Article by Dan Myers
Blended classes combine traditional and online components. Do your commitments outside of class make meeting twice a week inconvenient? Are you afraid of taking online classes because of their limited communication, computer skills requirement, or the necessary commitment of the student? You’ve probably already heard of blended courses. The goal of blended courses at any college is to provide the advantages of both traditional and online classes to students.
Blended classes meet once a week and have a strong online component. These courses are called blended because of how they mix traditional and online learning material. The Lancaster campus alone is offering more than twenty different blended classes this fall semester.
When students consider an online or blended course they have to evaluate if it would be right for them first. Drexel University’s website provides a list of advantages and disadvantages to decide whether or not you should try blended classes. It mentions that these classes are only for those who don’t mind working on a computer and are decent typists. If you get frustrated easily or have trouble working around problems or new layouts when working on a computer, chances are that blended classes aren’t for you.
It’s important to not be forgetful. Both online and blended courses alike will expect you to take quizzes and submit assignments electronically by a deadline that you won’t be reminded of often.
If you value face to face interaction, blended courses have the advantage over online courses because you won’t be restrained to online chat rooms and message boards that have the potential to make a student lonely at times. However, to take a blended course, you have to know yourself and know you can manage your time wisely.
Pamela Watkins teaches algebra at HACC Lancaster. She prefers not to teach online courses because she values face to face interaction. Watkins believes that because of all the online resources there are for students to learn from and the value of communicating directly with the teacher, blended classes are the best of both worlds. Giving the same benefit to a student through the online environment is, as Watkins said, “very hard to do… I send them something and they send me something back instead of face to face interaction.” Not only do students taking her class have access to the well known MyMathLab resource, but also podcasts and an iPod app. Blended classes only meet once a week and, surprisingly, Watkins doesn’t have absentee problems. Her students regularly attend class and are ready with questions.
Meeting once a week has its advantages and disadvantages. While many with busy schedules might prefer the once a week format, others still need more teacher interaction.
Online and blended class formats are still evolving and changes will continue to be made in the future. To make a blended course work, students and teachers have to think and work differently than they would in a traditional course. Teachers, as well as students, need to be able to work around problems that arise throughout the course.
Watkins described a problem that was occurring where students were watching online videos of example problems being done and not understanding the concepts behind them. These students could only solve specific problems but couldn’t apply the underlying concepts when needed and were becoming what she called “example workers”. She combated this by podcasting. Watkins considers the podcasts a “bridge between the printed word and the problems they have to work.”
Between night, weekend, late-start, online, blended, and traditional classes, HACC tries to cater to different kinds of schedules and learning preferences. All students have to evaluate themselves and how they learn before going into a blended class. When asked, some students didn’t seem to specifically prefer blended courses over other kinds but seemed willing to take one if it would fit their schedule better. Some students said that they hate working with computers and would rather avoid that altogether. Kara Martin said, “Personally, online doesn’t work for me because I know I wouldn’t do [the online material].” While some students use computers for different things and naturally become computer savvy, other students only use them for the basics and would rather not venture and do much else with them. If you fall into the latter category, it might be best you avoid blended classes.