Part 1 reviews the challenges associated with various course delivery modes and is available to read here.
Bi-modal flexible course delivery offers students the ability to control how they learn by selecting the delivery mode that best suits their needs for each session. “Don’t compare synchronous and asynchronous modalities. Instead, focus on the benefits of both modalities. One is not better than the other. Bringing these two modalities together can make a difference and maximize learning and engagement” (NC State University, 2022).
Offering both synchronous and asynchronous options may be referred to as hybrid, blended, or bichronous course delivery, but often these are not flexible enough. To provide students with truly flexible learning options, educators must design bi-modal content and students must have the choice for each session to attend in-person, with the educator (online or on campus), or work through the course materials asynchronously.
Educators will need to be open-minded and flexible as they will be adapting delivery and materials with in-person lessons and changing amounts of students throughout the year. For example, I have a class of 20 students, and I teach synchronously online. In any given session, seven to 12 students will attend, and that is fine with me as I have shared my expectations with students—those who choose to learn asynchronously are just as accountable for completing the session’s work as students who learn synchronously. I support both groups by engaging the synchronous students in activities and discussions during our time together and posting a recording of the session for those who do not attend. I also post a brief summary in the “News” area of the LMS which details key points the class discussed, contains a link to the recorded session, lists reminders of due dates and readings, and provides links to resources for that session. Surprisingly, this simple “posting a session summary” practice has become a best practice for me in every course I teach, and after several of my colleagues saw what I was doing, it has become a best practice for them as well. I find posting a brief summary after each session is a great way to keep a brief record of what occurred in each session and acts as a guide, a reminder, and archive for the students and me. If I utilize Nearpod, Kahoot, a quiz, video, website, or exercise during the live session, I also include this in the session summary post for asynchronous learners to complete and for any student who did attend the session in-person to access later should they wish to review it again.
Implementing bi-modal flexible learning
- Schedule bi-modal courses. Schedule all online and in-classroom courses as bi-modal courses. The delivery expectation is that educators teach all class sessions synchronously (either in class or online). Students are provided an option to attend these synchronous sessions or study asynchronously for each session. In many ways, since the electronic LMS was introduced, educators have been utilizing bi-modal delivery to some degree and may not even realize it. Ultimately, students are accountable for their choice of learning mode and their success in the course.
- Copy master shell. All sections of bi-modal courses receive a copy over of the asynchronous LMS master course. The faculty team could be consulted as to what materials should be placed in the master course. Every educator has the same course design and materials. Certainly, educators can add their personal touches and include additional elements as desired, although, educators should ensure they cover all topics in the master course with students. If there are course materials currently existing in the master course, they may require minor revisions. After the copy over, each educator updates the assessment due dates, the News, and the educator bio, no other revisions should be required. Using and copying a master course will support new educators, retain course quality across sections, and help meet course learning outcomes (CLOs) and program learning outcomes (PLOs) as it will guide educators on what they need to teach and do each session.
- Flexible student attendance. For each synchronous session, educators should record the session and post it in the LMS News. Some educators may not wish to post video conference recordings, this could be discussed with management. Educators also post the session summary in the News (as described above) after each session. All students can then refer to these posts at a time convenient for them. This, along with the LMS course design for an asynchronous course, will provide directions, clarity, and support to asynchronous learners. Educators should not be concerned about synchronous attendance—bi-modal delivery is all about students controlling the way in which they learn. Bi-modal learning is not about having full attendance, but rather helping or guiding all students in meeting the course learning outcomes in the method that is best for each student as determined by each student.
- Flexible (UDL) assignment design. All assignments need to be thought out to meet the needs of both learning groups—those attending synchronously and those attending asynchronously. Sample assignments that map CLOs will be created and posted before the master course is copied over to all sections, this will help maintain consistency across sections in assignment rigor. Assignments should be updated by educators each semester (and remapped, if necessary) in order to support academic honesty. Professors who wish to change assessment mapping should consult with the program coordinator or manager beforehand as this may affect the ability of the program to meet PLOs. Student groupwork and assignments will need to offer bi-modal, UDL, flexible options.
For example, groups are asked to complete a research project and present it. The educator offers two options for groups to collaborate: 1) students have the opportunity to work collaboratively and asynchronously in Office 365 PowerPoint Slides (or other) to create a slide presentation, and 2) students are allocated time during the synchronous session(s) (in the classroom or online) to work collaboratively. The educator may design the assignment to offer three options for assignment submission:
- Synchronous assignment design. Presentations can be delivered during one or more synchronous class sessions. A copy of the presentation file is submitted to the electronic assignment dropbox within the LMS.
- Asynchronous assignment design. The presentations may include embedded videos of each member of the student group presenting their assigned portion of the group research project. A copy of the presentation file is submitted to the electronic assignment dropbox within the LMS. This allows the educator to grade asynchronously.
- Asynchronous assignment design. Students can plan a time outside the synchronous class sessions to collaborate using video conferencing, then record their presentation using the video conferencing software. A copy of the presentation file is submitted to the electronic assignment dropbox along with a weblink or copy of the video conference presentation which allows the educator to review and grade asynchronously. It also allows other students to review the presentation if the educator allows for that. (Three options, students select one based on their preferences).
- Flexible proctored test dates. Educators would need to offer multiple days/times for proctored tests. This is not an issue for in-classroom tests, although make-up test dates may be required for students who miss the original test date. Students are provided proctored test dates and times early in the course so they can plan their schedules to ensure they will be in person (online or classroom) on the scheduled date of the test. If proctored tests are used in the course this should be noted on the course outline (syllabus), as well as within the LMS. Students are provided proctored test dates/times during the first or second week of the course so they can plan to be in person (online or classroom) on the scheduled date of the test. If there are issues with the time of tests for international students (time zone), for example, or if students miss a test due to illness, educators may need to book another date for these students or have these students join another professor’s class on another test date. Proctoring of tests/exam helps maintain academic honesty and quality in the course.
- Flextime for students and educators. Educators will be in the synchronous sessions (online or classroom) if students wish to join, but if no or few students join, then the lesson may not take as long, and educators can apply this flextime to answering emails, proctoring make-up exams or split exams, and solving individual student issues. Educators need some empowerment to make these decisions and can work with program coordinators or management when uncertain.
Kerri Shields has been a college professor for 20+ years and has taught many courses in business, management, marketing, and information systems. She has designed courses for hybrid, in-classroom, and online delivery, and has observed the pros and cons of each delivery method. She enjoys learning as much as she does teaching and understands that students have varied learning styles and needs.
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