TRU launches new blended learning human services program

Thompson Rivers University North is developing some new initiatives for next year’s classes in the Human Service Program.

  • Jun. 24, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Tara Sprickerhoff

Tribune Staff Writer

Thompson Rivers University North is developing some new initiatives for next year’s classes in the Human Service Program.

Four classes in the program will be taught next year with a style of delivery called “blended learning.”

“Blending learning is taking the best of what is available online and taking the best of face to face in classes and putting it together,” said Jay Goddard, a professor and program director for the Human Service Program.

Each course will be delivered differently, using the same concept of blended learning — some courses will have a week in the classroom at the end of the course applying the concepts learned through internet assignments, others will have a mix of classroom time and online research or experiential assignments to do with the topics students are learning.

“We picked four different models and we thought, we’re going to try them. We’re experimenting. It’s our first time through,” said Goddard.

Professors, including Goddard, have taken workshops and done research on the blended style approach to learning and will integrate it into their classrooms as they see fit.

“I am sure some things are not going to work for us and that we’re going to have to change. But one of our goals is that once we’ve developed a blended learning model, that it will stay as a blended learning model,” he said.

The professors will also work closely with students, trying to identify what styles of blended learning work for them.

At the beginning of the year, first year students will attend a mandatory three day orientation. The orientation will include an introduction into the work they will be doing. Occasionally, Goddard said, there have been students who opt out of the programs because they are not ready for the type of work, both in the community and in the school, they will be doing.

The orientation will also include an introduction to computers and the type of software and internet knowledge students will need to take the blended learning programs.

The last day of orientation will be a group building day, “so people feel like they belong.”

“One of the reasons [blended learning] really works is that you are able to build a cohort. You are able to build this idea that people will work together and then they will work together online,” said Goddard.

Also new to the programs this year will be a partnership between Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Each student will be required to be a mentor to a younger student through the program.

“We’re moving towards an experiential model of teaching,” said Goddard. Experiential learning means that students will have as much experience in the field as possible before graduating. Classrooms will also be structured less around lectures and more around hands-on learning

Blended learning,  said Goddard, “allows you in class to not spend all your time conveying information.”

“There are people online who can teach about a topic far better than I can,” he said. “I have many more options I can present to [students] than me covering material.”

Goddard hopes that if the pilot classes this year work out, more classes will switch to blended learning models. The models allow students who are working or who live farther out of town to take classes or start their degrees. By only having one week of classes, or fewer days in the classrooms students only need to book off work or make it into town for a short period of time. The rest of the course they can do from home or after hours.

Goddard said he’s excited about the new models. “As much as I’ve got all this knowledge in my head, it’s never real until you do it.”

Goddard also hopes blended learning will increase enrolment and bring new attention to the small campus.

“It’s the way of the future,” he said.

 

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