HACC offers new class option

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.

Dan Myers, Con­tribut­ing Writer

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