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Student Engagement in Blended Learning after the Pandemic

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Shaunak Roy 0:05
Hello. Hi, this is Shaunak Roy. We have a wonderful webinar this afternoon. And a wonderful panel. So but before we get started, I want to give everybody about maybe like 30 to 60 seconds before we get started just so that I see people are trickling in so. So yep, so just give us 30 seconds, I'm going to be on mute for 30 seconds and we will kick off right at one one instant time.

Alright, so actually, it's already one on one on my clock, so we will get going. Again, welcome to this webinar on student engagement and blended learning after the pandemic. It's a timely topic. My name is Shaunak Roy. I'm the founder and CEO of Yellowdig. We have a wonderful panel with us today. And I'm going to very quickly mention who they are. And after that, I'm going to pass it on to Bryan Alexander, who is going to moderate the panel for us. So we have Susan Nix from Lubbock Christian University. We have Andrew Feldstein from Fort Hays University, and our friend, Bryan Alexander from Georgetown University, who is going to help us get going. So with that, Brian, do you want to take over?

Bryan Alexander 1:44
I do. Thank you Shaunak for introducing us. And thank you, Shaunak, on behalf of Yellowdig for hosting us. I really appreciate the opportunity. Let me introduce welcome everybody. The check box is live. So if you would like to throw us your questions and thoughts, please feel free to in fact, the nice thing to do is just to quickly stay where you're coming from today. So I can say, last us. As we go, if you'd like to throw us questions, that chat box is good, but also the q&a box should be live. So you could throw questions that way or be looking forward to them. And hello to Illinois, Tennessee, Minneapolis or Minnesota, New Jersey, seem to have Lubbock. Hello, Vermont. We seem to have quite a bit of better presentation from the Northeast, and especially the Midwest. Hello again, Chicago. And bulk Baltimore. Alright. And that's San Diego. I hope. So Diego might be something else. But it's I'm glad to see all of you here. And please, we'll be we'll be bringing these in Debbie, I hope you've got some sign of spring. I know in the North Country, nobody, nobody values spring, like people in the North Country, Meridian Yang in Quebec, she knows what I'm talking about 12 inches in her front yard, Debbie will think of you. So this session is dedicated to looking at what happens to student engagement in terms of blended learning. And we're looking at the lessons learned from the past two plus years the pandemic, what do we know about how best to teach in an environment combining face to face and online? What have we learned as faculty? What have we learned as support staff and strategists? And what have we learned as students? So I just want to introduce my two fellow co panelists. Dr. Susan, next, Lubbock Christian, is a passionate teacher who reflects deeply on our teaching and learning is really, really committed to among other things, kids and students in general. Susan, would you like to say a couple words about yourself and how you approach this topic?

Susan Nix 3:58
Yes, in preparation for this, I did some reflection and trying to figure out how would How did my teaching perspective develop? And I have to say, I'm not done yet. I think it's an evolving thing. And as we talk I'll, I'll share some of the things that I realized in my reflection, so I'm looking forward to this. If you look up the definition of blended learning, you'll be in a variety of definitions. And so that's interesting. So it'll be interesting to see what comes out today. That helps every bit.

Bryan Alexander 4:34
Indeed, indeed, we just had a long blog plus article plus Twitter storm about redefining blended learning synchronous and asynchronous learning, and nobody came to any subtle conclusion, which is often a good sign. Speaking of being unsettled, Dr. Andrew Feldstein is there. You can see he is in a very tense and stressful background. Andrew, what would you like to add? to us to our to our understanding of you and to your understanding of blended learning.

Andrew Feldstein 5:04
Oh, sure. Well, my team here at Fort Hays University is we have the instructional technologists, instructional designers, a faculty development team as well. We have spent, obviously the last couple of years steeped in everything that we needed to do in order to get us through these interesting times we've been in, I think, at Fort Hays, and we have an interesting perspective. Because of the balance of students that we have, we have about 4000 or so students here on our campus. And in western Kansas, we also have another 100,000 plus students who are online students, plus an additional 4000 students on campus in China. And so having to deal with those very different modalities. And in really getting an interesting sense through the pandemic, of the very real differences between how those three populations have needed to negotiate learning through the pandemic, is really, it's been a it's been a meaningful experience for us all.

Bryan Alexander 6:10
It has the it has indeed, below. Thank you. Thank you both for for unfolding a bit more about yourselves. And Susan, hello. Which which dog was that? That just person?

Susan Nix 6:21
I'm sorry. Her name is Fiona. She's part of Great Pyrenees and part St. Bernard.

Bryan Alexander 6:28
I was glad to see animals and one of my cats is staring at me now trying to figure out one of those crucial cat decisions. Should I jump up? Or should I meditate some more? But this is actually one of the fun things I found about about learning. With this alive online medium is these little glimpses into people's lives. I mean, if it's if it's an imaginary one, like the backgrounds as shannock and Andrew have, that's still important, because that tells us something about what they're thinking, what they're feeling, maybe what they need. Although if Andrew is in Florida, I don't know why he's putting that up. But But yeah, it tells you some it tells you something.

Andrew Feldstein 7:11
Real, Brian, that's actually sort of looking forward and looking back. That's the beach I grew up on, that's the beach, where we spend every summer. And so I'm looking forward to being there in a couple of months. It's up in the south shore of Massachusetts.

Bryan Alexander 7:29
Oh, I wonder if I've been there. Just Just Just think about this about this quick exchange. I mean, if I draw attention to this, we just learned a bit more. So if Andrew is, is your instructor, students just had that opportunity to connect with him and a little more deeply than if he was a student at the same thing. Meanwhile, in contrast, Susan, and I have our cameras on either very convincing, fake backdrops are real. And again, you can tell what we think is important, and what and what we privilege. Let me ask both of you just Just to riff a bit more, on the same, looking back over the past two years, what do you think we've learned as faculty as instructors, about teaching in the blended environment? What is COVID taught us about that?

Susan Nix 8:27
Well, from a combined public school and higher ed perspective, working with people in public schools, in the news, you hear a lot of negative comments about the lack of growth for students, that can be a little bit depressing. If you fall for that, I don't believe that because when I was doing the blended learning, research, you know, just looking over it. It doesn't the research doesn't say that the research really doesn't support that, that students lose from this environment. There's there's criticism, largely due to technology difficulties still being ironed out. District districts in public schools were caught unprepared for the needs of all their students. And in some cases, students didn't have access to the technology. So then schools had to extend their Wi Fi out to the parking lot, et cetera, et cetera, that kind of stuff. And then teachers also had to very quickly learn how to make their classes more but more what the students needed instead of just listen to what I'm saying and do your assignment kind of thing. So I heard lots and lots of input from both teachers and from students. From my perspective, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my teaching. I'm not done yet. I'm listening to students to hear what they think about my classes, I really, really invite them to give me feedback on what works and what doesn't work for them. It's a constantly evolving environment.

Bryan Alexander 10:17
Well, this is this is hugely, hugely important. I, if I couldn't see it, I just want to pull these three apart. You mentioned the surprise, reports of student learning falling behind. And that's, that's mostly coming from the K through 12. Space, there's a report issued about the elementary schools. And I think we can dive into this and press on this a little bit further. You've also drew our attention to the digital divide, and how important that's been, and how a lot of schools tried to address that, but But ultimately, it's still it's still remains. And then if I may, your personal example of yourself, reflecting on your teaching practice and developing it still further. That's also what you see teachers doing as a result of the pandemic. Does that sound right? Yes, thank you. Well, enter. How about you? What did what do you see faculty learning in the blended space over the past two and a half bizarre years?

Andrew Feldstein 11:19
They were bizarre. I really think one of one of the things that became crystal clear is the space, the space around the social piece, the connected piece that not simply the the classroom content delivery piece, but we learned this actually, pretty early back in January of 2020, we've learned that our students in China, were all going home. And that courses would be online. Now, normally, we have faculty in China that teach in classrooms. And of course, at the end of January of 2020. In my mind, I would say I said to myself, well, only in a country like China, could they just decree that everybody goes home and we do classes online, I was quickly proven wrong. But what happened was, we started building courses, we have four weeks to start putting together and transition courses from a face to face courses to online courses. And we worked as hard as we could, we had barriers, the Great Firewall barrier of wondering what type of content would be blocked and that sort of thing. But when we finally got it all together, the first response that we had from our students was a sense of loss. It was where's my instructor, where's, I'm used to being in the same place I and I can't connect directly with them, I can't connect directly with the other students. I'm feeling isolated and alone here. And this became something that was echoed for the next year and a half, not just with our students in China, but our students who are on campus here in Hays, as well as our students who are online. And so for me a lot of what was important. We're building those connections, the things that will for our face to face students had occurred naturally, we didn't have to create situations for our students in the class to, to say hi to one another before class started, or, or to sort of unpack our lectures after the class was over. But now it was more on us to be able to build those environments like you did at the beginning of this conversation, Brian, and just to sort of, you know, bring in that personal piece of that social piece that connects us together, because that's where the learning takes place is through those feedback loops. And through talking and sharing and that sort of thing.

Bryan Alexander 13:59
These feedback loops, indeed, are going back and forth. I'm so I mean, between the two of you, we just answered the question and extraordinary amount of depth, depth. Dr. Feldstein, you just drew attention to the importance of factors around classes. So you think about student life, Residence Life for those who have residential housing, but also just the interactions, the whole social aura around the classroom. You mentioned the Chinese factor that you learned about the pandemic when your Chinese campus students first had to go home, and then your infrastructural concern about the Great Firewall, but then especially this the sense of loss, the loss of presence, where where's my instructor, not just how do I how do I feel them being here? And then how do we how do we maintain that? I mean, this is this is powerful stuff. Already we have a really solid outline If I could ask both of you just just to press on this a little bit further. Next, you're talking about your surprise students falling behind in online learning. And I'm wondering, again, do you do you see blended learning as the is the best way to address this, that combination of online and face to face? Or where do you see this working well, that we should try to imitate and avoid the problems that we've seen.

Susan Nix 15:29
I think blended learning is a really good, our hybrid presentations are a really good way to steal. make that connection with your students, because as my colleagues, the connecting pieces missing, maybe online, if someone's not really putting their whole attention to that environment, you know, I think it's about concentrating on that. When you're in the room with someone, then it's much easier to establish eye contact, Body, body language, all those other things that we do when we're communicating. I think the hybrid sets sets up the class that you're teaching in higher ed, for success, you can set the tone as the professor on when you first meet face to face, by telling what you think is important, by explaining how you set up the class. What keeps coming into my mind is my speech class in my Bachelor's, where the professor said, tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them and tell them which told them. And that's still pertains in hybrid classes. Because then in my online design, see, when I went to higher ed, I'd already spent many, many years in publican as a teacher, and then as an administrator. And then when I went to higher ed, the first year, I taught face to face. And then the second year, the dean said, we're moving to online. So I had to do some research on what that meant, how to design a course online, what was the best way to do it? And of course, that's continued to evolve as this kind of thing has evolved as well. So does that does that answer what you asked?

Bryan Alexander 17:25
I really, really does. I love the the your focus on the hybrid, but also the student, the instructor setting the tone? Right from the start? If I could just if I could just present one point. And if you could answer that, Andrew, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Where de facto faculty learn these lessons. What are the sources? I mean, we've got the idea of in the chat, Richard Schultz has shared the global online learning development extended network, for example, as a community of practice. I mean, you should faculty or have faculty been using such online communities of practice? Do you find a teaching and learning centers on campus to be a good sector for that? Is library a center for that? Or is it one's professional colleagues, either in one's own department, or in the same department at other institutions? Were the faculty learn how to do this stuff,

Susan Nix 18:21
I think primarily from the IP department, as as material came, as equipment came out, and software came out. And then and that's where it starts. And then workshops are provided. And then of course, because I had to move to the online environment, and as a professor, you're required to do research, while it was a perfect fit to do online design research. And then I presented that in the UK, which was pretty exciting, to to be amongst other people that were sharing in another country. How they created online classes and have that published, it was nice, just two extra bonus, but primarily the IT people and that continues, because I retired. And then now I'm working as an adjunct at LCU. Because I'm not them, like I said, and the IT department and personnel continue to impact me as they learn things. And as the equipment and software evolves, they share that with us. And then then it's a matter of being flexible, watching for those announcements and participating and then taking a risk and trying it. And then I learned from my students as well, that it's a back and forth thing.

Bryan Alexander 19:41
I want to come back to the students in a minute, but first I want to give Andrew a chance to ask the question, what are some professional support for you?

Andrew Feldstein 19:48
Well, I mean, you you mentioned a lot of options a minute ago, Brian, and my answer is really all of the above. Yes, in my group, which is teaching innovation and learning tech technologies we, we were basically on high alert for two years and put out a lot of a lot of workshops, a lot of resources, a lot of individual one on one consultations to help faculty to understand the things that they could do to make the experience better for themselves and their students. However, none of that would have meant anything if the faculty hadn't first understood that this was a need. And that's what happened during the during the early stages of the pandemic, was that, again, back to the feedback loop, the students, particularly those that were used to being in the classroom with their students, and you still have the luxury of that very easy. One on one connection, all of a sudden felt deprived of that, and then started to do things that they thought was going to make that better some of the work, some of it didn't work. And so there was this sense of frustration among faculty, there was some sense of disconnect among students. And so at that point, people, they went to other colleagues national, what they were doing, and they came to us and asked them, what are the types of of processes that we can put in place, they're going to help us to connect better. They basically, on their own, they bootstrapped a whole bunch of things that they thought were going to help with the process by asking themselves the question, okay, here's what I do in a face to face classroom. How can I reinterpret this so that it's going to work online, and one of the things that we say, to faculty time and time again, sometimes in order to create the exact same experience that you have in a face to face class with your students, you have to do something completely different. And so for me having the university has an entire system of faculty and students, and all of the support mechanisms, all combined together to be as basically sort of create the support network so that we can move through this and learn how to better connect in environments and situations where we didn't know had never felt we needed to do that before.

Bryan Alexander 22:24
So it's a kind of all the above solution, complex ecosystem of support really. And part of its bootstrapped, and part of its pre existing between the two of you, I think you just gave advice to the entire world. And I think that's excellent. I want to come back to to a point that we've just touched on, I want to make sure that we can spend some time focusing in on it. I've heard you talking about the faculty experience, but I'm very curious about about how you saw the student experience changing. Susan, you mentioned some of the reports we have of declining learning. And Andrew, you mentioned some of the some of the challenges of of that kind of social thickness or social connection that we need to maintain? How have students fared and how have students made blended learning work? What have you seen?

Andrew Feldstein 23:18
Well, we have after the in May of 2020, and again, in May of 21. We surveyed our students. In both those instances, the first survey it was really more about trying to figure it out. We approached the survey wrong, I think, and my fault, but you know, it was how did how did you do in your courses? And so the primary answer to the questions was, you know, we did okay, you know, we maintained a certain consistency for them and everything was, was pretty good there. However, we also asked a question, at the end of the survey, which was more of a qualitative question, say, other than just your basic classroom interactive experiences, or transactional experiences, how did you do during this period of time, and it was, that's where the, the the gates open and where people started talking about their sense of disconnection, their their their feelings, of lack of motive, loss of motivation, and loneliness, and all of these other things that really, really made it clear to us that moving forward as we needed to do in the fall of 20 and the spring of 21 set to be able to keep things online but to try to move those to emphasize the social to emphasize interactions to enter emphasize collaborative learning in a way that you can through platforms like Yellowdig and in various ways that and strategies that you can create to helps because they didn't want can lectures, they didn't want their instructor to video 50 minutes of what would have been in class because there was a barrier between that video and now. They wanted a more direct connection, and learning how to make those direct connections and everything that we could do to support that process. What was was really needed was our focus and our mission throughout the following year.

Bryan Alexander 25:31
The kind of co creation process. Yeah. Thank you. That's very, very moving. Susan, did you want to chime in on that?

Susan Nix 25:42
Yes, I did. Because one of the professors that LCU very kindly from the College of Business, shared some research that he conducted during the last two years. And he got direct comments in from, from students about online learning. The direct comments, or when he shared really shared the article, the published article, as well as the direct comments, the raw data. They said a lot of what Dr. Feldstein just said that they wanted that direct connection. In fact, what's surprising is they have high standards, and high expectations for interaction with the professor, they want the professor's they expressed the need for the professors to understand technology, they expressed the need for flexibility, they express the need for understanding that they've gone from an environment where they used to go to take a break at home to a learning environment in the same location. And that caused a little bit of conflict for them. Because it was hard to distinguish when they were in class. And when they were supposed to be taking a break, and it kind of blended it together for them. That kind of information is very, very helpful. And like Dr. Feldstein just said, they don't care much for a lecture. And and, and I never did really like to lecture, I like to pick out important concepts of a unit or lesson, and then present that briefly in a PowerPoint that I record. And, and that's, that's what I want them to get. But that's also what I want them to discuss. Because part of the learning environment and using Yellowdig, the forum at LCU is, is the assimilation of the new information because my students are graduate students. So that means they have life experiences and school experiences. And I want them to take that information, see how it plays out in their professional experience? And then report back until does does it look like that? How do you feel about it? Can you try something else, especially because of the class I'm particular I'm talking about is the research class. And so they're all conducting research in their environment, and their environments vary from sports, to the classroom. So there's coaches, there's classroom teachers, there's administrators, and so they have to figure out a research project that fits in that environment. And so there's the interaction hybrid Lee when they first meet me, and then there's the the online presence, and then there's, I give them my phone number, I've never I've yet to have a student overuse or abuse that calling me too much or anything like that. I I am there if they need me, that's that's important

Bryan Alexander 28:52
of you. This this point of presence and connection so strongly I admire. But also both of us seem to describe teaching as both a kind of CO created process between faculty and students, but also one that's clearly in process that's not yet finished. Susan earlier, he said, you know, you're not done, you're retired and you're still think that's very different from the sense of kind of like a polished completed lecture that we might get. I wanted to I wanted to ask Schoeneck about this, because shannock You have an unusual perspective and that and that you've got Yellowdig being used in a wide range of colleges and universities. Through that perspective, what have you seen about how students have made blended learning work?

Shaunak Roy 29:40
So, you know, the thing I would say is that what Susan and Andrew kind of mentioned in terms of the need is what we have seen across the board. I think, you know, there are there is a need for flexibility because in a blended learning environment. Students are looking for that, you know, because They are asking for those environments either by because of COVID, or some other situation happened, they cannot just be on that synchronous session. But they don't want to lose out on that connection that is formed in those synchronous sessions. So they're asking for similar engagement opportunities outside of that synchronous session. So that is what we have seen the need for flexibility without losing the human connection that happens, either peer to peer or with the student with the instructor. That has been the broad theme across the board for us. The thing where we see where we, as a company we're going to engage with, you know, faculty across the board is kind of designing intentional community environment, because one of the challenges that happens is, students by themselves may not actually engage, or they may not know how to engage. Some of them may, but not everybody. So how do we make it inclusive, so that everybody understands how to engage with one another and with the instructor, irrespective of the modality of the classroom is whether it's heavily synchronous or heavily is a synchronous, that community can kind of, you know, blend across those two environments. So that's kind of the broad theme that we've seen. I don't know, Brian, if that's helpful.

Bryan Alexander 31:24
That's hugely helpful. I mean, I, I love the way you phrased this in terms of designing intentional community environment. So again, there's the idea of, of classes, space classes, a design space to work through, but also one that welcomes all students to engagement I, I heard a heard one person say, years ago, that equal opportunity was being invited, was being allowed to enter a dance. But, but actual equality means being asked to dance. And it sounds like you're trying to help us make both the dance floor and the dancing happen at the same time.

Andrew Feldstein 32:05
I just wanted to talk about this a little bit more in terms of student differences, we have some very clear differences between our traditional face to face students in the 18 plus year old area, but most of our online student population is older and they have families and they have jobs. And so they look at the education point a little bit differently. But where I wanted to go with this was when shannock was just was talking about people not necessarily knowing how to connect, there's also the the issue of knowing if it's okay to connect some of our first gen students, folks that have not necessarily been in an educational environment for long, maybe less comfortable reaching out to their instructor less comfortable reaching out to fellow students not knowing if that's okay. And so we may find that some, some of our students that are more comfortable in the environment that have families that have been college educated, will have a different expectation of how well they can connect with their instructor. And someone who was a face to face student in a class who may be felt it was okay to stand up after the class was over and wait and and ask the instructor a quick question is not going to be a student that would be comfortable emailing that instructor, or might not even be comfortable going to that instructors office hours, because they we feel a divide there. And so this is another barrier that we need to overcome and in terms of encouraging the types of connections for all of our students.

Shaunak Roy 33:49
And if I can add one thing there, Brian and Andrew is, you know, we hear from our instructors, and probably one of the most common feedback we get after they use our platform for a while or some sort of a social learning platform is they're hearing from the, from the students they would rarely hear from that is the most common feedback. And when we try to unpack that, what we find is that the synchronous sessions, typically they are time bound, right. And folks who are most conscious about speaking up in front of everybody, they probably for whatever reason don't have the confidence, they tend to get more confidence to be a synchronous. So building a community are these social environments where the students have the flexibility to connect with one another when they want, you know, at their own time is quite helpful for that inclusivity standpoint, because I think a lot more students will feel or does feel empowered to speak up.

Bryan Alexander 34:51
We all participate in different ways. And that's and that's something which is a human thing, if you think about a lecture without any technology so Certain people will feel free to ask questions and participate. If you think about a seminar, it'll be a different mix of people or a lab. I'm, I would love to turn to all of you, participants, and I would love to hear some of your thoughts and questions. And again, the chat box is open. And as as the q&a box if you've got to a question like, I do want to touch on a couple of the notes that come up, there just are just wonderful. Richard Schultz has hammered that students don't like lectures, because they're passive, and he hates them. And students don't like them. Arthur Friedrich adds that where there's an outage, that an out and out lecture, the correct concept for delivery has to be very important. Chun Li Wong, mentions the building a learning community is always a priority for any course she designs in class activities are planned with this goal in mind as well. And that brings us to a great question that came up from I'm going to try and pronounce this correctly, Alden kempster. Who asks, well, what in a blended environment, what would you use the in person time for? And we had an initial couple of responses that came in. One of them was to use them for a Hangout like this, pull this up for active learning. And to do some discussion. What do you think? What's the what's the best use of that kind of, of that situation when you have live in person space?

Andrew Feldstein 36:42
I mean, in part that situational, it depends on the type, of course, what type of activities you want to be using. But I think activity is the operative word, it is the it is not the time to have people sitting quietly listening. It's the opportunity, it's another channel for connection, another opportunity for people to connect. And depending upon the class, depending upon the trajectory where you are within the trajectory of a course, I think it would be different things that would happen in that time that are in fact contextual, situational, and will add to the student experience at that point in time.

Susan Nix 37:24
Agree, Andrew? That's exactly right. And, you know, one of the things that was mentioned in the research that was shared with me, was that students like to hear from each other. And so in the hybrid class, and I'm thinking about that I teach at LCU, the research class. The students like to hear about each other's research. So when we meet face to face, that's an opportunity for them to talk about the status of their research at the moment. And for me to answer questions, help them figure out things, and for each other, to hear what they're all doing.

Bryan Alexander 38:03
I love that I teach a digital storytelling class, and, and my students are always nervous about the videos they're producing. And they're very nervous right up until the end. And they're like, Oh, this is awful. And then they show each other all their work. And by the end, there's just tears everywhere, because there are so son that when everybody is done, it's a wonderful bonding community and also individually affirming moment. I'm curious, Shawna, what have you seen in your work through Yellowdig? And what are some of the alive practices that we should really emphasize?

Shaunak Roy 38:40
You know, there are as you know, Susan, and Andrew, you can point it out, we see a lot of innovation, in terms of blending the asynchronous portion of the engagement with a synchronous or in classroom. One practice comes to mind which I love is I have seen faculties who are looking right before the class, you know, they look at the community engagement for the last one week, look at all the discussion that has happened, and pick, you know, 123 topics, right from the community, and then bring that into the classroom discussion. Have the students who kind of posted or commented to kind of reaffirm and speak to the rest of the class or share their point of view? That's one practice comes to mind. I don't know Susan, you kind of I don't know if have you seen based on your, you know, students kind of giving feedback to each other's Research seems like it's something very similar.

Susan Nix 39:31
Yes, it is. In fact, I use sometimes what they have shared to change the class the modifying the class some or to modify a presentation that's online, because what they've offered is so important, and I hadn't thought about it that way. And so I use what they say you're so right.

Bryan Alexander 39:52
I think that's always a really good idea. It's it's a form of validation and almost kind of publication If you will

Andrew Feldstein 40:02
take us for a left turn for a second.

Bryan Alexander 40:05
If you're heading south, it might take us into the Atlantic. So let's see how far.

Andrew Feldstein 40:09
So this is sort of like a meta concept is, because all of this is is developing. This is what we thought about all of this two years ago. And what we think about it now is very different. As as I'm looking at this conversation we're taking place in right there that is taking place at the moment. And looking at the looking at the chat box, and seeing the interactions that are taking place. And for me, I'm getting the sense, even in this conversation that we are all having that this is a much more fluid, natural type of conversation than this would have been in the early days of COVID, when we were having this type of webinar where things would have been potentially more stilted and more structured, and less fluid, and that the conversations in the sidebar would have been maybe not quite as on point, as they seem to be today. And so I just wanted to bring that up to just to think about the fact that where we are now, as faculty as administrators where our students are, is it is a very different place. Because we've all experienced for the last two years, what to us has been good practices, bad practices, effective practices, and have started to rethink this entire process.

Bryan Alexander 41:33
That's a great point. I love the part about fluidity. I mean, I'm I'm tweeting this out, I got some feedback. I'm participating in the chat box. I'm seeing great questions I'm gonna bring up in a second. And we've got a question in the in the q&a. And it's a very fluid, I feel a bit like a jazz performance or improv theater. It's it's very uncomfortable, and quite a few ways. In the in the chat art, speaking of which Arthur Friedrich iAds also use face to face time when using adaptive learning to spend some time digging into areas where there was a misconception, or was challenging for the class as a whole. This is excellent. We have a question from Sheila Young, who says, what made you teach your very first blended learning course? I assume most of us start our teaching career doing traditional lectures? That's a great question.

Susan Nix 42:30
Yep. The first thing that comes and this has been repeated several times during this panel, is this is driven by student need a student need in a variety of ways. Where I live in the panhandle of Texas, students live, sometimes at great distances. And so there's a convenience to offering a class in the blended environment where they can join us online while I'm doing face to face. Or they can actually be here if they want to drive an hour and a half or two hours to get here. But the online environment offers opportunities to students that they might not have had, because of the distances that we're talking about. Nevermind other countries, but even just within the region, the distances they have to travel. So very much student need driven. I think

Andrew Feldstein 43:26
that's a good point when teaching blended classes since for 12 years or so. And it was driven. At that point, even all of the students for me were face to face students. But it was to sort of extend the boundaries of the classroom, so that students had a time and space to process things that didn't happen in a classroom, I usually refer to door jamb amnesia as the effect of you know, when a student's walk out of your classroom, and they've totally forgot,

I don't know if maybe they wanted to stop me from saying this, but

the, but then what happens is when they they leave, and then two days later, they come back and does they walk through that same door, they remember what they should have done when they left the first time. So creating an environment creating a space, be it a blog, or some sort of an online environment for students to share, to think about things together with one another that takes place outside of the classroom environment is is the type of blending that I found to be extremely effective.

Bryan Alexander 44:45
It's the kind of persistence of the of the work. Again, the this the space becomes persistent, more accessible. becomes kind of thicker. I've got to say the first time I taught a blended class was in the 1990s. And if I describe the technology now you'd think I was talking about something from steam punk, but, but it was precisely for that point Andrew was to expand the class, and to bring in students who were having a hard time with it the first time I taught a hybrid class, or HyFlex. class was in 1999. In Sweden, and Susan, it was the same issue. I had a group full of people, a roomful of Scandinavians, which meant a pretty quiet room. But also, there are people from across Scandinavia, from Denmark, to Finland and Norway, who are participating online because they physically couldn't make the trip. I remember that first moment where where I felt those two different audiences, and then realized they were the same. And I realized the 21st century was starting. I'm curious, Shana, I want to I want you to bring your perspective. And both personally and as well as, as from from Yellowdig. What do you think the best way? Well, first of all, have you done this yourself? And what have you seen of people getting started with blended learning?

Shaunak Roy 46:11
Yeah, so you know, my point of view, you know, as a founding the company, my passion was to, you know, make learning more equitable, and so that it's more democratic, so that people can participate more into the learning process. And, you know, going back to this discussion that we're having around, you know, students are naturally engaging, because, you know, we live in this world of social media, you know, Facebook has been around for more than, like, 10 years now, you know, and at this time, I think, you know, the barrier for people to actually go online and create a piece of content, could be a video about something, or could be a blog post, people are quite comfortable now. So in their social lives, they are starting to interact with one another online, as if you know, the connectivity that only used to happen physically. Now, people are perfectly comfortable doing it online, especially in this world of COVID, where we are our entire lives online, almost. So. So that's a great news, because most learners, irrespective of age, are pretty comfortable to be connecting with one another online, the question comes to really using that behavior or motivation, but designing around a learning environment. And I think that is the key part, which is sometimes you know, more difficult than you would imagine, you know, because the challenge we sometimes see is that, let's say, you know, instructor creates a forum and ask the students to come and talk to one another. We know how it goes, right? I mean, people will come in, maybe they will engage for a day or two, and then after that, it just slowly falls off. Because there is no intentional design connecting that online forum with what's happening in the, in the classroom, or around the subject. So I think I think the part around the behavior is already there. I think what it takes is that intentional design, to blend that online environment with what's really happening in the learning environment. And the good news is that technology is there. I mean, you know, we are living in the 21st century, I mean, you know, social media and other technologies are all available, it's it's a matter of designing it for the learning part of it.

Bryan Alexander 48:30
Again, with design, this is so so important. I'm struck Schoeneck, by your connection with what one participant said earlier, I think it was, it was Richard Schultz, who was talking about emergency online learning, emergency remote teaching, which was done in a hurry, with not a lot of time for design. But now, now we're two years into this two years plus. And so we've had time for the kind of reflection that Susan's been talking about. And we've had time for the kind of co creation that Suzanne Andrew were talking about. And we're surfacing all of these practices. And we're really, really getting, I think, better at this. As Andrew said, Our conversations are more fluid. And more more on point. Shot like you also remind me your stats about how people meet each other romantically. Now, meeting online is the leading venue for actually meeting people online. So if we can do that we can we can definitely teach well online. We have more questions coming in. Once Rebecca Bagby, who says when you are simultaneously teaching a live and online section, how do you keep the online audience engaged? We want to do activities in person that you can't do online. But that doesn't work if part of the group is not present. How do you adjust? Speaking of design, good question, Rebecca, who wants to tackle that one?

Susan Nix 49:54
I haven't experienced that yet. But I've already started thinking since I read that question. I could see, that would be difficult. If you only had in my case, I've only ever had one or two people online at the same time. And usually just one. And in that case, you could have them interact with a group in the classroom, if they're doing an activity just with that group talking to them, and working with them would depending on what you're doing, but that's something I'm gonna have to give some thought I really appreciate that question. Thank you.

Andrew Feldstein 50:31
It's a good question. And it is difficult. My initial response would be rethinking what you're going to do. And because in fact, we're talking about two very separate modalities. And if you've designed something for your face to face students, you're disadvantaged in the online students, by definition, via the same vice versa, if you're designing for online, so a whole new, a whole new type of creativity needs to take place in terms of what type of activities will be effective for both of your population simultaneously, while at the same time engaging both populations. Again, I'll go back to my earlier response we're talking about it's all it's going to be contextual is gonna be based on your students, it's going to be based upon your content, it's gonna be based upon your class process. But it's hard.

Susan Nix 51:34
Yeah. And one of the things I'd like to add to what you just said, is this, there's a great deal more purposeful commitment from the professor, to interact with the students. When I've used Blackboard before, at a different university, I didn't find that as engaging as Yellowdig, I actually look forward to going into Yellowdig and interacting with all the students, I look for their posts, I, it's not a chore or a task, it's a conversation. That's the difference between one environment and the other. And it's where I can reteach on Yellowdig, I can correct. On Yellowdig, I can encourage interaction between students on Yellowdig. There's so much that can be done in that social media. And I think that's the real commitment of the professor, to the environment, with the students. And also, I should say, from student to student, because the way that Yellowdig has set it up, that you can get points for yourself, when you interact with a student, if you're a student. And when students interact with you, they get points, there's points given and students are competitive. And they like to get those extra points. Everybody wants an A, there's, that's that environment is still there, they all want to do their best. That's my feeling, at least with my graduate students. They don't want to waste any of their time. And so when they give their comments, I asked him not to use texting language. I asked him, you know, I said it so that you can't just answer I agree with you. That's not a substantive response for a graduate student. So they do really quality responses back and forth with each other. And then I celebrate that in there.

Bryan Alexander 53:36
That's fantastic. That's fantastic. I'd like to well, so those are some answers that we've got right there. But I want to expand this question by adding a question from Patricia Anderson, who asks us, well, what about accessibility and students with disabilities, or differences who may or may not be comfortable or able to participate in the same ways? And I would think here, under people who may not be comfortable thinking about people, either with invisible disabilities, such as neural issues, or diversity, equity and inclusion ideas. I mean, how do we welcome everybody in a blended environment given all those different situations? Shahrukh? You've, you've got to deal with this on a daily basis. And Yellowdig, would you like to start us off on that?

Shaunak Roy 54:24
Yeah, so that's a great question. I think the first thing is that the platform that you're using has to be weak and compliant. There are certain accessibility standards out there where technology can be used with a screen reader so that somebody who cannot let's click through can still experience the platform is important. We spent a lot of time in that area. So that's kind of the first thing I would say. The other thing I kind of, you know, I would say, which is important for accessibility, but also important for learning is being able to create content with a variety of types. Some media, you know, so essentially, in yellow day, one of the things we make sure is that the learner can either type up, if they are comfortable typing, they can quickly create a video. If that's kind of what they're comfortable with, they can record themselves and post without a video. They can create a poll if they just want a quick feedback of three questions, which one is the best for me or somebody else? So having that multi types of media, which kind of, you know, promotes multi sensory learning, because people learn differently, Brian, as you were saying, some people learn by visually, some people learn by reading, kind of enabling that is powerful, but that also helps with the AI. But making sure that the platform is weak and compliant so that people can actually create content with that

Bryan Alexander 55:53
key issue. Thank you. Thank you shallow. Susan, do you want to do you want to write this one?

Susan Nix 56:00
Yes, because being ADA compliant is also important in the online environment. So when I create my PowerPoints, I don't make them lengthy, because I kept hearing it first when I went into that environment to teach that students did like PowerPoints. So yeah, that's what I heard. And, and I tried to figure out how to make it better. And I know that some students use readers. So my texts, my speech text is also in the notes section. And it's brief. And and like I said earlier on, tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them which tell them and then tell them what you told them. I very much follow that on my PowerPoints for the whole classes, as a whole. I tried to make it so that it's accessible. And this past semester, I had a student student that needed accommodations. And so we made arrangements for the core for the class to be recorded. And then that recording to be put into the online environment so that she could listen to it, and slow it down, stop it, slow it down, stop it also to meet her needs. And I think that's another adaptation.

Bryan Alexander 57:19
That's a great, great word I afraid for us to end on. Somehow buzz through 55 minutes of rapid conversation with three questions from you all great responses from the audience. Susan Andrew shannock. Would a wealth of information. This is terrific. I Shawn, I want to hand the mic back over to you to to tie us together with some concluding notes. But I want to thank everybody, this has been fantastic.

Shaunak Roy 57:51
Yes. So for me, you know, thank you, for all of you for joining. I think it was a great conversation. Hopefully it was helpful. I just wanted to point out a few resources that might be useful for you. So if you're interested about Yellowdig, how the platform works, we have a demo webinar, which is scheduled for tomorrow. If you look at the screen, there is a barcode if you take out your mobile and you know, put your can camera app, you should be able to scan it and you'll get a link. Sign up for that. If you're interested to learn more. If this doesn't work, you can go to our website, we also have it in the events section. So that's number one. The second thing I wanted to point out is we do publish ebooks, once or twice a year, essentially talking to our instructors and sharing their stories. Essentially, various ways our instructors are using blended learning to drive you know, using community building social connections. So again, there is a scannable part here. If not, it's also in our website, if that's useful. And finally, I just wanted to put a plug. We do limited number of free pilots every quarter. So we are now signing up for our next round of pilots. So if you're interested to apply for it, you can also scan it up, which is on the left side, there's a scan or you can go to our website or reach out to our team. They will be happy to share more information. So with that, I don't know. Brian, Susan Andrew, any final words?

Susan Nix 59:39
Thank you for being here.

Andrew Feldstein 59:41
Absolutely. Thank you, everybody.

Bryan Alexander 59:44
I love these ideas of co creation, design and connection. Thank you everybody.

Shaunak Roy 59:51
Thank you so much. Thanks for joining so we are gonna be glued down. Thank you. Thanks, bye

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