Friday, October 18, 2013

Experiencing the Strengths and Weaknesses of an Asynchronous Course: Week 6 reflections

In a shortened week, students completed an exploration, took notes on a video, conducted an online lab and a majority of students needed to catch up and/or take last week's Moodle quiz. 

So far, I've focused on the benefit of the asynchronous flip in the context of students moving ahead. But now I'm seeing the benefits of allowing students to work at a slower pace. The most obvious benefit is for absent students. We are approaching a notorious time of the school year for illnesses. Some students have missed multiple days. Sure, a good number return to school behind the schedule but a few haven't missed a step. In the traditional model, all of these students would be behind. But some of my sick and/or absent students were able to watch videos, take notes and even complete problem sets at home. I rarely have to schedule individual tutorage outside of class time. This week's #eduwin is the number of absent students who were able to remain on pace, courtesy of the flipped class. Just as important, since I run an asynchronous class, these students aren't forced to make unreasonable demands of themselves. One student has mapped out a plan to add small chunks to his nightly homework assignments to "catch up" in a week.  

It's interesting how some students get ahead during one week and a different set of students get ahead in other weeks. As of today, four students are a week ahead. It was wonderful because I paired up these excelling students with the students who did not pass the last Moodle quiz. It was a great sight seeing my students provide the one on one tutoring to their classmates that I typically do in class. Aside from using these students as peer tutors, I'll start to recruit lab assistants from this consistently ahead crowd. Again, these opportunities only existed because of the flipped class.

I still have not worked in synchronous full class activities and discussions. On a related note, I want the beginning and ending of each class to have clear routines. I loathe to take time away from my students working on assignments because they have been effectively using this time. However, I worry about the frenzied pace of the class and wish to avoid a "study hall" feel. The combination of synchronous discussions and activities with clear daily routines at the start and closing of each class should help with these issues. Since my students work independently, the first few minutes can be used for students to decide and record their goals for the period, then assess their progress at the end of the period. This could help their metacognition and executive functioning. I suspect most students are doing just fine without this requirement but it might uncover poor habits in some students. It will also build in a way to begin and end each period with silence, a major value of our school and a way to slow the frenzied pace of the class.