HGP 100


HGP 100 (Cultures, Landscape & Geographic Space: An Introduction to Human Geography & Planning) is an introduction to geographical techniques and the spatial organization of human landscapes and the significance of the distribution of human activity.

Blended learning approach

The rationale for transforming this course into a blended format was to engage students in critical and discovery-based learning, as well as ensure a sustainable model for future course delivery. The overall blended learning approach was to develop short, research-based online learning components related to current faculty research and linking these with course content. One weekly traditional face-to-face lecture was replaced by online learning. The new content focused on six cognate areas of Geography & Planning.

Content development team
  • Theresa Garvin, Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
  • Leith Deacon, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
  • Robert Summers, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Sample week in the course

The course followed a Monday/Wednesday/Friday course structure. The topic for this week was Spatial Models. The week began with a face-to-face lecture on Friday with all student groups. The following week, students attended a seminar on either Monday or Wednesday, depending on their assigned student group. On their non-seminar day, students engaged with online learning. All student activities and resources were available on eClass.

For the online learning component this week, students viewed three videos about “Distance Decay”, “Central Place Theory”, and “World Cities”. After watching the videos, students posted their responses to subsequent questions on a designated discussion forum entitled “Spatial Models Discussion Board”. There was two reflective question per video. For example, one of the questions related to the Distance Decay video was “How can the distance decay curve be used to illustrate the spatial expressions of supply and demand on the economy?” Also, the instructor posted a screencast summarizing the content of the unit.

The face-to-face learning this week consisted of a lecture and a seminar. Students began their week by attending a traditional lecture on Friday. The slide presentation used in the lecture was posted on eClass. Then, students attended a seminar session the following Monday or Wednesday led by a teaching assistant, depending on which student group they were assigned. During this seminar, the instructor visited each classroom, which increased personal contact with students. The students discussed two upcoming assignments and then worked with their groups on a World City activity. In this activity students were given descriptions of different cities and were asked to determine why or why not these cities are “world cities.”

General results from all cycle 1 blended learning projects

What is students’ engagement and satisfaction in different blended learning approaches?

Student Engagement

  • Survey results suggested that students above first-year level BL courses were statistically more engaged than in first-year level BL approaches:
    • Individual motivation of students in later stages of their academic program seem to influence engagement, even when students are presumably not as satisfied with the course and/or its format.
  • Interviews revealed that engagement was also boosted when students received effective ongoing instructor support, and when they were able to collaborate and interact with other students in the course:
    • The opposite occurred when students struggled with ambiguous instructions (or an unclear course structure), because this often increased their workload (having to navigate large amounts of vague information).

Student Satisfaction

  • Survey results showed that students were statistically significant more satisfied when the online video resources were not highly produced (e.g. recorded using a laptop webcam, featured the professor in a casual setting, etc).
  • Interviews corroborated that student satisfaction was mostly influenced by the quality of the online resources (and even more the online video resources):
    • Students responded positively to good quality, entertaining and informative videos. They also appreciated when the professor explained the material in a more unscripted way.
    • Students also highlighted the importance of seeing the instructor’s face when making videos for educational purposes, since this is a way to complement the pedagogical relationship between them and the instructor.

Taken together these results suggest:

  • The importance of cultivating a relationship between instructors and students in the different mediums to promote student engagement (even more to promote student satisfaction with BL).
  • And that no matter the pedagogical approach implemented instructors should always remember/aim to bolster a pedagogical connection (face-to-face and online).

What is the instructors’ experience in developing and implementing a blended learning course?

  • Instructor interviews revealed that they spent an extensive amount of time (more than expected) transforming their courses into BL. Instructor experiences were permeated by the amount of time invested reflecting about the content, developing the different materials, and implementing the different activities:
    • Even when they witnessed positive outcomes, having to spend so much time in the project greatly interfered with the rest of their academic responsibilities.
    • Furthermore, some instructors did not have the appropriate institutional support (from their department or faculty), which both hurt their attitude towards BL and made the transition more difficult.
  • These results suggest that it is vital to not only prepare instructors for the magnitude of the project they are potentially undergoing, but to also install the appropriate institutional mechanisms to support them in this process.
Resource development details for this week

Roles of the content development team (~45 hours)

  • Develop and edit the script based on course materials.
  • Prepare the presentation for the in-class lectures.
  • Formulate questions for the discussion forum.
  • Organize and supervise the seminar sessions.
  • Prepare a summary screencast of the contents reviewed in the unit.

Roles of the production team (~135 hours)

  • PowerPoint and copyright checks
  • eClass development (uploading videos, setting up discussion forums)
  • Drafted script and storyboard based on course materials.
  • Recorded and edited the voice-over using Audacity.
  • Produced videos using PowToons and Camtasia.
  • Made video edits based on feedback from the content development team.
  • Finalized videos (remove noise from audio, etc.) and shared files with Instructor Team.
  • Facilitated Screencast-o-Matic training.

[Click here to see a breakdown of how much it took the CTL production team to make each of these three videos]

Tools & additional information
  • PowerPoint slideshow presentation program
  • Yeti microphone
  • Audacity digital audio editor
  • PowToon cloud animated presentations
  • Adobe Photoshop graphics editor
  • Camtasia Studio screen recording and video editing
  • Screencast-o-Matic video screen capture software
  • Moodle learning management system