Credit: Adapted from Kareem Farah and Robert Barnett’s Answers to Your Blended Learning Questions and our teaching practices in our classes.
Main Objectives: Redefine traditional teaching practices to replace teacher-centered, lecture-based, and one-size-fits-all teaching with student-centered, technology-enhanced instruction that empowers learning equity with a multi-tier system of intervention and support.
Blended Instruction FAQs
What is your instructional model?
Our blended instruction model based on three components:
- Replace lectures with the teacher’s self-recorded instructional videos. This is not the same thing as finding a video online. Instead, the teacher is directly involved in making the video, either individually or collaborating with other teachers. If possible, collaborating with other teachers to make the video will produce more engaging and effective videos. For example, teachers can collaborate to plan, write a script, record, and edit the video. In our video, three of us collaborate to create our chemistry videos and let give credit to all teachers at the beginning with our images in our quick introduction. Most importantly, we collaborate to create all questions and activities related to the content covered in the video. Since 2015, we have produced many videos and asking our students for feedback. We learn that there four essential key components of the most engaging video:
- Their teacher’s involvement: The teacher does not need to be on the videos, but he or she has to be involved and credited in making the videos. In our case, we dedicate one person to be on all the videos for consistency, and we a short 7-10 second introduction with all of our faces at the beginning of each video. We nominated the person who has a nice and deep voice and who is also comfortable on camera.
- Focused and Guided notes: We scripted and organized the content so that students can follow and copy a focused and guided note as they watch and engage throughout the video. It is not to narrow the video to focus on teaching on a specific topic or skill; however, we have to present in an organized way that students can take meaningful and comprehensive notes on paper. All text, images, and diagrams are interrelated and support each other.
- Prevent Skipping: Using our Learning Management System website, we prevent students from skipping forward, so it forces students to watch the entire videos. Students can rewind and rewatch part of the video at any time. Also, students’ final grades are based on students’ highest attempt, so students can review the video without affecting their grades or encourage to re-attempt to get higher grades.
- Embedded Interactive Questions: Using our Learning Management System website, we embedded different types of interactive and auto-graded questions to engage and assess students’ understanding. The questions also help facilitate students’ learning and thinking process and promote discussion among students. Many of our students collaborate and help each other during the entire process. Also, we walk around to facilitate and support students based on each students’ needs. Students are penalized for incorrect answers, and they can retry the questions for partial credit. However, they can re-attempt the entire video to get higher grades so students not afraid to answer the questions.
Replace worksheets or hyperdocs with interactive, adaptive Practices and Assessments that are auto-graded and provided with instant and meaningful feedback. We all know that most teachers do not grade for correct for most of the worksheets or online assignments they assigned. Even if they do, we can never provide any meaningful instantly. Therefore, this is the most important and challenging component, but it is also often ignored by most teachers. However, the process is also the most exciting part for us teachers if teachers get the chance to collaborate with each other. Many teachers are so dependent on their publisher’s worksheet, answer keys, and question banks that they forgot the importance of their input in creating the activities, practices, and assessments for their students. Most teachers would assign worksheets, online hyperdoc, or other online assignments that they know they would never have time to grade or want to grade. Consequently, many of their students’ figure it out, and they begin to turn in blank hyperdoc, copy other students’ files, or copy answers. Collaborating with other teachers, we have created thousands of chemistry questions and made hundreds of activities that are engaging, adaptive, and auto-graded with instant feedback. Using our Learning Management System website, we can quickly and easily collaborate to create media-rich and real-life questions in real-time and 24/7. With our vast knowledge and expertise in our teaching content, it becomes an exciting and fun hobby to write those questions. The time that we used to dedicated to grading, making copies, or other related tasks are now replaced by fun tasks of writing meaningful questions and providing individualized support. Also, the Learning Management System website allows us to configure our activities that prevent students from cheating easily: Limited-time, scheduled activities, Shuffled questions, Pulled random questions, Prevent copy and paste, and many more. This further enforces individual students’ accountability, and ultimately force students to engage and actively take ownership of their learning processes and outcomes.
Personalize Multi-tiered System of Support. Most teachers have a gradebook that requires teachers to manually updated. We all know that many teachers do not update their gradebook daily, even weekly. Some teachers even wait until it is near progress report deadlines. Using our Learning Management System website, we can maintain a comprehensive and detailed grade book that auto-updates in real-time. Students’ grades and learning outcomes are organized into easy-to-read tables and graphs so we can quickly identify any struggling students. Teachers can access all students’ comprehensive and detailed grades to look at a students’ every single response, attempts, and grades in any activity. This complete transparency in students’ learning progress and outcomes allows us to identify struggling students quickly and provide meaningful intervention immediately. Also, all data are personalized base on each student’s data and learning progress, so we can work with parents and other staff to look at specific and meaningful data to provide personalized intervention and support for each student. Most importantly, teachers can provide 24/7 intervention and support because students self-assess their own progress and make up any missing works at their convenience. This further empowers all students to take ownership of their learning progress and outcomes.
How do you create the videos?
There are many ways to create videos; however, to create an engaging instructional video requires the right hardware and software. Personal desktops and laptops are powerful and inexpensive that most teachers already have or provided by one. A good video must have clear and high-quality audio and legible handwriting. For amazing audio, teachers can purchase a USB-C microphone that works on both computers, tablets, and phones. A great and affordable USB-C mic is HyperX QuadCast for only $139.
Most schools already offer software like Screencastify for all teachers and students. However, the right software to use is Camtasia Studio, which is a screen recorder and video editing. They offer education prices for only $169, and teachers do not need to pay fees. It is so easy to use that you don’t have to worry about the complex process of recording or editing videos.
For on-screen annotation, you can purchase Wacom One drawing tablet for $385. You can use it with any mobile device too. It is so light that you can carry it back and forth to use in your classroom and at home.
After you have all the right hardware and software, the rest of the process is fun and exciting. Here are a few key strategies to make engaging video:
- Each video cover only one specific topic or skill:
- Guided Notes: Information is organized so students can copy and write detailed notes to help them review later.
- Keep it less than 6 minutes: Research shows that college students’ engagement drops after 6 minutes.
What happens if students don’t have devices or internet at home?
After COVID-19, most students are given school Chromebook or similar device. However, students do not need to have a device at home to be successful. Teachers provide time for students to watch the videos and complete the activities during class. If students don’t finish, they can continue to at home or stay after school to finish using a school device. Likewise, students can watch the video or complete any the activities on their phones. Have equal access to device and internet is no longer the important question of learning equity in blended instruction; rather, it is mainly about students’ engagement, accountability, and individualized support.
How much time does it take for students to adjust to blended instruction?
The adjustment and transition are natural for all students. The only students who have a hard time are struggling and off-task students who have been relying on cheating or abusing the limitations of traditional teaching practices. They know that they cannot take shortcuts or cheat because each student’s learning progress and outcomes are recorded in real-time and documented. Students are forced to take ownership of their learning and mistakes. We have been working with many students with special needs and their case carriers, and we saw a dramatic shift in students’ overall attitudes and learning outcomes as they learn to take responsibility for their learning and we provide individualized intervention and support. It is no longer about a student having a learning disability, personal challenges, or other disadvantages; rather, it is about how can we accommodate each student without sacrificing students’ learning.
What about students who fall behind?
As teachers, we always assume the best of our students and we trust our students. However, how many students who know that abuse or trust and empathy? Since 2015, we have been implemented blended instruction, and we discovered not even one percent of our who have put in the honest effort during our class have less than 70%. The only students who have failed in our class were students who were absent or refuse to do the work during class and had little support at home. When those students retake our classes, they all have learned their lessons and passed our classes with high grades.
To support students who fall behind, we use the data to identify those students quickly and provide support immediately. More than 80% of the time, we successfully redirected and re-engaged those students.
Without the right tools and strategies used in blended instruction, most teachers would develop negative stereotypes about all students because of those few students. Consequently, more students will fall through the crack. Therefore, the key to support struggling students is not making excuses for them, rather it is to remind them and give them opportunities to make up their missing work and re-attempt for higher grades. Using our Learning Management System website, we can 24/7 learning opportunities for all students to make up most of the missing work and observe the positive change in their grades in real-time.
How much time does it take for a teacher to make the transition?
The answer depends on the training services and support provided by the provider of the Learning Management System website. Without the right training, support, and resources, it would take a teacher forever to reach the optimum benefits of the blended instruction. Worst, some teachers may implement it incorrectly and have negative impacts on their students’ learning. For example, some teachers use important functions of technology to abuse or harass their students by enforcing accountability without any meaningful intervention and support.
Through our training, support, and provided Learning Management System website, we have teachers who are confident to make the transition in less than a day of training. We have step-by-step, hands-on video training that teachers can learn at their pace, and teacher can ask questions through interactive forum. Traditionally, teachers and staffs have to wait for training days. This is ineffective and costly since not all teachers are motivated to learn, but they all want a day off. During such tradition training, teachers are passively involved.
Through our training method, motivate teachers can quickly make the transition at their convenience. The success of these motivated teachers will inspire other teachers to invest in learning new technologies and strategies. At the same time, schools save money on substitutes, on-site training, and other related costs.
To streamline the transition, we preset the course with all setting so teachers can use the courses right away without having to do any difficult setting. Teachers just need to focus collaborating with other teachers to write questions.
What does this look like in different classes, elective or core classes, at different grade levels ( k – 12)?
The beauty of this model is that it’s using a comprehensive Learning Management System website and practical teaching strategies that give teachers the flexibility to teach any content area or grade level with optimum impact.
Does it work in different learning settings (distance, hybrid, or in-person)?
Absolutely! Our students and we transitioned to distance learning with little learning or achievement loss during COVID-19 closure. Likewise, we started a new school year with distance learning, and most of the students are successful. I had students who faced challenging times due to COVID-19, and the blended instruction model allows students to make up the missing works and catch up with the class without any learning or sacrifices. With students’ permission, anonymous students share their stories with you. You can read the students’ stories HERE.
When teachers are using the right technologies and strategies to implement blended instruction, they also transform their classrooms and the overall learning setting for all students.
What does your classroom seating arrangement look like?
Enhanced by technology, we redefined our activities to provide instant and meaningful feedback. Students are now centered of their process, and they are the center of their learning setting. In a teacher-centered setting, students are often seated in rows and column facing toward the front board. All students are given the same task or questions, and the teachers have to wait for all, or most, of students to complete the tasks or answer the questions before teachers can provide feedback to the entire class.
In our modern blended classroom, instant feedback and the adaptive nature of the technology-enhanced activities allow students to take risks and answer questions because they can retry to earn partial credit. The instant feedback allow students to self-assess their understanding real-time and learn from their mistakes while building self-efficacy and growth mindset.
In our modern blended classroom, we seated students in heterogeneous groups to maximize the benefits of instant feedback by using it as the thriving force for natural and genuine structured collaborative conversation. In their groups, each is accountable for their own learning process, yet they all have access to instant support from their peers.
In traditional group settings or group activities, where all members are expected to be accountable, yet no individual accountability is enforced, at-risk students are left behind. Advanced and proficient students take up more responsibility because high-risk students often do not try their best. They know that all group members will have the same grade even they do not put in the same effort. Because there is a lack of practical and effective methods to enforce individual accountability, many group activities in traditional instruction are not successful, at least for high-risk students. A common problem when having students sit in groups in traditional instruction is that students, especially high-students, often rely on copying answers from their peers. Consequently, good-intention collaborative activities contribute to widening the achievement gap among students and continuing to leave high-student further behind.
In our modern blended classroom, technology-enhanced activities enforce individual accountability in real-time; more importantly, all students’ responses, effort, and learning outcomes are documented and auto-updated in a comprehensive grade book. There is no need for ineffective and biased peer evaluations or rubrics. Accountability and collaboration occur simultaneously. There is complete transparency in students’ learning progress.
For example, a lecture is delivered at each students’ pace through the students’ teacher-made video embedded with adaptive and auto-graded questions. Students learn focused content at their pace while we teachers take an active role in facilitating students’ learning process, during which students become an active owner of their learning.
Similarly, practices and assessments are auto-graded and adaptive, so students are given instant feedback and retry until they have mastered the content. Supported by a heterogeneous group setting, a simple independent activity can become an engaging and collaborative group activity.
What does my classroom management look like?
On the surface, it seems that the key to effective classroom management strategies focuses on consistent expectations and routines. It is about keeping students quiet or busy from bell to bell. This type of classroom management is most effective in honor or gifted classes since those students are easily threatened by grades and parent’s involvement. In lower-level classes, consistent expectations and routines can longer appeal to some students, and it does not affect high-risk students. Consequently, many teachers rely on assigning busy tasks such as worksheets or book works that teachers have little intention of grading, for the main purpose is for classroom management rather than authentic learning. Therefore, the second half of effective classroom management is promoting authentic student engagement, which is more challenging than the other half. Through traditional instruction, students’ engagement is passive as the teacher is the center of the stage, where the teacher has to put on a show. However, teacher-centered instruction restricts students to be passive learners. Consequently, students’ engagement is very limited no matter how hard a teacher tries to put on an exciting show.
In our blended instruction, we replace teacher-driven instruction with student-centered instruction, where students take an active role in their learning while teachers are facilitators. However, this only works when we integrate technology and specific strategies to redefine instructional activities with adaptive and instant feedback features.
What about students with special needs, IEP or 504?
We all know every teachers want to support students with special and provide meaningful accommodations. However, we don’t want to disable students by succumbing to students, case carriers, or parents’ excuses. We all want the best for students; however, case carriers and some stake holders may prioritize students’ achievement over students’ learning. The lack of transparency between achievement and learning create mistrust among all stakeholders; consequently, different stakeholders blame each others for any students’ failures. Some administrators and case carriers believe that teachers do not emphasize with students’ unique challenges, where some teacher believe case carriers and administrators are making excuses for students. Through traditional instruction, this cycle of blaming each only further divide important stakeholders rather than bringing them together support students with special needs.
In our modern blended classroom, all stake holders, including students, have complete transparency of students’ learning and achievement. Integrating our learning management system website and specific strategies, we can capture all students’ attempts, responses, and grades of all activities, and the data is organized into comprehensive and auto-updated gradebook. Altogether, all stakeholders no longer have question each other’s commitment to support. Rather, we use the comprehensive data to determine how we can each student based on each students’ specific weaknesses and strengths.
How much will it cost for schools to make the transition?
The most expensive component is to provide students a device. Because of COVID-19, it is already accomplished. Depending on who is the provider of a Learning Management System website for your teacher and provide the training, it could be expensive if your school using the wrong service provider. Including training fees, annual subscription, and other related fees, it could cost your school up to 50,000 annually. Worst, many of your teachers may not be motivated or wanted to make the transition, so money is wasted on fees and ineffective training costs.
However, it does not have to be expensive. As current teachers, we co-founded Win Elements LLC to provide your teachers and schools with little cost. We provide free online training and support, so school don’t have to waste money on any training costs and fees. Schools are require to pay site-subscription, and they can start with a just one or more teachers at only $200 annually per teacher.