chalkboard in classroom

Modalities

Although the name of this website is Designing for Online Learning, the principles of online course design can be applied in courses that are not conducted fully online. In fact, there are three course modalities that make use of online components to the course.

Technology-Enhanced Face-to-Face ParadigmThe first modality to consider is the traditional classroom where teacher and students meet together in the same physical space. In this scenario, less than 10 percent of in-class time is conducted online or via technology. However, a teacher might want her students to make use of electronic copies of course documents or other online resources like articles or videos. She might also want to encourage her students to collaborate with each other using online tools like discussion forums or Google tools (Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc.) as they work on a group project. Or, a teacher might want her students to take quizzes or submit papers online so she can grade them digitally and her students have access to a digital grade book. A learning management system can effectively enhance a face-to-face classroom by providing a repository for online resources, a place for students to collaborate, and a way to facilitate digital grading.

Blended ParadigmThe second modality to consider is a blended classroom where between 10 and 90 percent of the class time occurs online and the rest of the class time occurs with the teacher and students meeting in the same physical space. There are many reasons why a teacher might choose to utilize a blended paradigm for a particular course. One reason is to provide greater flexibility to the learners. This might be a compelling reason if the learners are adults with busy work schedules, or if the learners have long commutes to campus. Another reason a teacher might choose a blended model is so that she can leverage the strengths of both online and face-to-face models as she designs the course. Another reason to choose a blended model would be if a teacher is using a flipped classroom approach where the instructional material is delivered online and the face-to-face classroom time is focused on application and integration of the course material.

Online ParadigmA third modality is the online classroom. In this scenario, at least 90 percent of in-class time is conducted online or via technology. This could be a fully online approach where all instruction, coursework, and support is provided online. But there are also online approaches that include limited local support. This might be a case where students come to campus to use a physical library or other student resources, but the primary teaching and learning occurs online. Other online approaches include a separate mentorship track where the student may be remote from the physical campus, but is connected with a mentor who meets with the student periodically to track his progress as he moves through the program.

Although we have described the three modalities as choices that can be made for each course, it is also possible to think about programs that are characterized by these three modalities. There may be programs that are fully face-to-face or fully online. However, it is also possible for programs to include courses drawn from more than one of these paradigms. A well-designed program will take into account the strengths and weaknesses of each modality to determine which courses in the program would be best served by each modality.