The best of both worlds: Integrating online and face-to-face learning

Higher education has been severely disrupted by the current pandemic, and the effect of this disruption will be felt for many years to come. The rapid shift to emergency remote teaching tested and challenged our assumptions, and provided a great opportunity for gathering insight into online teaching and learning.

Making the best of the online and face-to-face worlds was the topic of the keynote address by Professor Liz Johnson, DVCE (Education) at Deakin University, at this year’s ACSME conference.

There is much to be learned from the live, although unplanned, educational experience we all went through this year. We should capitalise on these learnings and embed them in good practice. Liz urged us to reflect on what each of the modes can and can’t do well in our own contexts, and be guided by these insights when engaging in educational design.

Liz inspired us with three insights from her own COVID-19 experience:

1. The principles for good learning are universal and should guide design in any mode of learning.
Good educational design should be informed by evidence gathered from decades of educational research which says that learning outcomes are more likely to be achieved when learning is active, when it is constructively aligned, and when it is engaging.

2. Choose the mode of learning that best supports the learning outcome intended.
Online learning has advantages. It can be asynchronous, it can occur anywhere with internet connection, and it allows for keeping records of interaction. However, personal interactions and the development of some practical skills are best achieved face-to-face.

3. Choose the mode of learning that best reflects authentic professional and scientific practice. Balance this with maximising access for learners, learning space availability and working at scale
Much of science is done online and scientists routinely collaborate online with colleagues from around the world. This should be reflected in how students learn science.
As encapsulated in the science Threshold Learning Outcomes, science graduates should understand how science works, and should know that from personal experience. What is the right balance of practical skills we should equip students with, knowing that a large majority will not go to careers as practising scientists? What modes best develop these skills?

You can watch Liz’s video presentation, or download her slides with references.