MicroCPD: Blended Teaching to improve student engagement

Dr Jonathan Watkins details a case study from EPS, where blended learning methods were used to improve student engagement

In addition to lectures, the traditional classes used in the Foundation Year Waves module consist of lecturers running through problems at the board or students working with help from demonstrators on problems.

The issues with this model are:

  • The large class sizes inevitably mean that students don’t always receive the level of independent help that they need.
  • A lot of teaching assistants are required to provide support.
  • Large classes require large lecture rooms or computer clusters.
  • Students need to be on site at timetabled times even if they are working through problems independently.
  • Additional problems are not immediately available for students to work through to further test their skills and deepen their understanding.

These issues result in an inefficient model, which often does not suit the students or the lecturers.

Blended teaching can be used to overcome many of these issues. This is an approach that combines flipped classrooms and education technology in order to optimise the learning experience for the student.

The Blended Teaching Model

The Blended Teaching Model has been run in a pilot scheme with students in EPS using the following online model:

  • Weekly lectures.
  • Followed by online teaching resources, independently completed by students.
  • Embedded formative questions to help students find their own knowledge gaps.
  • Immediate marking and feedback through the use of educational technology.
  • Freedom to work at home or in a demonstrator supported classroom.
  • Accessible on all devices.
  • Randomised questions to support drill and practice.
  • Simple and intuitive online interaction.
  • Delivered on Mobius platform.
  • Availability of PGTA’s to answer specific questions face to face.

This blended teaching model addresses some of the issues of working through problem exercises in large classes in a scalable way.

The Benefits

Based on the pilot run in EPS the following benefits were identified:

  • The online content gave students an enhanced view of the lecture content which deepened their understanding of the material.
  • Students were able to learn independently at their own pace, on or off campus.
  • Students were free to use their own devices, when it suited them – most students used their smart phones - which removed the need for timetabling the classes in computer clusters.
  • Students were able to practice their skills in solving problems as often as they liked, each time receiving timely feedback.
  • The whole class was supported by 2 demonstrators through front loading effort in creating reusable digital teaching content.
  • The content can be used as refresher content to deal with the known "Summer Slump in knowledge" across all of EPS.

Feedback and findings

The feedback from lecturers and students has been very positive in this pilot scheme. In-class student turnout increased by around 200% from previous years.

The online content

The online content was delivered in Mobius, an online platform which makes use of the Maple TA mathematical quizzing engine and is directly supported within EPS by Jon Watkins j.s.watkins@bham.ac.uk and Richard Mason r.j.mason@bham.ac.uk. Jon and Richard worked in collaboration on this project in EPS with the module lead to develop the content.

Canvas quizzes could also be used to run formative tests and to provide immediate feedback. For more information on Canvas Quizzes visit the Quizzes in Canvas Learning and Teaching Gateway course or contact your Birmingham Digital Education team.