So here we are: you’ve successfully deployed Open edX, you’ve organized all of your videos, questions, and PDF into successful courses in Studio, and your learner engagement is going swimmingly. All the effort has paid off. But then one of your learners gives you a piece of feedback: “the course content has been great but we’d love for the option to connect with you for a live session!”
You think to yourself, “a live session?” You invested in deploying this LMS for best-in-class eLearning and now they’re asking you for live sessions at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen. What are you supposed to do?
Well, have no fear: this article will give you a couple of quick and easy steps so you can begin offering blended learning right alongside your traditional eLearning courses directly via Open edX. We’ve already covered blended learning and the best practices of implementing blended learning in your LMS, but let’s get a little bit more specific to Open edX.
Organizing Your Course Content
Some courses are entirely synchronous while others are entirely asynchronous. Still, others are somewhere in between: that’s blended learning. Even within blended learning, you still have to consider how you will be delivering your content. Not just in terms of technology–which we’ll cover shortly–but also in terms of the overall pedagogy.
So let’s begin with a simple question: what is the live or synchronous component of your eLearning course? This can tell us what you’re delivering that requires your course to be blended. Maybe the content is a mandatory live session attended on-site and in-person or maybe it’s an optional Webinar delivered via Zoom every Thursday, for example.
Once you know what will be live (i.e. happening at a specific time), you can begin to organize your course content and course outline around those items. As you create your course, you’ll start with your Course Outline where you can add in your Sections, Subsections, and Units; these are the building blocks of your course. You can add in a Unit (i.e. an individual page of course material) or multiple Units as placeholders before adding in the Component that will eventually become your blended learning material.
LTIs and Course Components for Blended Learning
Components are the individual blocks of content within your course. When combined, multiple Components make up unique pages of content for your Learners to interact with. So this begs the question: what Component(s) do you need to use for blended learning?
As mentioned in the previous section of this article, you may have in-person sessions. If you do, how do you plan to have that tracked or graded within Studio? You could use an attendance tracking and verification tool like Proctortrack. Or you can come up with a crafty way to track attendance. Back in my college days, one of my professors would show an image randomly in the middle of a lecture and the students who attended would have to respond to a multiple choice question at a specific time, asking what the image was.
Now, this method is not as foolproof as using an attendance tracking system but if you set up your Grading, Visibility, and Schedules correctly, you can set up this kind of attendance verification easily, quickly, and at no additional cost.
How about something more practical than pictures of purple elephants during a 7 am course? What if you could integrate a live webinar or video conferencing tool directly into your Open edX courses? With LTIs, that is possible. An LTI, which stands for Learning Tools Interoperability, is sort of like an API that connects external platforms to your LMS. You probably already know that one of the most popular video conferencing solutions today is Zoom but did you also know that the Zoom LTI is one of the most popular ways to integrate blended learning into your course?
With the LTI Component Type, you can embed your Zoom sessions directly into an individual Unit inside of your Open edX course. The Zoom LTI will allow your Learners to seamlessly watch the video conference while simultaneously allowing your Instructors or admins to proctor that Zoom session from within Open edX Studio.
If you’re not a fan of Zoom, consider checking if your preferred video conferencing and webinar platform is LTI compatible. If you’re looking for something open source, you can also consider BigBlueButton and its Open edX connectivity. As a bonus, the latest releases of Open edX have even more support for LTIs, making this feature that much more robust.
Using Pacing in for Open edX Blended Learning
Inside each course is the Schedule and Details page. These settings can allow you to add in two critical functions for your Open edX blended learning courses: pacing and scheduling.
In Open edX, you have two options for course pacing: Self-Paced Courses and Instructor-Paced Courses. When people think of online courses or eLearning, they’re typically thinking of Self-Paced Courses: all of the content in a course is available (with or without prerequisites) but the Learner taking that course can access it at any time; there is no specific schedule for when the course material can become available. This means that one Learner can complete an entire course in one sitting while another Learner can take days, weeks, or even months as desired.
Instructor Pacing, on the other hand, means the Instructor or Course Creator can schedule the material. Specifically, they can go to the Course Outline and schedule Sections and Subsections to be released on specific dates at specific times. So Instructor Pacing, you can have the live sessions in your course follow a specific schedule to complement your blended learning requirements. This is great for turning your eLearning course into an Instructor Led Training inside delivered through Open edX.
Scheduling for Open edX Blended Learning
Another feature of the Schedule and Details page is the schedule options. We just went over using Instructor Pacing and scheduling your Sections and Subsections but there are other, critical dates that your Open edX blended learning course should avail. The Course Start Date is a natural requirement but you can optionally leverage a specific Course End Date as well.
But more importantly, how about specific enrollment dates? With an Enrollment Start Date, you can ensure that your users can begin registering for your courses before the Start Date. I would also recommend including an Enrollment End Date. The combination of an Enrollment Start Date and Enrollment End Date ensures that there is a specific time frame in which your Learners can register for the course.
This is important because your live sessions may be following a specific schedule; you want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make it to that first scheduled session on time while also ensuring that no one is so late to the course that they miss critical content that was delivered live. Ultimately though, this section is optional but can make your Open edX blended learning course a little bit more organized.
That said, with the Zoom LTI mentioned earlier, you can also enable recordings of your live sessions that are included and accessible from within your Open edX course.
Get Started with Open edX Blended Learning with Edly
That’s it, with just a few settings and basic integrations, you can enable live sessions for blended learning throughout your Open edX course. The steps above (assuming you’ve already integrated the LTI XBlock) can be configured in five minutes per course. That’s less time than it probably took to read this article. You can blame the length of this article on me.
If you’re looking to get started with blended learning in Open edX, Edly already has out-of-the-box support for LTIs, we’ve successfully integrated both the Zoom and BigBlueButton and deployed the solutions for our customers. Our in-house product experts and course authoring team are available for no-obligation consultations to add this kind of polish and more to your course. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today to see how Edly can help you build your Open edX blended learning courses today.