Sunday, January 16, 2011

WBCs and Student Ownership

Ok, so I like acronyms, I think it may be a teacher thing. WBC stands for Web Based Courses, which I had the privilege of hearing about from Howard Griffith on January 13th. He had a lot of very interesting things to share about WBCs including how successful they are here in Manitoba.

Howard started the presentation by giving us as pre-service teachers a look into the spectrum of how students are instructed in Manitoba. Traditionally, and still the most common practice, a classroom of students are taught by a teacher; this method is called face to face instruction (or F2F if you like acronyms like I do). This allows for high teacher to student interaction throughout the learning process. At the other end of the spectrum is the independent student option (ISO) in which the student is basically working totally independent of any teacher guidance and all work submitted is marked by a tutor. WBCs fall in the middle of F2F and the ISO. In this case, the teacher acts as more of a guide than an instructor.

Howard suggested that on average, students perform better in blended courses, such as WBCs, than in a F2F situation or the ISO. This got me thinking about why this would be the case and I came up with one possible theory. In F2F, it becomes real easy for the student to become dependant on the teacher for content information, resources, and even judging how they are doing in their own learning. In ISO, the student must be extremely organized, motivated, and aware of their learning to succeed. WBCs take the best of both worlds. The teacher is there for students when they have a question or need guidance about their own learning. However, at the same time students must be motivated and take some ownership of their learning so they can keep on track with the course. This means students cannot depend solely on the teacher, which gives them motivation to take ownership of their own learning, while still having someone to fall back on when they need some help.

So that's my theory of why blended courses such as WBCs work better than other forms of instruction. What do you think?


hunkydory said...

Unfortunately I didn't get to sit in on this presentation, but after reading your post I feel that I have a pretty good idea of what was discussed.

I agree with you that F2F can sometimes promote dependency on the teacher for content info, resources and challenge student metacognition. I can also see how ISO would challenge a student's organization skills as well as well as self-determination. Through the use of ISO student must really challenge themselves to take ownership of their learning. I believe that ISO is an interesting technique that will essentially help students to release responsibility of learning from the teacher and start to take that responsibility on themselves - similar to what it's like "in the real world" after high school. Although a teacher's role is still necessary, a good mix of ISO will only benefit the students and help to give them some of the skills to be contributing members of our society. :)

Pamela Rathgeber said...

I really like your theory on why students perform better when classes are blended with F2F and ISO study options. I hadn't really thought about it, but you're totally right. By blending both worlds, you are playing to all of students' needs and getting rid of the dependency on the teacher. Student ownership over their learning is important - it will help motivate them to go to further levels of education and pursue their interests. By combining different aspects of teaching, we can show students that there is not one right or wrong way to learn, creating a greater sense of confidence in our students about their learning styles.

Great insight about the presentation!

Mr.D said...

Yes, seems like a good theory Mr. Funk. The blended course shows a higher rate of success because it blends the best of both worlds. It's also possible that some students are hard to get a hold of for F2F time, so maybe being able to take control works better for them. Then, when and if they need more help they can request some F2F time. WBC seems like a great alternative and a win-win situation for teachers and students.

Tim said...

I don't like acronyms - does that make me a bad teacher? Anywho - I also can understand how when students are pushed a bit on their own they will succeed but I'm not totally convinced about their study. I just think that there probably havn't been a large enough volumn and variety of students through the Web course system yet to have really reliable stats - because the majority of people through have probably felt that the system would be good for them...which would naturally slant their stats towards it being more successful that a F2F (yes I used an acronym!) classrooms that have the full gambit of students pass through them. I'm not saying that they arn't right - I'm just not sure if we have had enough data to make that kind of conclusion yet.