Blended learning taking hold in Franke

Rick Szal

     By Richard Szal, lecturer of economics 

Over the past three years, I’ve been working on the design and implementation of a blended learning format for my economics and statistics courses. It seems students are catching on, judging by their improved grades.

The work began in 2012 as a contribution to the President’s Technology Initiative aimed at creating courses designed to incorporate the blended learning approach. The provost accepted my proposals, and the courses began during the 2013 academic year.

My approach is referred to as a “flipped class” in which what is normally considered lecture activities are performed by students on their own, and normal homework assignments are covered in the one session held in-person with the students each week.

Student instructors take on a much larger role in a blended learning course. They provide the bridge between class activities and grades, and experience has proven that other students tend to utilize their student instructors more often and more effectively.

The approach seems to be catching on. Students were apprehensive at first due to the fact that they must accept greater responsibility for their performance in a class than was the case with traditional lecture-based courses. However, this apprehension seems to have disappeared as students become more familiar with the requirements of a blended learning course.

This last semester, my classes were offered in the new Learning Studio in Cline Library, which seats up to 70 students. This room provides an ideal atmosphere for a blended learning approach as the classroom is outfitted with the latest in technology, allowing me to electronically communicate with individual students, to groups or the entire class as needed.

Over time, and as students have become more accustomed to this approach, grades have improved. It is the hope that this trend will continue in the future.