Leveraging edX and Coursera for Blended Learning

Vyna SANI
Ridge View Residential College

Vyna shares the successes of offering a blended learning approach for her module through the incorporation of open online courses.

Photo courtesy of Vyna Sani

Introduction

The Workplace Readiness (WR) module, aimed at giving students an edge in the dynamic workplace, is one of three interdisciplinary offerings that forms part of Ridge View Residential College’s Year One programmes. With experiential learning as its signature trait, the module incorporates team sports such as Kin-Ball, and out-of-classroom elements such as Escape Room.

In Semester 2 of AY2019/20, the module team pivoted by offering a blended approach which accorded students greater autonomy and flexibility. As shared by Norman New, the module coordinator, “We wanted to offer different modes of delivery and leverage on the availability of edX on the LumiNUS platform”. Figure 1 below shows the lesson flow throughout the semester.

Figure 1. Flow of the lesson for the semester.

While the move to a blended approach was planned before the COVID-19 situation struck, it proved to be a winning model which the module team will continue with in the coming semester (Semester 1, AY2020/21).

What did the module team learn from the pivot to blended learning?

1. Students value both online learning and face-to-face interactions

We did an informal survey and found that students appreciated being able to “follow the course at their own pace”, especially as “the weeks after the recess week are quite busy”, and found the online learning “useful and relevant”. Still, they valued the “engaging face-to-face lessons” as it may be “hard to absorb knowledge through mostly text and videos”.   

2. Selecting appropriate edX and Coursera courses

Some considerations on content suitability include:

  • Relevance to the track: The content of the online module must complement the face-to-face workshops by offering fresh angles on the topic.
  • Alignment with module outcomes: Figure 2 shows course options on the topic of emotional intelligence. The online course by Berkeley was chosen over the course offered by University of Maryland due to its focus on the workplace context, and self-inquiry tests (Figure 3) which would add value to students’ self-awareness.
Figure 2.Screenshot of edX courses related to the topic of emotional intelligence. (edX, 2020)

 

Figure 3. Screenshot of the edX course “Self-Inquiry 03: Rational and Intuitive Decision Styles” offered by the University of California, Berkeley (edX, 2020).
  • Difficulty level: The course should be engaging and be at a commensurate level of difficulty as the workshops.

Some administrative considerations include:

  • Workload: The estimated time commitment should approximate the time-tabled lesson duration (2 hours/week)
  • Schedule: The course availability must sync with the required dates during the semester. Access will expire for some courses, and students may miss the opportunity to attend them. Solutions to address such potential problems include downloading materials for reference while access is still available, or creating a new sign-in account.

3. Optimising engagement and interaction during face-to-face sessions

Face-to-face sessions create opportunities for applicability and accountability to enhance students’ learning. The module team used these sessions to

  • offer students encouragement and troubleshoot issues
  • offer a platform for students to share what they had learnt
  • check on students’ well-being, especially when the COVID-19 situation intensified

To help the students apply what they had learnt online to the workplace context, I employed experiential learning using the Forum Theatre approach. Workplace scenarios designed by the module team form the “undesired anti-model”, which students acted out. The scenes were then re-enacted, but with some students role playing (as opposed to merely verbally discussing) their solutions. This active engagement helps students see different points for intervention and promotes a sense of agency to complement the online learning.

 

Vyna SANI is a Workplace Readiness lecturer at Ridge View Residential College. Vyna believes in utilising whole body learning methods such as games and drama with students

She can be reached at vynasani@nus.edu.sg.

References

Figure 2. edX (2020). Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved June 5, 2017, from https://www.edx.org/search?q=emotional%20intelligence&tab=course. Screenshot by author.