This semester has been the most interesting one I have had for awhile. The main reason for this, I think, is the fact that we decided to make the ESL courses “blended”, with have the class hours done face to face and the other half done online using Moodle. I have been really fascinated by the use of technology in my classes for several years now, so this has been an exciting step.
So far it seems to be working quite well. My students seem to think they are being overworked, but they always had that opinion. What I see is that they are becoming more responsible for themselves and their learning. The transition hasn’t always been easy, but for the most part it hasn’t been bad.
Even before decided to put the classes online, I had decided not to use blogs with my students this semester. I wrote about that here. I am very glad that I made that decision. I have used Moodle’s forum feature extensively with both my reading and my writing students. (That’s like BlackBoard’s Discussion Board, for those who don’t know.) It has taken time, but they are learning to reply to each others’ posts. They are having discussions that, increasingly, don’t involve me. I am so excited by this fact that I am thinking about incorporating blogs again in the spring. Part of it, I know, is that my doing the work of putting the classes on Moodle, I have spent more time thinking on creating good assignments. That was part of the problem before; my assignments weren’t quite right considering the responses I was hoping to get. Now my assignments lend themselves more to discussion. I have not made any definite decisions about this yet, of course, but I see it as a distinct possibility. I just need to think more about what I think they would gain by blogging rather than using a forum. I want to be clear about the reasons for switching before I do it.
So all in all, I am pretty happy with how things are going. The students also seem to be happy. We are off to a good start.