Dear Queen's Supporter,
Queen’s is known for the quality education it provides, and particularly for its undergraduate education – a vital component of the exceptional learning environment provided by the Faculty of Arts and Science.
For students to learn, they need to be engaged. A new initiative of the Faculty of Arts and Science called “blended learning” aims to increase our student engagement.
Blended learning courses combine traditional lecturing with on-line material and small group work. For many years, students have been used to large classes, especially at the first-year level. While large classes do not necessarily mean a poor learning environment, they do present some challenges in terms of allowing for face-to-face contact with professors and teaching assistants.
The goal of blended learning is to increase what we call a purposeful combination of face-to-face and eLearning. With the rapid growth in new technologies and communications, many faculty are considering new ways of enhancing the learning environment. It is about adapting to today’s world – being as interactive, dynamic and flexible in our teaching as current students are in their learning.
Blended learning tactics vary by subject. In Film 110, for example, the students first watch a vodcast (video podcast) on-line, which sets out the themes for that week’s film. Links to readings are posted as well. This is followed by a brief lecture preceding the film under study that expands on the content of the vodcast. In Psychology, where the enrolment is 1,800, students meet each week in a class of 30 where they work in teams of 5. These new learning activities are augmented by the professor’s lectures which are used to inspire students.
In each case, it is the small group learning that is the most important part of the course. There, working in small groups under the guidance of a teaching assistant who acts as a facilitator, they work together to apply what they’ve learned on-line and what they’ve heard in the classroom. Depending on the class, this might mean performing an experiment, or breaking down a film scene shot-by-shot.
We’re seeing an increase in engagement. Students tell us they like the flexibility that comes with blended learning. They can collaborate with others and work interactively on the on-line portion of their courses. They can go over difficult concepts as often as they need to do so. This teaching format supports different ways of learning.
By fall of 2013, we plan to have nine 100- or 200-level courses using blended learning. This will affect nearly 9,000 students taking humanities, science and social science courses. But there are challenges. For example, blended learning demands flexible, open spaces for tutorials instead of traditional lecture halls. We need tables and chairs on wheels to facilitate group work. We need to increase the number of teaching assistants who are available to students.
Blended learning is part of our learning future, and Queen’s students are embracing this change. They all deserve the opportunity to learn in this new way. And that is exactly what your gift to Queen’s will do. I hope you will join me today in supporting the Arts and Science Innovative Learning Fund, where every gift will have a direct impact on student learning.
Dr. Alistair MacLean
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science