Course delivery: How could tutors’ time be allocated more effectively in a blended approach to teaching?

If you’ve done any university teaching in the 20/21 academic year, you’ll likely have experienced demands on your time that significantly exceed your contracted hours. While this is in some ways understandable due to the unprecedented nature of the crisis, it is unsustainable. Team Chai’s research investigated ways in which tutors might allocate their time more effectively as a result of what they’ve learned from teaching in 20/21.

PUBLISHED ON 30th August 2021 | Photo by Rowan Freeman on Unsplash

In their review of literature, Team Chai found evidence that blended approaches call for more social constructivist pedagogies (Tynan, Ryan, and Lamont-Mills, 2015; Acar, Sharicz, and Foust, 2021; Bruggeman et al, 2021; Huang, 2018; Gregory and Lodge, 2015) pioneered through the work of Vygotsky and Piaget. Teachers help learners to construct knowledge through interaction, rather than just providing knowledge. Cutajar (2019) maps the teacher’s human roles to the affordances of technology. These include teacher-as-learner, creative actor, and empathic guide (p. 9). For many teachers in higher education, this changes what they do.

Team Chai: Rebecca Leary, Artun Ozguner, Paula Rice, Mark Sheldon and Bunny Winter

Team Chai poster

Adopting a blended approach, therefore, has an impact on teachers’ time. Increased workload is one of the main focuses (Tynan, Ryan, and Lamont-Mills, 2015; Jeffrey, et al, 2014), particularly regarding learning how to use new technologies (Gregory and Lodge, 2015; Eriksson et al., 2017). This impacts teachers’ roles because this may be in addition to their usual workload. Crabtree et al (2020) suggest that blended approaches should be introduced as a way of reducing stress for academics rather than increasing it. However, they found that a lack of institutional support had the opposite effect. Without institutional support, they suggest that the flexibility offered by blended approaches, allowing teachers to spend more time at home, will serve to decrease equity and diversity. Those whose teaching roles are more home-based will be the ‘unambitious’ who make workplace sacrifices in order to manage blended learning (e.g. women, people with care responsibilities), rather than the ‘ambitious’, who will avoid teaching situations and approaches that are more time consuming than usual.

Key findings from Team Chai’s research were that there was a significant issue regarding the increased workload created for tutors when teaching online. However, their interviews also revealed that digital technology held the potential to reduce teaching load – for example by using a recorded session to prevent a tutor having to repeat a session several times. A similar dichotomy was that while a reduction in commuting time created more time for tutors to work effectively, it also meant tutors were ‘confined’ to their bedroom and struggled to maintain effective boundaries between work and home life.

A theme of ‘interaction’ also emerged from their findings, with on-campus teaching providing more obvious opportunities for social learning. However, their findings also indicated this could be due to a lack of familiarity with how to create effective social learning opportunities and interaction online. There are clearly opportunities to design in opportunities for social interaction in online teaching, and this is a key factor that should feature in any discussion of how to move a creative course into a blended model.

Team Chai’s research highlighted the need to take tutors’ teaching experience into account just as much as the student learning experience. One innovative suggestion was the potential to create ‘teaching pods’ for tutors on campus where they could teach an online class without the need to book out a whole room. Such an approach could significantly free up demands on timetabling.

References

Acar, S., Sharicz, C. And Foust, E. (2021) Reimagining student engagement in the remote classroom environment. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences, 8(1)

Bruggeman, B. Et al. (2021) Experts speaking: crucial teacher attributes for implementing blended learning in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 48.

Crabtree, S. A. Et al. (2020) Donning the ‘Slow Professor’: A feminist action research project. Radical Teacher, 116, pp.55-65

Cutajar, M. (2019) Teaching using digital technologies: transmission or participation? Education Sciences, 9(226).

Eriksson, Y., Bjelkemyr, M., Chirumalla, K., and Schaeffer, J. (2017) Teachers’ role in blended learning: The emperor’s new clothes. Proceedings of the European Conference on E-Learning. ECEL, vol.2010, pp.163-166

Gregory, M. And Lodge, J.M. (2015) Academic workload: The silent barrier to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning strategies in higher education. Distance Education, 36(2), pp.210-230.

Huang, Q. (2018) Examining teachers’ roles in online learning. The Eurocall Review, 26(2), pp.3-18.

Jeffery, L.M., Milne, J., Suddaby, G. And Higgins, A. (2014) Blended learning: How teachers balance the blend of online and classroom components. Journal of Information Technology Education and Research. 13, pp.121-140

Tynan, B., Ruan, Y. And Lamont-Mills, A. (2015) Examining workload models in online and blended teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(1), pp.5-15.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s