The presenters from SUNY Empire State College discussed their goal of bridging the cultural bifurcation between the traditional face-to-face courses and the online courses. The SUNY system, which services primarily non-traditional students, allows students to design their own curriculum. This includes allowing students to complete a prior learning assessment to receive college credit for non-collegial learning.
In the face to face courses, each student enters into a learning contract for each course. This is used in place of a syllabus and student goals and objectives drive the learning. For those who teach and design the online courses, this is seen as lacking a focus on tangible outcomes and a bit “loosy goosy”.
Students taking online courses are presented with very structured/templated courses with specific course requirements/assignments. For those who teach and design the face to face courses, this is seen as impersonal, over structured and outcomes oriented vs process oriented.
As they work through these cultural differences they are challenging the paradigms, acknowledging the problems and ensuring that they pay attention to the theory and practice in both. They are then working toward blending the academic goals and strategies transparent to both the faculty and student experience.
Blended course formats require that the students are told what is expected of them in this new educational context. It is also important to make clear connections between the face to face and online aspects of the course so the students have a cohesive experience.
To make the above happen, faculty interested in developing blended courses are working with instructional designers to develop six cross disciplinary courses for a pilot slated to begin in the 2012-2013 academic year.