The layered classroom approach to teaching.
Nowadays when people hear phrase “digital education” they assume “MOOCs”, or other forms of delivering content via the Internet. However, it is clear already that online content delivery does not solve all the problems education has and needs to solve. That is why a blended approach has been developed, which also has its own deficiencies.
The essence of the layered classroom is to combine advantages of a real time on-site education with an online education.
The first layer is comprised of students participating in the live communication sessions by attending the class on a site. The number of attending students should not be large which will allow to engage all students in the teaching process.
The next layer is represented by students participating live (active participants) via different online communication means available to a date (Youtube, google+, Ustream, Periscope). One of the goals of this experimental course is to test different platforms and to find strength and weaknesses of each.
The third layer is represented by students who can observe the lesson in real time but cannot participate in the process (passive participants). Those students can post questions on a discussion board; the questions will be answered in the time after the lesson.
Each lesson also will be videotaped and placed on the Internet. The last layer is comprised of students who will be watching the videos after the class have been taken.
One of the goals of the program is to collect feedback from students on the structure of the course communication.
If a course requires lab exercises, in the middle of the course all students will attend a lab day in order to complete three laboratory exercises, to reinforce concept learned during the classes. At the end of the course another lab day will be offered to make the total number of laboratories to be equal to six (the minimum number required for premedical students).
To minimize the number of on-site labs an institution can develop or use developed various available digital resources, as well as a home-used lab kit.
Even when an institution offers only online classes, the approach can be useful, because the layered classroom model does not necessarily require actual on-site classes.
For people taking online courses seeing once in a while, even once a semester, that there are actual “living” students who study the same material, even as a short group exercise, may have a positive psychological effect. This experience will help to keep online students engaged in the learning process.
A "light" version of this activity does not involve any on-site communication; in the “light” version several students can remotely interact with each other, instead of being in the same room.
This approach also can be used as a marketing instrument.
One needs to note that the form of learning (online, on-site, blended, layered) is much less important than the substance of the learning process (lesson plans, lesson content, peer-to-peer communication, student-teacher communication).
The more flexible form is, the higher should be the quality of the substance. That requires the participation of instructors who are excellent in developing and delivering subject-related content, who are experienced guiding students, and in advising other instructors on how to develop and deliver content in other subjects.
I believe that the future of the development of the new approaches to education will be defined by young (recently established) educational institutions, because the old and well-established institutions do not have a taste for actual innovations in educational practices (e.g., read “On the science of teaching science”, or “Three Myths of The Higher Education”).
The discussion about "what is wrong with U.S. education and how to make it right" has been around for decades.
Some participants point at such exemplary educational systems as in Finland or South Korea (e.g. read this informative paper). However many publications focus only on the visible attributes of education, its form. For example, quote (from the paper mentioned above):
"In Finland, students spend around 600 hours/year in a relaxed environment, calling their professors by their first name and incorporating the arts into every subject. Finnish schools offer flexible schedules to cater to the students’ learning pace and sleeping habits."
But the authors fail to states that in order to successfully navigate such classes teachers must be absolutely fluent in their subjects well beyond the grade they teach, they need to know fundamentals of science and psychology, they have to be highly effective in communication with a diverse group of students, and also have time to professionally grow. That requires a completely different approach to teacher preparation and to teacher evaluation.
"100 percent of teachers in South Korea and Finland come from the top third of college graduates. In these countries, teaching is a competitive field with an abundance of pursuers. In America, only 23 percent of teachers come from the top third of their class".
This statistics screams that the education reform needs a new paradigm, including new approaches to teacher professional development.
The links to all six my applications to the NSF 2026 Big Idea Machine (from August 31, 2018 to October 26, 2018):
1. Entry125253: High Frequency Data Streams in Education
2. Entry124656: objective measures of physics knowledge
3. Entry125317: National database teacher PD
4. Entry124655: role of NSF in funding education
5. Entry125719: The new type of a science course for science teachers.
6. Entry126205: The development of the uniform standard for measuring content knowledge in physics.