CHE 435 (Oil Sands Engineering Design) & CHE 465 (Chemical Engineering Design II) are two fourth-year courses that are part of the Chemical and Materials Engineering program at the University of Alberta.
The rationale for transforming this course into a blended format, specifically flipping, was to effectively address student learning depth and heterogeneity, engagement, and to enhance the quality of student-instructor interactions. The overall blended learning approach was to move instruction online and open up in-class time for application of concepts, for teams to meet and work together, and for questions/discussions with instructors.
- John M. Shaw, Professor, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.
- Marnie Jamieson, Sessional, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.
- Frank Vagi, Sessional, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.
- John Nychka, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.
Students attended two four-hour sessions each week. The topic for this sample week was Introduction to Sustainable Process Design. All student activities and resources were available on eClass.
Pre-class work for this particular week required students to watch an 8-minute narrated PowerPoint that introduced “Sustainable Process Design”. Students also had access to a PDF file of the PowerPoint and narrated script. In this introduction to sustainable process design, students were stepped through a case study on production of “trapped” natural gas. Research and preliminary analysis resulted in three possible options (methane liquefaction, methane production, electricity production). Student teams were assigned one of the three solutions to research further and justify the solution to the rest of the class. Documents supporting the decision analysis process were included in the eClass pre-class materials. As a part of pre-class activities, teams were expected to complete an analysis worksheet to identify “musts” and “wants” for the product solution. One team member from each group posted the team worksheet to a discussion forum open to the rest of the class.
The in-class activity was an application of the content presented online. The first 15-20 minutes of class of in-class time was were used to answer questions about the online activities and readings. Following this, all the teams assigned the same option were organized into a group to compare and contrast the teams’ analysis worksheets. Each group was asked to reach consensus on the “musts” and to weigh the “wants” accordingly on a scale of 1-10. The group solution to this decision analysis task was emailed to the instructor, and each solution was taken up with the whole class. Since the team had practiced the decision analysis process, they were now ready to apply the strategy to their own project. The remainder of class time was set aside for teams work on their project and to meet with an instructor for further guidance.
In the “Project Application/Extension” section students were presented with the next step in the design process. Students viewed a video that provideed a conceptual process analysis of methane liquefaction (one of the solutions worked on in the in-class activity). Students also had access to a text resource on designing inherently safer plants.
What is students’ engagement and satisfaction in different blended learning approaches?
- Survey results suggested that students above first-year level BL courses were statistically more engaged than in first-year level BL approaches:
- Individual motivation of students in later stages of their academic program seem to influence engagement, even when students are presumably not as satisfied with the course and/or its format.
- Interviews revealed that engagement was also boosted when students received effective ongoing instructor support, and when they were able to collaborate and interact with other students in the course:
- The opposite occurred when students struggled with ambiguous instructions (or an unclear course structure), because this often increased their workload (having to navigate large amounts of vague information).
- Survey results showed that students were statistically significant more satisfied when the online video resources were not highly produced (e.g. recorded using a laptop webcam, featured the professor in a casual setting, etc).
- Interviews corroborated that student satisfaction was mostly influenced by the quality of the online resources (and even more the online video resources):
- Students responded positively to good quality, entertaining and informative videos. They also appreciated when the professor explained the material in a more unscripted way.
- Students also highlighted the importance of seeing the instructor’s face when making videos for educational purposes, since this is a way to complement the pedagogical relationship between them and the instructor.
Taken together these results suggest:
- The importance of cultivating a relationship between instructors and students in the different mediums to promote student engagement (even more to promote student satisfaction with BL).
- And that no matter the pedagogical approach implemented instructors should always remember/aim to bolster a pedagogical connection (face-to-face and online).
What is the instructors’ experience in developing and implementing a blended learning course?
- Instructor interviews revealed that they spent an extensive amount of time (more than expected) transforming their courses into BL. Instructor experiences were permeated by the amount of time invested reflecting about the content, developing the different materials, and implementing the different activities:
- Even when they witnessed positive outcomes, having to spend so much time in the project greatly interfered with the rest of their academic responsibilities.
- Furthermore, some instructors did not have the appropriate institutional support (from their department or faculty), which both hurt their attitude towards BL and made the transition more difficult.
- These results suggest that it is vital to not only prepare instructors for the magnitude of the project they are potentially undergoing, but to also install the appropriate institutional mechanisms to support them in this process.
Do you want to know more details about our Blended Learning Evaluation? Send us an email:
L. Francisco Vargas M.
Roles of the content development team (~6 hours)
- Instructor preparation of PowerPoint slides and script. (4.5 hours)
- Instructor recording of script using Audacity (1.5 minutes)
Roles of the CTL production team (~30 hours)
- CTL production team worked on animations, highlighting and synching slides with audio recording