“Solve the Big Problems”: Leading Through Strategic Innovation in Blended Teaching and Learning

“Solve the Big Problems”: Leading Through Strategic Innovation in Blended Teaching and Learning

Kelvin Thompson (University of Central Florida, USA), Rohan Jowallah (University of Central Florida, USA) and Thomas B. Cavanagh (University of Central Florida, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7769-0.ch002

Abstract

Blended learning remains at the top of higher education/technology issues lists despite having been in practice on college and university campuses for 20 years. However, a review of blended learning research literature suggests that innovation in blended learning models has been lacking. This chapter positions innovation in blended learning as a leadership challenge, not merely for the niche concerns of learning technology professionals but as a strategy to fulfill the higher education mission of student success. The chapter authors assert that, while blended learning's very flexibility often curtails its systemic implementation, when undertaken as an institutional leadership challenge, new configurations of blended learning implemented through cross-institutional partnerships hold great promise.
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Introduction

In this chapter, we position innovation in blended learning as a leadership challenge, not merely for the niche concerns of learning technology professionals but as a strategy to fulfill the higher education mission of student success. We assert that, while blended learning’s very flexibility often curtails its systemic implementation, when undertaken as an institutional leadership challenge, new configurations of blended learning implemented through cross-institutional partnerships hold great promise. Specifically, innovation in the design of blended learning, when undertaken as a strategic, institutional leadership challenge, has the potential to increase student success by facilitating progression - especially progression in high drop/fail/withdrawal courses - and eventual degree attainment. Undertaking leadership of a strategic blended course design initiative requires a clear vision for the affordances of blended learning, a commitment to institutional innovation, effective program management, and facile partnership-building among stakeholders at all levels (e.g., faculty and senior administration).

Cavanagh and Thompson (2018) note that leaders must pursue a “delicate dance” of “monitoring [technology] trends” alongside “countervailing forces” in order to bring about desirable outcomes (p. 4) in our higher education contexts. Blended learning remains at the top of higher education/technology issues lists (e.g., EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2018; New Media Consortium, 2017) despite having been in practice on college and university campuses for twenty years (e.g., Hartman, Dziuban, & Moskal, 2000). Blended learning’s staying power as a construct is undoubtedly related to its flexibility in fulfilling faculty pedagogical preferences while also offering the promise of institutional impact via data on student retention, success, and satisfaction (Cavanagh &Thompson, 2015).

Building upon our past work related to leading innovation in online education (Cavanagh & Thompson, 2018) and related to blended learning (Cavanagh, Thompson, & Futch, 2017; Futch, deNoyelles, Thompson, & Howard, 2016; Moskal & Cavanagh, 2014; Wegmann & Thompson, 2014), we begin the chapter with a framing of higher education technology innovation leadership as a need to “solve the big problems” (Cavanagh & Thompson, 2018, pp. 8-9) of which student success (e.g., increased graduation rate, decreased time to graduation) is a prime example. Next, a section on the practice and promise of blended learning (featuring cited data) precedes a section elaborating on the need to improve the designs of strategic “challenging” courses (e.g., those with high drop/fail/withdrawal rates) in order to meet institutional goals and society’s needs for social mobility. The heart of the chapter is a detailed treatment of new models for blended learning (e.g., combined with digital courseware, adaptive learning systems, learning analytics, advising systems, etc.), new implementation partnerships, and new approaches to faculty preparation to carry out this innovation work. A final section draws the chapter to a conclusion and summarizes the key points. It is our hope that this chapter will be useful as an example of teaching and learning innovation in technology leadership with implications for faculty development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Success: A nested array of desirable student outcomes, typically at an aggregated, institutional level; may include such metrics as course passing, curricular progression, degree attainment, time to graduation, etc.

Adaptive Learning: The use of technology systems to automate the delivery of new learning material to students who have achieved mastery and to provide remediation to those who have not.

Blendactive: The integration of active learning strategies within a blended learning course context.

Blended Learning: A course delivery modality in which face-to-face classroom learning activities are combined strategically with online learning activities in order to form one, cohesive learning experience for students.

Innovation: The process of implementing new ideas in education in order to bring about better student-focused outcomes; also any specific instance of such implementations.

Blendoptive: The adoption of online digital courseware within a blended learning course context.

Blendaptive: The integration of adaptive learning within a blended learning course context.

Blendalytic: The connecting of insights from learning analytics with blended learning strategy and design to support curricular offerings, teaching, and/or advising.

Learning Analytics: The work of scanning through large datasets to discover actionable insights in support of student learning; products arising from such work; related to the fields of data science, educational data mining, and/or business intelligence.

Active Learning: Required student engagement with other students and/or course materials; usually contrasted with passive learning in which students have no required role except listening to didactic presentation by a lecturer.

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