Setting up the systems to allow a blended learning classroom to function takes time. In the past, the first few days of class were dedicated to building student eNotebooks, signing up for my website and learning how to use the LMS system for turning in work. While important, I quickly found that students needed a "hook." I did not want to have students establish a mindset that the course was all about systems... I wanted to get them to experience the content as quickly as possible. I went through the four courses and found commonalities in content. Unit 1 started out with hands on exploration of Logic and some DJ software with a benchmark project culminating their initial studies. We worked in a more traditional format with teacher presentation, then student project activity. Only after they go their feet wet, did I introduce the eNotebook and other systems for the course. This proved to be an important change. I kept the class synchronous for the first week and taught them how to use my website effectively.
In addition, I have started to focus on setting competencies for each unit of study. The student is provided resources and project ideas to learn the competencies and demonstrate their understandings. I became much more specific about the skills and understandings and embedded a self reflective process for students to use. Students would go back in fill in the gaps of their learning and were inspired to achieve mastery based on their personal experience with the content.
This all sounds very basic, but the subtle tweaks have truly made a difference. My current students are now functioning, as learners, in a manner that once took over a month to achieve. The quality of work has improved and the focus in the classroom is better. I will need to test this again in the fall to see the variables.
Lastly, I am re-writing most of my units once again in order to provide more flexibility and choice of learning paths while improving skills through a competency approach.