Techno Glitches

Experiencing just a little bit of frustration this week.

The online modules through blackboard were straightforward, and I really enjoyed the challenge of restructuring my class so that the online learning (a mix of written information, asynchronous discussion, and an activity that reinforced the week’s lesson) was relevant and engaging. I set up time in the computer lab for students who wanted hands-on help, but they were all game to try it on their own.

For another class, I exposed students to online learning as I often do, by flipping part of the class and giving them a video to watch for homework. I also presented a grammar self-assessment module that I am building.

The problems seem to arise for the students. Sometimes this is due to motivational issues (something I want to address in a later post), but there seem to be a number of technical issues…they are not comfortable with online, they are confused by Blackboard, they don’t have an updated flash player which enables them to open videos. Another colleague who tried a hybrid class had nothing but issues with students unable to access, print, or interact with the material.

I also experienced Blackboard crashing. Once, it crashed mid class as I was demonstrating how to access the online module, an occurrence which did not help me in my endeavours to convince some of the more sceptical students about the benefits of hybrid learning. In addition, I spent more time than I should have triple checking online components (logged in as a student) to ensure they worked, being accessible to students at all times in order to respond to issues they were having, and doubling my work by delivering one hour both as an online AND as a face-to-face class, again to address some of the unresolved issues surrounding the technology.

Our IT team is great and responds patiently to my questions. But my underlying concerns don’t go away. The technology infrastructure will have growing pains, to be sure. But for hybrid to work effectively (and I think there are great learning opportunities with hybrid….far more than just online, or even just face-to-face, but again, that’s another post), there needs to be a reliable technological learning system that students find intuitive and easy to use; more time dedicated to training students to navigate online, and to support them; and more time built in for instructors to ensure they can troubleshoot and respond to student needs in a timely fashion (but preferably without it being a 24/7 job).

Having said all that, a couple of students have come forward to express their delight at having the opportunity to do some of the work at their own convenience. And I love that we now spend the bulk of classroom time on meaningful projects, discussion, and activities instead of lectures.

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