A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world.

Geoff Lawrence. (2014, May). A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world. Contact Magazine Special Research Symposium Issue, 40(2), 128–141.

The author presents research on the reported benefits of using Technology-mediated language learning for both instructors and learners, as well as the importance of instructional design on meeting learner outcomes. He then examines the potential for adult non-credit ESL programs in Ontario from results of a multi-phased feasibility study. The findings indicate that the majority of ESL instructors continue to use primarily a face- to-face approach in their teaching. After describing the barriers to use, he also discusses an emerging theme: the crucial role of social interaction and the need for teacher-mediated learning. This was described by one participant as keeping “the human feel” in the learning environment and emphasized the importance of the teacher in the learning process. Some instructors warned about the isolating nature of self-directed technology environments. In the section “The Blended Solution”, the author lists some of the advantages to this approach identified by study participants. He also notes that by itself, a blended approach will not address concerns about isolation; this depends on both the pedagogy and the instructor. Lawrence goes on to highlight the need for strategic, interactive program design.

Retrievable from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/researchsymposium/ResearchSymposium2014.pdf

Teaching Presence in Online Course for Part-time Undergraduates

Baker. Credence (2010). Teaching Presence in Online Course for Part-time Undergraduates. The Journal of Educators Online, 7(1).

This paper begins by noting that researchers have moved from establishing the notion that there is no significant difference between face-to-face and online learning to extending research to empirically validate best practices in online learning thus providing more effective online courses and taking advantage of the unique features of the online environment. Instructors in blended courses do have the opportunity to establish positive teaching presence and immediacy in the face-to-face component of their courses, but these two practices may have implications for learner motivation, active learning and participation and achievement of outcomes in the online portion. The author refers to other research that notes that instructors can convey “visibility” with regularly scheduled interactions, inform students of their availability, provide feedback that is consistent and meaningful, be present as an effective moderator in discussions and use their content background to reactivate discussions that languish. The study results provide interesting distinctions between the effects of instructor presence and instructor immediacy on student behaviour and outcomes.

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Virtual Education in ELL – Opportunities, Challenges and Potential

Bow Valley College. (2015). Virtual Education in ELL – Opportunities, Challenges and Potential (p. 66). Calgary, AB: Bow Valley College.

This 2015 report focuses on issues of learner isolation and instructional distance in an online workforce-related course for newcomers to Canada (CLB 7 or higher). The literature review investigates the notion of learner isolation, a common problem in online courses, which can lead to frustration, decreased motivation and withdrawal from online courses. The report proposes mitigating strategies to develop social presence in online language courses. The report goes into detail about the importance of instructor presence online e.g., instructor bios, photos, frequent videos, frequent news and quick replies to participants; as well as one-on-one contact between instructors and learners. It cites other research that defines social presence as the ability for learners to connect with other participants as “real people”, despite not being in the same physical environment with them. Although this report is based on applied research in an online course, it echoes participants’ comments in Lawrence’s report about the need for a “human feel” (see Geoff Lawrence. (2014, May). A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world later in this bibliography).

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