This week we began to look at the variety of assignments that can be used to encourage students’ learning, in line with defined objectives, and in order to succeed in summative assessments. The opportunities that the technological tools available online for creating educational resources as an educator or as a student are vast. With this diversity there lies a danger that the assignments given to students may be misunderstood in terms of how to accomplish the task, or its connection to the f2f portion of the course. Throughout the reading, uniformity in assignments as well as a clear connection to the activities and learning objectives that occur inside the classroom is paramount. Keeping this warning in mind, it is exciting to explore some of the options to maximize learning and increase learner engagement with the course.
The primary goal for attempting a blended learning course in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) is to maximize learners’ opportunities for language production both in and outside of the class. Korean students have had a lot of experience with receptive skills like reading and listening comprehension, as it is a core area of assessment in the college entrance exam for high school students. However, despite 9-12 years of English education both in the public and private educational industries, students enter university classrooms with limited communicative ability. Therefore the assignments I choose are focused on language production through discussion (online and f2f), role play, debate, and academic writing skills.
The online portion of the course is composed of video tutorials (readily available for TOFEL content due to its popularity as a subject worldwide), quizzes, and discussions currently, but I am interested in how I can build more on this without overwhelming my students with new tools. I understand that technology has to be gently integrated especially in this context. In an upcoming unit, on home design and architecture I ask students to choose a video from the playlist Offbeat Spaces, summarize it and then describe their own ideal space. This is still a discussion assignment that they have experience with, but now they have to navigate a playlist which offers learners a choice on what they want to watch and interact with. The videos are short and have closed captioning so they are accessible to lower level language students as well.
Ideas for the future include having students record themselves having conversations or role playing then upload the video to their class site on the LMS, but this idea will first be introduced in class to ensure success. This might be an opportunity to introduce some of the video editing software available for them to experiment with and increase their digital literacy. As I mentioned in my last post I am also interested in getting students to use their voices by recording their discussion posts on their phones or using other audio tools and uploading their responses on the LMS assignment. This can be a great help to increase confidence in their speaking, and get them thinking about pronunciation and intonation.
It is an exciting time for education and blended learning solutions can provide a multitude of new ways for learners to engage, create and navigate their learning opportunities. These solutions can be effective if designed correctly so that learners feel safe, and confident in meeting the challenges presented throughout the course.