Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
There is no doubt that the disruption brought on by Covid 19 marks a tipping point for Extension education. Even if the pandemic magically went away or we have a safe vaccine, it is clear that our traditional model of education must include digital engagement in order to reach a rapidly changing clientele needs. Last week we discussed online collaborative learning thories. In this installment of Next Step to Success we will discuss a more integrated model that could effectively serve Extension educators needs.
Anderson’s model assumed that none of the instruction is delivered in traditional, face-toface mode, and so excluded blended learning models that have some face-to-face component (Picciano, 2017). Is it possible, therefore, to approach the search for an integrated model for online education from the face-to-face education in general or even the blended learning perspective?
Bosch (2016), in a review of instructional technology, identified and compared four blended learning models using twenty-one different design components. These models emphasized, to one degree or another, the integration of pedagogy and technology in course design (Picciano, 2017). Among the models was a Blending with Pedagogical Purpose Model (see Figure 1), developed by Picciano (2017), in which pedagogical objectives and activities drive the approaches, including the online technology that faculty members use in instruction (Picciano, 2017). The model also suggests that blending the objectives, activities, and approaches within multiple modalities might be most effective for, and appeal to, a wide range of Extension clientele. The model contains six basic pedagogical goals, and approaches for achieving them, to form learning modules (Picciano, 2017). The model is flexible and assumes that other modules can be added as needed and where appropriate. The most important feature of this model is that pedagogy drives the approaches that will work best to support clientele learning (Picciano, 2017). The modules are also shown as intersecting but this is optional; they may or may not intersect or overlap depending upon the approaches used. For instance, some reflection can be incorporated into collaboration or not, depending upon how the collaborative activity is designed (Picciano, 2017). It might be advantageous to have the collaborative groups reflect specifically on their activities (Picciano, 2017). Similar scenarios are possible for the other modules. Equally important is that all the modules used blend together into a coherent whole. The following paragraphs briefly review each of these modules (Picciano, 2017).
Figure 1. Blending with Pedagogical Purpose Model adapted for Extension education.
Content is one of the primary drivers of instruction and there are many ways in which content can be delivered and presented. While much of what is taught is delivered linguistically (Extension educator speaks/clientele listen or Extension educator writes/clientele reads), this does not have to be the case, either in face-to-face or online environments (Picciano, 2017). Mayer (2009) conducted extensive reviews of the research and concluded that learning is greatly enhanced by visualization. In the academic world certain subject areas, such as science, are highly dependent upon the use of visual simulations to demonstrate processes and systems (Picciano, 2017). Course/learning management systems (CMS/LMS) provide basic content delivery mechanisms for blended learning and easily handle the delivery of a variety of media including text, video, and audio (Picciano, 2017). In providing and presenting content, the Blending with Pedagogical Purpose model suggests that multiple technologies and media be utilized (Picciano, 2017).
The Blending with Pedagogical Purpose model suggests that instruction is not simply about learning content or a skill but also supports clientele socially and emotionally (Picciano, 2017). As noted, constructivists view teaching and learning as inherently social activities. The physical presence of a Extension educator, in addition to providing instruction, is comforting and familiar (Picciano, 2017). While perhaps more traditionally recognized as critical for K-12 students, social and emotional development must be acknowledged as important to education at all levels (Picciano, 2017). While fully online programs have evolved to the point where Extension educators can provide some social and emotional support where possible and appropriate, in blended programs this is more frequently provided in a face-to-face mode (Picciano, 2017).
Dialectics or questioning is an important activity that allows faculty members to probe what students know and to help refine their knowledge (Picciano, 2017). The Socratic Method remains one of the major techniques used in instruction, and many successful Extension educators are proud of their ability to stimulate discussion by asking the “right” questions to help clientele think critically about a topic or issue. In many cases, these questions serve to refine and narrow a discussion to very specific “points” or aspects of the topic, and are not meant to be open-ended activities (Picciano, 2017). For dialectic and questioning activities, a simple-to-use, threaded electronic discussion board or forum is an effective approach (Picciano, 2017). A well-organized discussion board activity generally seeks to present a topic or issue and have clientele respond to questions and provide their own perspectives, while evaluating and responding to the opinions of others (Picciano, 2017). The simple, direct visual of the “thread” also allows clientele to see how the entire discussion or lesson has evolved (Picciano, 2017).
Reflection can be incorporated as a powerful pedagogical strategy under the right circumstances (Picciano, 2017). There is an extensive body of knowledge on the “reflective teacher” and the “reflective learner” dating from the early 20th century (Dewey (1916), Schon (1983). While reflection can be a deeply personal activity, the ability to share one’s reflections with others can be beneficial (Picciano, 2017). Pedagogical activities that require clientele to reflect on what they learn and to share their reflections with their Extension educator and clientele extend and enrich reflection (Picciano, 2017).
Collaborative learning has evolved over decades. In face-to-face classes, group work grew in popularity and became commonplace in many Extension educational activities. In the past, the logistics and time needed for effective collaboration in face-to-face classes were sometimes problematic (Picciano, 2017). Now, email, mobile technology, and other forms of electronic communication alleviate some of these logistical issues. They are seen as important vehicles for creating knowledge and content, as well as for generating peer-review and evaluation (Fredericksen, 2015).
Evaluation of learning is perhaps the most important component of the model. CMSs/LMSs and other online tools and platforms provide a number of mechanisms to assist in this area (Picciano, 2017). Other online evaluation tools such as Qualtrics can be effectively utilized to conduct summative and formative evaluations.
The six components of the model described above form an integrated community of learning in which robust interaction, whether online or face-to-face, can be provided and blended across all modules (Picciano, 2017). Furthermore, not every Extension educational activity must incorporate all of the activities and approaches of the model. The pedagogical objectives of a course should drive the activities and, consequently, the approaches (Picciano, 2017). For example, not every course needs to require collaborative learning or dialectic questioning (Picciano, 2017).
By incorporating several of the components from other theories and models discussed earlier in this series, this is a possibility. Figure 2 presents a Multimodal Model for Online Education that expands on the Blending with Purpose approach and adds several new components from Anderson and others, namely, community, interaction, and self-paced, independent instruction.
Figure 2. Multimodal Model for Online Education.
The concept of a learning community as promoted by Garrison, Anderson & Archer (2000) and Wenger and Lave (1991) is emphasized in this multimodal model. A course is conceived of as a learning community (Picciano, 2017). It is understood that interaction is a basic characteristic of the community and permeates the model to the extent needed (Picciano, 2017). Perhaps the most important revision suggested by (Picciano ( 2017), is the addition of the self-study/independent learning module. In this model, self-study/independent learning can be integrated with other modules as needed or as the primary mode of instructional delivery (Picciano, 2017). Adaptive learning software, an increasingly popular form of self-study, can stand alone or be integrated into other components of the model (Picciano, 2017). This Multimodal Model of Online Education attempts to address the issues that others, particularly Terry Anderson, have raised regarding elements that might be needed for an integrated or unified theory or model for online education (Picciano, 2017).
To provide a clearer understanding of the integrated model, several examples of its application follows. Figure 3 provides an example of the model as a representation of a self-paced, fully online course. The three major components [in green] for this course are: content as provided online, a self-paced study module, and assessment/evaluation. Other components of the model, such as a discussion board to allow interaction among clientele could be included but are not necessarily needed. This example is most appropriate for online programs that have rolling admissions and clientele are not limited by a specific time frame. Clientele proceed at their own pace to complete the course as is typical in some distance education programs. This example is scaleable and can be used for large numbers of clientele.
Figure 3. Example of a Distance Education Course.
Figure 4 provides an example of another course that is primarily a self-paced, online course similar to that described in Figure 3 but is designed to have an Extension educator available as needed. A discussion board is also included to allow for ongoing interaction among clientele and Extension educator. This course would follow a scheduled time frame such a six weeks.
Figure 4. Example of a Modified Distance Education Course.
Figure 5 provides an example of an Extension educator-led, fully online course. Presentation of the course content is provided by Zoom or You Tube video as well as other media and is used as needed by the Extension educator. The discussion board, and reflective exercises provide for interaction among Extension educators and clientele, clientele and clientele, and clientele and content. In this course, the Extension educator could direct clientele to watch a fifteen-minute lecture available on You Tube and then ask clientele to respond to a series of questions on the discussion board. Clientele responses can then be used as the basis for an interactive discussion board activity among clientele, guided by the Extension educator. The model also provides for reflection and collaborative activities.
Figure 5. Example of a Teacher-Led Fully Online Course.
Figure 6 provides an example of a blended Extension educational course with instruction provided primarily by an Extension educator. The other modules are used to add value or augment face-to-face instruction. The Extension educator is the major guide for instruction and would be supplemented by online content. The course would meet in a traditional face-to-face setting although some instructional activity would also be conducted online, either on a discussion board, reflective exercise, or a collaborative activity.
Figure 6. Example of a Mainstream Extension Blended Course.
In this series of articles, a number of major theories related to technology were presented, beginning with a review of major theories associated with learning. One critical question concerned whether an integrated or unified theory of online education could be developed. The work of Terry Anderson was highlighted and a proposed integrated model that described the phenomenon of pedagogically driven online education was presented. Key to this model is the assumption that online education has evolved as a subset of learning in general rather than a subset of distance learning. As blended learning, which combines face-to-face and online instruction, evolves into the dominant form of instruction throughout all levels of education, it serves as the basis for an integrated model.
Anderson, T. (2011). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd Edition). Edmonton, AB: AU Press.
Bosch, C. (2016). Promoting Self-Directed Learning through the Implementation of Cooperative Learning in a Higher Education Blended Learning Environment. Johannesburg, SA: Doctoral dissertation at North-West University.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.
Fredericksen, E. (2015). Is online education good or bad? And is this really the right question? The Conversation. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/is-onlineeducation-good-or-bad-and-is-this-really-the-right-question-35949.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
Picciano, A. (2017). Theories and frameworks for online education: Seeking an integrated model. Online Learning, 21(3), 166-190. doi: 10.24059/olj.v21i3.1225.
Schon, D. (1983). Reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Wenger, E. & Lave, J. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (Learning in doing: Social, cognitive and computational Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.