Supporting Sustained Faculty Engagement in Blended Learning

Supporting Sustained Faculty Engagement in Blended Learning

Catherine Villanueva Gardner, Joannah Portman-Daley, Jeannette E. Riley, Kathleen M. Torrens
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8476-6.ch002
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Faculty professional development in higher education, especially at the intersections of pedagogy and technology, is an essential need given rapid, ongoing changes in technology, as well as the digital learning experiences students bring to college that inform how they learn and how they want to learn. This chapter outlines the implementation of faculty development programs at UMass Dartmouth and the University of Rhode Island that have positively impacted blended teaching and learning practices. The authors discuss best practices of blended learning training courses that can transform faculty thinking about course (re)design and student learning assessment, as well as the need for strong faculty peer mentorship programs to create a culture of collaboration, mentorship, and assessment focused on student retention and learning. As the authors conclude, there is a need for concurrent, intentional faculty development programming, and peer mentoring in order to improve student learning outcomes in the blended learning environment.
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Blended learning has developed into a thriving component of higher education with increasing evidence that it has a positive impact on the student learning experience. Indeed, as Halverson, Graham, Spring and Drysdale (2013) asserted, “blended learning is rapidly emerging as a domain of practice and of research. Across discipline and context, at individual instructor and institution levels, educators are experimenting with blended learning” (p. 20). Correspondingly, the breadth of literature regarding blended teaching and learning has expanded, with increasing documentation of the pedagogy’s many positive benefits (Halverson, Graham, Springer, Drysdale, and Henrie, 2014; Torrisi-Steel and Drew, 2013). For example, as Stein and Graham, in Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards Based Guide (2014), emphasized:

Research suggests that blended courses can have a positive impact on efficiency, convenience, and learning outcomes. By moving more of the learning to online environments, blended courses add flexibility to participants’ schedules, provide learning benefit through automated and asynchronous online tools, and can tap into the modern, social Web to help learners venture beyond the traditional confines of the classroom. (p. 9)

Evidence of this positive impact has been widespread and can be witnessed across disciplines, particularly in terms of student performance. In “A Comparison of Traditional and Blended Learning in Introductory Financial Accounting Course,” Du (2011) found that a study of the impact of pre- and post-class online quizzes, online activities, integrated with in-depth face-to-face class activities, positively impacted student overall course performance. Likewise, Bezelai and Doleck (2018) provided evidence from a first semester college physics course that demonstrated how the “blended learning approach leads to more conceptual change, acquisition of more skills, and higher performance” (p. 67). McLaughlin et al. (2015) found that providing online modules with foundational content prior to face-to-face class sessions led to improved academic achievement in a cardiovascular pharmacotherapy class, while Kiviniemi (2014) identified a “statistically significant increase in student performance” in a health sciences course (p. 1). Similarly, Vo et al. (2017) found STEM student academic performance benefits from a blended learning approach. In concert with academic success, increased student satisfaction has been cited as yet another positive impact of both online and blended learning approaches (Dziuban & Moskal, 2011; Dziuban, Hartman, Cavanagh, & Moskal, 2011; Means et al, 2013; McLaughlin et al., 2015; Kiviniemi, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Blended Learning Initiative: The blended learning initiative is URI's faculty development program centered on blended pedagogy and best practices. The pilot workshop launched in February 2017. It follows a four-week blended schedule and culminates in a fully designed blended course.

Peer Mentoring: Faculty mentoring can be done as part of a formal program or informally by a senior faculty member or members. The goal is to help (junior) faculty reach their potential as teachers, researchers, and administrators.

Faculty Development: In the case of the individual faculty member, faculty development essentially means the improvement of that individual's teaching skills as well as the improvement of their course content and design.

IBIS: UMass Dartmouth’s Implementation of Blended Learning for the Improvement of Student Learning grant project funded by the Davis Education Foundation.

Asynchronous: Events for a class that do not take place in live time, but rather are completed by the learner in a digital learning environment by a certain date.

SoTL: Scholarship of teaching and learning.

Blended Learning: Learning experiences that are 25% to 75% online in coordination with face-to-face classroom meetings.

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