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Blended learning

Dr. Mellie Pullman 

Given the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on our educational processes, each of the Communities of Practice will explore blended education, and the way in which on campus provision could be combined consistently with online provision. This means we will make use of what has been learned about online provision during the Covid-19 crisis, and blend this with the on campus education. By increasing our understanding of the principles and pitfalls of blended learning, we aim to recognize that implementation might be governed by different considerations in different disciplines. Furthermore, blended learning also approaches the use of technology in order to make education more personalized and flexible. Therefore, blended learning is an in-depth implementation of the lifelong learning and the diversity theme within the TAG.


Teaching as it should be

'Inspiring and very interactive!', 'Time flies in this kind of lecture', 'Much more contact with the lecturer and fellow students', and 'Awesome'. Students were very enthusiastic after their first course as part of the Lean Six Sigma learning community. Lecturer Bas Baalmans was also very satisfied with the results. 'The way the instructor can easily switch between group work in smaller teams, plenary feedback, and providing explanations works really well. The active learning space allows much more flexibility than what can be done in traditional lecture halls.'

The course unit was held at one of the so-called Zernike Experimental Learning Classrooms (in Dutch Zernike Experimentele Onderwijsruimtes, ZEO). ZEO mark the further implementation of the four-year Experimental Learning Classrooms (in Dutch Tijdelijk Experimentele Onderwijsruimtes, TEO) project. Started in the former public library (in the centre of Groningen) as temporary accommodation for learning spaces, TEO now has the opportunity to be permanently established at Zernike Campus. ZEO is an initiative of the three collaborating Zernike faculties and is hosted at Zernike Campus, where almost half of the students of the University of Groningen (UG) attend lectures.

The Active Learning Classrooms work very well and students are positioned more centrally in the teaching activities within these rooms. Lecturers are stimulated in their thinking process about teaching, resulting in teaching strategies that are more student-focused: an important part of the agenda of the UG’s Strategic Plan. Lecturers from different faculties are also able to gain experience with blended teaching, as the spaces make it possible to quickly switch between central instruction and group work in an online and on-location context.

A large Tutorial space and an Atelier space have been created in the Duisenberg Pavilion
A large Tutorial space and an Atelier space have been created in the Duisenberg Pavilion

'Switching between offline and online and between decentralized group work and central instruction is exactly what these inspiring rooms facilitate', explains Baalmans, who, besides being a lecturer, is also the Community of Expertise leader of Blended Learning at the Teaching Academy Groningen (TAG). 'The concept of the learning community is also a perfect format to combine with ZEO. Students voluntarily join these learning communities to gather knowledge and to improve their CVs. They do get a certificate and, in this specific LC, the possibility to earn a green belt, but are not awarded any ECTS credit points.' So, there is also some freedom to experiment with content, methods of working, and learning locations.

There are 25 students in this course, divided into five groups. The students are following various MSc and BSc degree programmes from different faculties. The course started with a brief 'get to know each other' exercise, with some old-school print-outs and pictures followed by a lecture about the course and a first introduction to the theory. Students and the lecturer switched between the classic lecture format and proactive teamwork, in which the students applied the knowledge in exercises. In this way, the class became very practice-driven. Meanwhile, the group used online tools such as Perusall, Menti, and Kahoot!, in addition to Google apps and online mind-mapping, and varied this way of working with typical offline methods such as post-its, flip-overs, and group discussion.

A large Tutorial space and an Atelier space have been created in the Duisenberg Pavilion
A large Tutorial space and an Atelier space have been created in the Duisenberg Pavilion

The course was held in the Duisenberg Pavilion, second floor, where a large Tutorial space and an Atelier space have been created (see picture).

After this first course at ZEO, Baalmans concludes: 'Looking at the goals that we are aiming for with these spaces, my experience so far is very positive. Because they are absolutely more student-focused and also more effective for students. And for the lecturers, the rooms provide a good experience with blended learning tools and methods of didactics. Switching between central and decentralized and offline versus online practices are more inspiring for both worlds, students and staff!' He recommends the rooms to all of his colleagues. 'They are perfect places to experiment with blended learning and, with the didactic and technological help of and manuals by Education and Communication Services (ECS; FEB) and Educational Support and Innovation (ESI; CIT), for example on how to use the Airtame tool for streaming to all screens, are very easy to use.'

For more information on Blended Learning or ZEO, please contact the Teaching Academy Groningen.

Last modified:11 May 2022 11.34 a.m.
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