Teaching and Learning
4 Online Tactics to Improve Blended Learning
An accounting professor shares how best practices from online pedagogy have helped her create a blended learning environment that supports student success.
The pandemic forced students to shift to an online learning environment with little warning. Two years later, many students and teachers are suffering from videoconferencing fatigue. However, in my role as an accounting professor, I picked up a number of best practices from online learning that have been very effective in engaging students and helping prepare them for career success. Now that students are back in the classroom, I have been combining these tactics with in-person instruction to create a blended learning environment that gives my students the best of both worlds.
1) Create an Engaging Online Classroom
The first step in creating an effective blended learning environment is designing an engaging online classroom. Prior to the pandemic, I used a lot of hands-on activities, including things like Monopoly Boards, Jenga, fly swatters, and other exciting tools that captured students’ attention. In an online classroom, it’s possibly even more important to have engaging strategies in place. An excessively long lecture will just leave students feeling bored and distracted. The right activities, on the other hand, can make a significant difference. For example:
- Breakout rooms (for think/pair/share);
- Polls and quizzes that are low-stakes and anonymous to encourage full engagement;
- Using the whiteboard option; and
- Having reviews of material at the end of class.
The goal is to make sure that every student gets something out of the class. In an in-person class, changing up instructional styles and encouraging interaction is an important part of that strategy. In a virtual classroom, that shift is even more important, since it’s easier for students to zone out from the other side of the screen.
2) Combat Lecture Fatigue with Transparency and Tools
Honestly, both students and faculty are tired of staring at a static screen or listening to long lectures. No matter how pleased you are to connect with students in-person again, it’s important not to plan for three hours of lecture in a class each week. Everyone involved is likely to be checked out by then!
Instead, begin by offering clear goals for each session. Since students are still readjusting to being in a classroom together, be very clear about offering them the opportunity to speak and interact. Then review objectives at the end of each class to give students and yourself a chance to reflect.
For the online part of your blended classroom, shorter chunks of lecture videos — less than six minutes, focused on very specific, narrow learning objectives — that students view throughout the week can make an immense difference in overall learning. Then, you can spend class time on application and engagement using tools like Kahoot! quizzes, Poll Everywhere, Top Hat and Jeopardy-style games to keep students engaged.
Another strategy for encouraging students to engage is bringing in guest lecturers. You can Zoom in a variety of guests who might not be able to visit a physical classroom, which may help spice up lectures and get students more interested.
3) Make Career Prep Part of Blended Learning
No matter how you’re presenting material, the goals are still the same: You want students to learn a concept and be able to apply it, not only in the classroom but in their future careers. For me, that means helping students prepare for the CPA Exam. I use a variety of strategies to help ensure that students get in that practical CPA work no matter what environment they’re learning in.