What is the blended website learning model? This article explains this innovative teaching approach using the latest technology in online learning. This model appears to work great during the pandemic.
Ever since the onset of the pandemic in the early part of the year 2020, I have been looking for ways to make teaching more effective for my students, given the strict government guidelines to ensure citizen safety. Face-to-face classes are prohibited, and most of the teaching activities had shifted online.
The online teaching method is not new to me since as early as 2009, I have already been designing modules for my graduate school students. These modules are available online for students who could not attend my lectures at school.
I started with virtually no knowledge of website creation, so I searched for ways to do it—in an easy way. It will cost me a lot if I ask an expert to create a website for me. Hence, I decided to do it myself, thinking there must be an easy way to do it.
I found webnode.com, a service that lets you create websites for free using drag-and-drop technology. I became comfortable with the simple approach in website creation offered by Webnode and created three free sites. One for my passionate love for wildlife, one for instruction, and another one for photography. I eventually upgraded to a full domain name on my wildlife website in the hope of earning something out of my hobby.
But let’s focus on the website on instruction to explain how my Blended Website Learning Approach to online learning worked. I’ll fast track on what I can do now after almost 12 years of teaching myself how to create websites and produce content.
The Blended Website Learning Model
My Blended Website Learning Model formula is this: I combined three websites to let students access my hyperlinked course modules, take their quizzes and exams, and read articles related to or integrated into my modules. I complemented this approach with Zoom meetings to briefly explain the modules’ content and get feedback on their use (Figure 1). Click figure to enlarge.
I describe in detail why I used three websites in the Blended Website Learning Model in the next section.
Website for Downloading and Uploading Accomplished Course Modules
I designed the website for downloading and uploading of modules to be fast loading. I did away with pictures or graphics to enable students to easily download the asynchronous course modules even with their simple android phone. You can try it HERE.
The purpose of this website is only for downloading and submission of accomplished course modules. I created a dropbox where students drag-and-drop their accomplished course modules from their computer or cell phone to the cloud where I can access it. And just below the dropbox, I have the students’ list with feedback, a thumbs up icon to validate their submissions.
Half of my students do not have laptops, only android phones. Hence, their only way of accessing the modules is via their cellphone. So I kept on optimizing my websites armed with my knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Simplyeducate.me: Writing Platform for Educational Articles
I used to write articles, more than 600 of them, in several writing platforms such as Hubspot, Articlesbase, EzineArticles, HubPages, Knoji, Livejournal, including the defunct Triond, Bubblews, Xanga (now rebooting), Wikinut, and others I can’t remember. But they keep on changing their rules, and some stopped operating, so I decided to create my writing platform using WordPress so that I will have more control. I gathered and improved on my previous articles and published them in Simplyeducate.me.
I created this likewise fast-loading website as a hobby where I can write what’s in my mind and share my knowledge with my students. Somehow it paid off as I can integrate my educational articles to the hyperlinked, asynchronous courses I prepared using Lyx. The academic articles served as an alternative to my lectures.
Students can click on the hyperlinked table of contents and colored internal links that bring them to sections where they will read. There is no need to scroll that much.
I believe very few teachers know how to use Lyx, but I encourage you to learn it in your spare time. It can save you lots of formatting time as it has ready templates that you can tweak. It took me several months to be comfortable using it as it has a steep learning curve. I am still learning some of its features after more than five years of using it. There is always more to know after all those years of self-instruction.
MOODLE: Where Students Take Their Quizzes and Exams
I created a MOODLE site initially to house all my course modules. But even with my SEO knowledge, I have limited control over its speed. I cannot tweak the codes further to make it load fast.
Surprisingly, after leaving it for a while and testing it at this writing using PageSpeed Insights, the site loads in a little more than 5 seconds on mobile and less than a second using a desktop.
Given that my students could not keep online connections due to limited data subscriptions and poor internet connections in some areas of the city and outside the city, reading the materials online using MOODLE for hours is impractical and costly. They would better download the asynchronous modules and read the step-by-step instructions and articles at their convenience. Then they log in to the MOODLE site once they are ready to take the quizzes, long exams, or periodic examinations like the midterm and final exams.
Thus, MOODLE serves as a quiz or examination taking site as I can easily create quizzes and long tests that give feedback to both my students and me. I can create multiple choice questions and essay questions with rubrics. It logs users and informs me automatically of the scores of those who took the exams.
I changed my website hosting provider to try out if my site will load fast. A review that says my current website loads slower than the other hosting providers. Besides, I have also to pay more for my defunct hosting provider. Upon migration, I paid only a third of what I had been paying.
I realized my former hosting provider charges too much for a more expensive subscription plan. That’s because the traffic on my website improved two to three times. The web hosting provider does matter.
Zoom Follow-up Meetings on Course Modules
I complemented my asynchronous modules in the Blended Website Learning Model with real-time Zoom meetings. My students and I meet in less than an hour. In one of the seminars on online lesson delivery, I learned that student attention is optimal at around 45 minutes to one hour. On average, we meet within or less than 30 minutes.
I show a PowerPoint presentation where I check the students’ attendance at the appointed time, give them an overview of the module and my expectations in their output, and an update on the status of coronavirus spread. I also seek their feedback on the modules; whether there are errors that I need to rectify or items they find difficult to understand. I punctuate the session with a screenshot of the attendees.
So far, I got very little feedback from my students using the Blended Website Learning Model in delivering the asynchronous modules focusing on the Most Essential Learning Outcomes (MELOs). The course modules functioned as they should as I meticulously read and edit each module. I subject it to Grammarly to find grammatical or punctuation errors that I might have missed.
In summary, the Blended Website Learning Model worked quite well. Putting them up is easy, as I already have an existing hosting account coupled with website development skills.
I hope this model will find a following as I see it convenient, useful, and empathic to both students and teachers. It can spare the money and time to find ways to survive during the new normal.
© 2020 October 17 P. A. Regoniel