The Instructional Skills Workshop, providing three days of intensive professional development for faculty and instructors, is offered at post-secondary institutions across Ontario and around the world. Working in small groups, faculty discuss topics relevant to their teaching and deliver mini-lessons, receiving facilitated peer feedback.
Dalia Hanna, Manager, Learning and Teaching in The Learning and Teaching Office at Ryerson University in Toronto, has been facilitating the face-to-face workshop for a number of years. While faculty appreciate the effective training, some found the three full days, followed by nightly course work, difficult to fit into their teaching schedules. Following a needs assessment, Ms. Hanna determined that making the workshop available in a blended format could address these issues, as well as provide an opportunity for faculty to develop online and blended teaching and learning skills.
The redesigned blended Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) is structured over 4 half days, supplemented with online activity, for a total of 24 hours over a four-week period. The re-design is supplemented by the materials and activities available in the ISW Handbook.
Pre-Class Activity: The first module is pre-class activity in which faculty members look at definitions of online and blended learning, their characteristics, benefits, and challenges. This module is completed online, comprising about four hours of work and reading.
Introductory Face-to-Face Session: The first half-day, face-to-face session, with about eight registrants, focuses on introductions and some exercises and discussions, as well as explanations of the format for the remaining online and mini-lecture sessions.
Working in Small Groups: For each of the next three weeks, participants are divided into groups of four for all classroom-based and online activities, with each group having a separate facilitator. Dr. Gosha Zywno, Learning and Teaching Office Associate and Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, facilitates the face-to-face activities in both large and small groups.
Online Activity: The online activity focuses on issues such as active learning, including diverse students, and incorporating technology tools in teaching. For each of these modules, faculty are provided with an introduction, learning objectives, tasks such as reading, listening to, or viewing resources related to the topic. In addition, they are expected to participate in a discussion board, including an initial post and two responses for each topic.
Extended Discussions: The participants wanted the opportunity to continue the discussion beyond the posts. The design was modified so that, during the first 20 minutes of the face-to-face sessions, the facilitator summarizes the online discussion and the faculty clarify points, ask questions, and add comments.
Lesson Plan Preparation: Faculty prepare three lesson plans for the three mini-lessons, following best practices and a recommended template. These draft lessons are submitted to the facilitator before being presented in the workshop and discussed in the one-on-one sessions after each mini-lesson.
Mini-Lesson Presentation: In each of the three remaining face-to-face half-day sessions, all participants present one of their mini-lessons to their small group. The presenter then meets separately with the facilitator for a few minutes to get feedback, and receives both verbal and written feedback from the others in the workshop. The mini-lessons are also videotaped for later self-assessment.
Participant Feedback: Every week, participants provide the facilitator with formative feedback on the workshop module, specifying what they liked best, liked least, and would change. They also provide final comments to the facilitator and to their fellow participants. The feedback, from both the summative and formative evaluations, is used to modify and enhance future blended ISWs.
Certification: Participants receive a certificate upon completion, which is widely recognized at many Canadian and international post-secondary institutions. Dalia Hanna created a rubric to clarify the requirements of participation in the blended workshop in order to receive the certificate.
Outcomes and Benefits
Blended delivery expands the learning to include the understanding of, and experience with, online learning and using a blended format.
The participants are appreciative of the structure, flow, and content of the workshop.
More full-time faculty are signing up for the blended format workshop.
The facilitator models the use of online tools she thinks would be useful for faculty to use in their teaching. For example, Dalia Hanna uses VoiceThread, which allows asynchronous conversation with integrated slides, documents, images, audio files, and videos, for her module introductions. She then makes it available for the participants to use for their final workshop comments.
The workshop is structured as a safe environment in which participants are encouraged to try new strategies and approaches to teaching.
Many participants have found the template they use for designing their lesson plans and mini-lessons is adaptable for guiding the development of their three-hour lecture classes.
Challenges and Enhancements
There had been a perception, the first time the new design was offered, that the blended format would be less work than the face-to-face version. For the next delivery, the facilitator communicated more clearly about expectations and the necessary time commitment. The workload was also modified with fewer readings and the due dates were adjusted.
Dalia Hanna reports the online workshop entails more work for her than the face-to-face sessions as it requires her to create and maintain an online presence over the four weeks of the session to promote participants’ engagement.
Video tutorials were produced on skills, such as posting to the discussion board and using VoiceThread to help participants in getting oriented to the new environment.
Dalia Hanna is working with the Distance Education Strategies Office at Ryerson and in consultation with Dr. Nancy Walton, Director, e-learning, on a fully online version of the Instructional Skills Workshop. As well, videos are being produced featuring faculty at Ryerson talking about their positive experiences with blended learning, as a way of encouraging other faculty to consider its potential for teaching and learning.
For Further Information
Manager, Learning and Teaching
Learning and Teaching Office