Thursday, May 10, 2018

5 Essential Instructional Design Tips for Blended Learning

It’s hard to believe that I started implementing blended learning about a year ago. What began as an interest in learning about the subject quickly became the most effective way I have found to deliver meaningful and personalized instruction; and gamifying blended learning in my classroom has raised student engagement and motivation to new levels.

The most important concept that I have learned during my journey is that there must be quality instruction at the core of every online lesson. Here are my top five instructional design tips that I take into consideration as I create online instruction for my students.

Creating a quality online lesson does not simply mean changing current lessons into an online format.

First, a boring worksheet or lecture in class is even more boring when students are working online, because they are not interacting with their teachers. Second, students learn differently online than they do in a classroom setting. Taking these differences into account while developing online content not only increases student engagement, but it also helps to increase retention of skills and content. 

Variety is crucial.

I want my students actively engaged in their learning, not simply going through the motions. I've learned that too much routine and predictability can lead to boredom. For this reason, I use a variety of modalities to deliver content, practice skills, and assess student learning. As much as possible, I provide students with this variety by using videos, infographics, audiobooks, songs, collaborative google docs, online games, and to engage with while learning. Visit my Symbaloo Webmix to see some of my favorite web tools that I use. 

It is important to present content in a visually inviting way.

Writing in paragraphs and sections gives the reader a visual break, chunking ideas into manageable parts. Organizing online content with the purpose of aiding student processing and comprehension is just as important. I try to avoid too much text on one page, otherwise my students tend to become easily overwhelmed and they do not fully engage in the lesson. 

Online learning must connect to face-to-face instruction.

It’s no secret that learning done in isolation with no opportunity to transfer skills leads to low retention of content. It’s crucial for my young learners to apply their online learning in face-to-face settings. Sometimes I use online data to drive face-face lessons, and other times my interactions with students affects the online lessons I plan for them. It just depends on the skills we are learning and the needs of my students. Either way though, my students have come to understand that the learning they do online will directly connect to the content and skills we are learning in the classroom.

These students and I are analyzing poetry after learning figurative
language techniques through their online lessons. 

Consider pacing and feedback to build and sustain momentum.

I can’t stress enough the importance of timely feedback. If too much time passes, students can lose momentum and interest in their online learning. For this reason, I strategically plan self-assessment and peer-assessment opportunities within our online units so that my students do not always need my feedback to progress. This balance ensures that my students maintain their excitement for our learning together.