The pros and cons of different teaching modes

The benefits and challenges associated with four key modes of instruction, on-campus, blended, hybrid and fully digital, alongside a framework for ‘e-tivities’, presented by Gilly Salmon

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Education Alchemists
12 Dec 2022
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A guide to effective digital course design and delivery from four online teaching experts
Research on effective digital course design and implementation

Key Details

This video will cover:

01:38 Blended and hybrid learning: the pros and cons

02:53 Fully digital learning: the pros and cons

03:59 A framework for learning e-tivities


Hi, my name is Marcus and welcome to Recess. Today we’re co-hosting this lecture with Education Alchemists. That’s because we’re joined by their principal consultant Professor Gilly Salmon. Gilly is a world-renowned thinker, researcher and practitioner in all things learning futures.  

She presents and writes blogs on pedagogical transformation and innovation. She has over 33 years of experience of transforming higher education in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Today, Gilly is here to talk to us about five very important steps. Thank you Gilly.  

Oh thanks for that introduction Marcus. Hello everyone, I’m delighted to tell you about five key concepts to help you with the digital aspects of your learning and teaching.

So, first of all, familiarity with location – and by location I mean both campus and in-situ – and I’ve put pros and cons here. I’m not going to go through them all in this video but you can have a look, and the references will help you to understand them.

But each one of these four modes of learning I’m going to show you really does have pros and cons and you need to know what they are before you’re going to say, “Oh I’m not going to have any digital” or “I’m going to be 100 per cent online” or “Oh we’ll do hybrid, we’ll do blend.” You need to know a little bit more about them.

Blend: a lot of people think it’s the best of both worlds, but it is actually less equitable for some, especially if it’s expecting people to turn up on campus. A big benefit of combining asynchronous and synchronous learning is that, God forbid, we get another pandemic or people can’t come to campus or to the workplace for some reason, then they will at least be able to have synchronicity built in. We’re doing it digitally.

Number three is hybrid. A lot of you tried hybrid teaching, I’m sure, during the pandemic and it still has some good choices for students, so if they can’t travel to a place, and it gives them good choices, you can use existing resources.

But it actually has quite a few disadvantages, usually for the people who are remote. Our natural thing is to focus on those who are in front of us, so what we’re working on with hybrid now is to have bridge-building people, invent managers if you like, to make sure everyone’s included.

And fully digital – a huge number of advantages. Obviously, you can reach out and get a very much larger student body and that has diversity in it, which needs to be designed into your teaching. It’s popular with employers, you can often break things up into chunks and have some micro-credentials.

It’s really good for learning analytics but it does really need a specialist redesign. It doesn’t work if you try and transfer campus-based teaching to online.

You also need people who understand the delivery, I call them e-moderators in my terms, but they’re the tutors, the teaching assistants, who are the face for the students throughout the delivery of the learning.

And you really need to recruit for volume, people usually ask me, well, how many students makes it worth it? At least 100, ideally a lot more, and that means marketing is expensive to reach those numbers. 

I’m going to very briefly show you the framework, but there are lots of other ways that you can follow it up. I write books about it, it’s on my website. I write blogs and so on. 

It must be purposeful. Everything you ask them to do as an activity aligns with assessment and feedback. One set of instructions, one message and very clear timing. I know I’m pushing the timing but it is important, the research shows.  

And then what you do is give them a spark to start the activity – not read all of this book or do all of this activity, but just something that entices them in – and then, this is important, make sure that each student contributes an individual response to the spark before you go into them working together.

And then you should, if you can design these e-tivities right, just come in to give the summary and the feedback at the end.

And that’s really important that you do that, but you should not need to keep going in all the way through the activity going on.

Gilly Salmon is the CEO and principal consultant at Education Alchemists. She spent 30 years working in higher education in the UK and Australia as a professor of education futures and pro vice-chancellor.


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