It can be helpful to consider staging and development of the activities aiming to ensure that they build in an appropriate way across the module as a whole to support student engagement as they develop towards assessment.
Models of blended tutoring promote the idea of purposefully attempting to move through stages of individual and group development on a module. For example:
(Walker and Baets, 2009)
Designing with this in mind can be useful to ensure that there are clear opportunities for familiarisation and community development in order to build a conducive environment for more challenging activities. This is especially important where activities are sustained throughout a whole module. For example a group project developed over the course of a module is likely to require detailed attention to each stage to strengthen and sustain the relationship between online and in-person elements. The stages of the model above are outlined as follows:
Before your activity starts, introduce students to the aims and objectives of the module, your approach, and what they’re likely to gain from it. Introduce students to Blackboard and the tools they will be using and do not assume that students know how tools work. You will also need to set expectations regarding their participation and ‘netiquette’ (the types of behaviour, writing style and interactions expected), see 4.3 Setting expectations.
For longer duration blended design, establishing an online community through ice-breakers or introductory exercises that encourage knowledge-sharing and discussion will help students feel at ease contributing in an online space. Collective ownership of the space can be created by welcoming students online and responding to their questions, or allowing flexibility in how the online space is designed. See 5.2 Before the activity for further guidance.
Throughout the activity, you will need to provide ongoing support to students to minimise any anxiety and build confidence in line with the expectations you have set for participation. You can encourage students to help each other, but do not use this as a substitute for your own contribution and interaction with students. Actively guide and facilitate online; model the learning you wish students to undertake; provide feedback; encourage students to initiate discussion topics and share resources. Section 5.3 During the activity suggests approaches to online facilitation.
At a basic level, keep the module site up to date with relevant resources. For example, you may make announcements, respond to FAQs, introduce new resources, and stage availability of activities or quizzes in line with the face-to-face module content.
For longer duration activities you may not be actively participating, however you will need to monitor student participation and intervene if necessary. You may need to monitor student activity either online or in terms of how they bring back online outputs to in-person sessions (see 5.3 During the activity). Use approaches such as commenting on student contributions to reinforce connections between online and class-based activities.
Resolve outstanding online issues in final class sessions, closing any open discussion and making sure all student queries have been addressed. Re-emphasise the links between the online process and class-based activities with particular attention to learning outcomes, see 5.4 After the activity. Provide feedback on students’ online activities, such as knowledge-sharing, research tasks, collaboration, prompting students to reflect on their performance. Also provide opportunity for students to provide feedback to you on the activity design to inform future practice, see 5.5 Reflecting on the activity.