Monthly Archives: November 2011

Newt Gingrich intends to teach a free online course if elected

Do you think he’ll get an entry in

Best of both worlds or double trouble? Hybrid Teaching and Learning Blog 1

This is a guest post authored by ICC English Faculty, Jen Hopp. If you have virtual campus/online learning information or ideas to share and would like to write for the 5th campus blog, contact Patrice at

Dividing Tasks in Hybrid Learning

When I sat down for the first time to map out a hybrid course, I felt a bit overwhelmed.  I knew the material.  I knew Blackboard.  I knew how to teach both online and face-to-face.  However, the hybrid is a different beast, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just creating a slimmed down, sort-of-correspondence type course.  While my courses are always evolving, regardless of delivery style, I’ll share here how I’ve approached the task of sliding a course into the hybrid delivery mode.  I’ve listed first the questions I ask myself and then some examples from my courses.   I’m in ELS, so I teach Composition and Humanities courses – a lot of writing and a lot of reading/discussion.

Step 1:
What do I want to or absolutely have to teach in person?  What can I easily move to the online portion?

In Composition, I need to lead the discussion on paper modes, MLA, research skill, grammar/mechanics, etc.  Those are the core of the course, so I claim them for in-class time.  Also, when I work with this material, I want to see the students’ faces and be able to respond immediately to questions.  On the flip side, I don’t really need to sit and watch them do peer reviews, so I move that to the online portion.  They review a peer’s paper digitally within a strict timeline using the Blog function.  It works wonderfully, and that’s a good hunk of important, gradable learning that translates easily to the digital classroom.

Additionally, in a full face-to-face Comp course, I build in “work days,” which end up being sort of mini conference days.  While the students work, I sit at the desk and put on my “come talk to me face” (too bad I don’t have a picture of it to insert here), and if that look doesn’t scare them off, they feel comfortable enough to come talk about the paper.  Good stuff is done during these times.  However, this is something I can easily put online by tailoring the discussion boards appropriately and by reminding them again and again to see me, email me, or post a question in a board.  So far, it’s worked.

In Literature, I simply ask the students to read larger chunks from week to week.  In a face-to-face class, I’d quiz them on the reading first thing (since comprehension is a major goal and an obvious key to discussion), then we’d move into discussion.  We don’t have enough time to do all that in a hybrid format, so I move all of the quizzes to the online portion as well as half of the discussion.  Additionally, I put subject-based PowerPoint presentations assignments online with virtual due dates.  Students complete, view, and respond to those assignments in between class meetings.  They earn points both for completing the assignment and for responding to their peers.

One other example: in all of my classes, I love to link up clips and articles about our current subject.  I keep folders full of stuff in all of my units so that as I have time or as I need another example I can scroll through the folders and have a cool link at the ready.  In a full face-to-face class, I usually keep those folders closed to the students.  In hybrids and online courses, I open those folders up and ask the students to view and respond to the links they find.

Step 2:

Now that I’ve done a rough division of the work, I need to check my time frame.  Do I still have too much to do in class for the amount of time I’m actually going to have with the students?  Or vice versa? 

When I transferred Film 110 to hybrid, I pulled out all the films, tests, and quizzes, and the course was pretty much divided in half.  Film 110 is a natural for the hybrid format.  The students watch films on their own time, and we have a discussion both in class and online.  Composition, however, is a little trickier because it is a balance of explanation, example, and practice.  My first time through the course as a hybrid was a little too restricted on examples, so I learned very quickly to make more time in the face-to-face portion for sample essays and to post other samples online.  For instance, I use former student papers (with permission) as samples in class, but I would never just give my students free access to a full paper, so I don’t put it online as an example.  I will, however, link them to professional pieces, online writing labs that give partial examples, or even sites like, which has a nice little article on preparing to write a memoir (a type of paper we do in ENGL 110).

Examples, however, are not grade producing work.  Since I want to make sure that grade producing work is being performed in both the face-to-face and the online portions, I always use discussion boards in my hybrid courses.  Obviously, we still discuss in class.  However, I set up the boards for several reasons:

  • As a response to assignments that we don’t have time to cover in class.  In Film, students choose three films from a group of nine for each unit.  They have to write a discussion board response for each film, and they have the full four weeks of each unit to complete those.  Since the students are on a four week time line, everyone is watching different stuff at different times.  By requiring them to post and respond to each other before the end of the four week unit, I create an additional level of both gradable learning and peer interaction.
  • As a way to assess student understanding.  In Comp, I’ll often ask students to go out to the web and find an article, an ad, a cartoon . . . something that exemplifies the type of argument we’re discussing.  They post the link and then reply to at least three of their peers’ posts, and I can assess understanding by the types of examples and explanations the students provide. Obviously, the “hands-on” component is an excellent learning tool.
  • As a way to create and sustain community.  As mentioned in the first point, requiring peer-to-peer response helps to foster community.  Of course, since we see each other face-to-face as well, discussion boards serve to promote the community already happening in class.  This takes me, as the instructor, out of the “fount of all knowledge” (ha!) arena and reminds students that the people around them (their peers) have excellent ideas and insight.

Step 3: 

How am I going to manage the students online (aka how am I going to make sure they do the online half of the course)?

Points, points, and more points!  It’s a system that’s pretty well established in modern education, so I attach points to almost everything I have them do online — plain and simple.   As mentioned above, I use the discussion boards a lot.  I plan them carefully so that no board repeats what we do in class.  Each board is used to either “go deeper” or as an example.  At the end of the semester, students do an assignment that requires them to assemble, assess, and defend a grade for the discussion board section of the course.

Final thoughts:

Let’s be real about this process.  Even after you’ve done all this thinking and planning, it probably won’t be perfect.  I’ve got sticky-notes and scraps of paper all over my desk with lists of little changes to make next semester, and I’ve been doing this hybrid stuff for a while.  But in the end, teaching in the hybrid format is really just straddling the line between face-to-face teaching and online teaching.  We have the opportunity to use the best of both worlds to make our courses more accessible to our students.  Hybrids, to me, are a wonderful chance to rethink what I’m currently doing and to figure out how I can reach more students and engage them more deeply in the learning process.   Experimenting with delivery styles is a huge educational privilege . . . okay, and it’s a lot of fun, too.  Please let me know what you think by responding below!!

Student Retention and Success in Radiology: Live discussion, journals, blogs

This is a guest post authored by ICC Radiography Faculty, Lisa Arnett. If you have virtual campus/online learning information or ideas to share and would like to write for the 5th campus blog, contact Patrice at

Night Before the Test Q&A: Live Online Discussion Forums

Our sophomore students are currently studying Radiobiology and Radiation Protection, material that is both difficult and comprises 25% of the national registry exam that they will be taking after they graduate in July, 2012. They have traditionally struggled with the material so in 2008, my first year of teaching, I was looking for a way to help the students to understand the material so April suggested we meet on Blackboard the night before the test for a live “jam session.”

So the night before the test I am available for one hour to answer questions in the Discussion Board. If enough students participate, I just facilitate the discussion but if only two or three are present, I answer any questions or clear up any concepts they bring up. It has been a well-attended tutoring session and, obviously, the more that participate, the more fun it is. After attending the Blackboard sessions this summer I considered using some of the other collaborative avenues that are available but I ultimately stayed with the Discussion Board for a few reasons: the threads make it more organized and easy to follow (especially when 10-15 students are participating at a time), the discussion that took place is available for those students who were unable to attend to view at a  later time during the evening, and the discussion is also available when the students are reviewing for the final exam. Really, the only disadvantage to the forum is everyone has to back out of the Discussion Board and re-enter it to see new postings.

Mentoring and Retention Strategies: Journals and Blogs

April and I are also very excited about a couple of retention strategies and mentoring initiatives that we piloted this semester for our freshmen students. Our program suffered a pretty drastic attrition rate in our current sophomore class and the main reason that students gave for leaving was they didn’t know what they were getting into. In an effort to address the issue, we piloted an expectation that our students use journaling to keep us informed of how they are doing in their clinical rotation, barriers to studying, stressors, etc…..anything that could signal a potential drop from the program so we can intervene early. We ask that the students journal or come to see us twice this semester just to check in. It is in no way meant to take the place of conversation; either will count towards the expectation. So far it has gone well and no students have dropped to date!

Finally, as a way for our freshman students to stay in touch with each other, mentor each other, and encourage professionalism, we created three blog spots. It will be easier to explain them by sharing the titles and descriptions so I will include them below. The students just started in their clinical rotations so little has happened in the blogs so far but we are hopeful that the students will use them as time goes on.

Blog Examples

Positioning Blog
Are you having problems with a particular radiographic position? Chances are, if you are having problems, someone else is or knows how to help. Quit struggling! Post your positioning challenges and work them out with your peers. Did a tech give you a positioning pointer that was helpful? Share it with everyone! Use this area to improve your positioning skills.

So This Stuff Really Does Work!
Post any examples of what you are learning in the classroom that you were able to apply in clinicals. Did something happen that helped you to “put it all together?” Were you finally able to perform that perfect radiograph that you struggled with for so long? Did you see an example of a theory you were just learning about such as differential absorption? It’s exciting for everyone when the light bulb comes on – tell us about it!

Triumphs in Radiography!
Have you had a particularly great clinical shift? Did you get a compliment from a (gulp!) radiologist? Did you take the most I-can’t-believe-how-gorgeous-that-turned-out chest x-ray or knee x-ray or scapula x-ray? Did a tech actually smile at you and ask you your name? Did a patient thank you for your kindness? Let everyone know about your accomplishments, your victories, and those things that keep you coming back for more! We could all use a lift!

Lisa Arnett is an instructor in the ICC Radiography Program and a member of the ICC Online Learning Task Force.  Email Lisa at for more information about these strategies or Patrice at about the online learning task force at Illinois Central College