The challenge of creating and developing professional development programs for teachers engaged in online learning and instruction has become one of the central concerns in modern education (Levine, 2007; Dede, 2009). New and emerging technologies continue to transform our notions of what we teach, how we teach, and even where teaching and learning take place (Ghezzi, 2007; Lin, 2008). This rapid influx of online technological innovation into educational environments promises both spectacular learning opportunities and daunting instructional challenges (Spector, 2002). This issue is reflected well in a quote from Mishra & Koehler (2006):
… there is no single technological solution that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching. Quality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate, context-specific strategies and representations.
I propose an ongoing project that will review the efforts of different instructional teams and individual instructors as they engage in the design and implementation of new course designs based on a central concept: synchromodal learning environments (SmLE). A SmLE is an educational context in which the students and the instructors gather in both face-to-face (F2F) and online (hybrid) modes, either as a group or distributed among multiple locations, for a class conducted in real-time (synchronous).
As a matter of practical data access, most of the course models described will be doctoral level. These models are in various stages of development, and a number of them have histories that pre-date their current iterations as SmLE designs. Nonetheless, their aims and goals are consistent with any well-crafted educational experience, to create and make accessible high quality learning opportunities to the participants involved. However, SmLE instructors face an additional challenge: educational experiences need to be offered simultaneously to students both in an on-campus classroom setting, and in off-campus sites around the country and even around the world. And while it is true these models for learning and instruction share a number of common technological elements, my proposed project will examine how instructors, using their “understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy”, produce creative instructional designs and complex learning dynamics in formal educational settings.