Top Resources for Blended Learning

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Many faculty and instructors want their students to make more use of technology, in-class, between classes, or instead of some classes to accelerate and deepen their learning.   

This is a quick guide to some recommended resources that can support blended courses, as well as online and in-class learning.

Information Management and Sharing

  • Evernote is a free information management system that allows students to take notes in many formats, including voice, text, photo, and handwritten, as well as save web pages, and store them on their devices or in the cloud. 

Students can keep all their research information in Evernote, and can make these public for their instructor and others to view. Evernote has apps for all mobile devices, and users can sync information across all devices instantaneously.

  • Diigo is a free knowledge management tool supporting the creation of digital highlights and sticky note annotations on websites; the capacity to build a personal library in the cloud that includes personal annotations; the option of tagging or list creation for organizing information; the choice of labelling each piece of stored information as public or private; and the creation of a group knowledge repository with your class. Documents in the group repository can be read and annotated individually or can be shared, annotated, and discussed synchronously.
     
  • Dropbox provides digital content storage for text, images, and video that can be accessed from computers, phones, and tablets. Access to a specific site can be limited to class registrants who can safely download their assignments for grading. The basic service is free; there is a monthly fee for more extensive storage space. Many institutions subscribe to Dropbox. 
     
  • Google Drive lets you store your files on the web and access them through any device, automatically updating and coordinating files across your devices whenever you have Internet access. Storage of up to 15 GB is free; for more space, a monthly fee is charged. You and your students can share files, folders, and Google Docs from any device, on a one-to-one or group basis.
     
  • Google Docs is a free web-based tool that allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with each other in real time. It is part of a suite of tools including Google Sheets for collaborative preparation and editing of spreadsheets and Google Slides for presentations.

Collaboration using Blogs

  • Blogger, Google’s free blog platform, provides an opportunity for collaborative blogging. It takes just 5-10 minutes to set up a blog, give permission for anyone in the class (or just some) to post to the blog and create an interesting space for a class to share ideas, insights, and new material, including video. 
     
  • WordPress.com is a blog platform that is simple to set-up and maintain; the basic platform is free, with upgrades available at various costs. It is easily customizable, with multiple free plug-ins, and simple social media integration that can be activated or turned off. Access is possible from iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and BlackBerry devices.

Collaboration using Wikis

  • Wikispaces Classroom is a free and secure social writing platform especially designed for education to create a classroom workspace in which faculty and students can work together or independently to create and edit documents, as well as make them available to others. Assessment tools allow faculty to monitor activity and provide feedback, assistance, and encouragement to students.  

Communication

  • Twitter is a free online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read “tweets”, which are text messages limited to 140 characters. An entire class can follow you on Twitter where you post ideas, information, news and links to new material for instant access. Twitter can be a great tool for “backchanneling” during lectures or research projects, allowing students to ask questions that many people can answer. You can also provide students with a list of people they should follow (provide their Twitter signature or hashtag) so that they can collect ideas from leaders and others with an interest in the course content.
     
  • TodaysMeet is a great tool for creating “backchannels” for student questions during class meetings or as a chat room for students to use asynchronously. No account or sign-up is necessary. On the TodaysMeet site, you name your room, choose how long you’d like it available, and send the link to whomever you’d like to have access. It’s also a useful application for public note-taking, brainstorming and sharing ideas. Unlike Twitter, TodaysMeet exchanges are limited to invited participants.
     
  • Wiggio is a free tool for group organization that can be used for virtual meetings and conference calls; to create group to-do lists and assign tasks; to send e-mails, text, and voice messages; to manage events with a shared calendar; to poll groups in real-time, and to upload and manage files in a shared folder. All the tools are in one place and easy to use.

Individual Magazine Customized to Course Topics

  • Zite is a free, self-generating, personalized magazine available with an iPhone or iPad, Android devices, or Windows 7 enabled devices.

An instructor can advise students which topics related to the key themes of the course to enter into Zite’s customize feature. Topics should be restricted in number so as not to overwhelm students with responses. The number of topics can be expanded or reduced at any time.

Once the student has entered the topics, every time Zite is opened, it finds the most recent related material available on the web and delivers it directly to the student’s device. Zite searches publishers, the social web, and individual posts to find content.

The students read articles of interest and can ask Zite to find them ‘more’ or ‘less’ sources like this, e-mail the link, post the link on their Facebook page or share it via Twitter. Articles can also be stored to read later as Zite doesn’t store articles, but refreshes at each use.