NTU: It was the Age of COVID-19. It was the Age of Blending Learning

In the fight against the outbreak of COVID-19, institutions of higher education across the globe have been replacing traditional face-to-face education with distance education—an unprecedented experience for both students and teachers. After the sudden and unsteady implementation of remote learning, teachers quickly learned to adapt and adjust to this new form of education, even gaining new inspirations and ideas for teaching.

To help faculty members better respond to the challenges of distance education, National Taiwan University’s Center for Teaching and Learning Development Digital Learning Center hosted a workshop and invited faculty to share their remote learning experiences, advice, and tips for educators. The speakers included Wei Jeng , Assistant Professor of Department of Library and Information Science; Jason Kuo, Assistant Professor of Department of Political Science; and Wei-Cheng Liu, Adjunct Lecturer of Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. All three speakers have rich experience in blending learning and they shared their strategies for course design, encouraging fellow staff members to accumulate digital experience during the pandemic.

Blending learning is an approach to education that combines face-to-face classroom teaching and distance education. With blending learning, students have the flexibility to learn at their own pace. Generally speaking, blending learning refers to the integration of diverse teaching strategies, methods, media, and technology. In other words, it is a model of education that combines synchronous and asynchronous learning.

To help participants fully understand the benefits of blending learning, the three speakers first uploaded a 20 minute-pre-recorded video to NTU COOL, the school’s new-generation digital teaching platform. Before attending the physical workshop, participants watched the video on NTU COOL and then left their comments, questions, or feedback. Speakers then began their sessions by answering the comments they had received. This small demonstration showcased how blending learning enables students to learn online and then engage in in-depth discussions in classrooms.

According to Jeng, lecturers must include learning activities, such as content-related assignments and discussions to motivate and enhance student participation. She noticed that students are far less likely to finish watching course videos if there are no other incentives to engage them. She suggests lecturers leverage online interactive tools such as Google meet, NTU Discussion Board, or bulletin board to balance content with connection. The more interactive courses are, the more likely students are to stay attentive and motivated.

Liu began using digital teaching tools to make learning easy and fun for students. It was also his way to explore different teaching approaches. In his speech, he shared his analysis of the different teaching phases and the respective methods that helped deliver content. For example, most students start yawning and getting bored when listening to content related to knowledge. To keep students enticed, he recorded his lectures into videos so students can preview the material before class. Thus, students can direct their energy to discussions and exams during their time in class. After-class assignments are then given to students to solidify the learned information. Liu introduced the different digital teaching tools that may be applied during each phase, such as using NTU COOLS’ “symphony” feature for guided reading or Kahoot for quizzes and group discussions. Liu believes, most important of all, that learning activities should help students enhance their engagement and learning outcomes.

For teaching large classes of over 100 people, Kuo recommends uploading the content and related materials to NTU’s digital teaching platform—CEIBA. Compared to pre-recorded lectures, Kuo believes online live streaming courses can increase interaction and help lecturers capture student’s real-time responses. He also discovered that digital learning facilitated student engagement since those who are too shy to speak or raise questions in a physical classroom can connect with others via text-based chat.

Though the pandemic has pushed faculty members to embrace digital and distance education, this shift in a new education approach has encouraged educators to strive and enrich the students’ learning experience. Undoubtedly, this has been a challenge and an opportunity for school. Importantly, these valuable experiences can still serve future face-to-face classes. As lecturers familiarize themselves with blending learning and master different digital tools, they will also greatly enhance the value and diversity of education, creating more space for innovation.

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