A Conversation with Sheila Potts about her use of Blended Teaching

We sat down with Sheila Potts MSRE, CCIM, to hear how she uses Blended Teaching in her Real Estate classes, and how it's impacted her, and her students.

1. Can you tell me the story of how you came to start using Blended Teaching?

I met Phil at the ARES conference and he was talking about how the platform was going to be a replacement to the textbook giving students a place to access video content. I was thinking about my Commercial Real Estate Finance class, that we don't use a textbook for. 

I spent a lot of time going over the same topic multiple times, trying to get the students to understand how to do the modeling. Having to repeat something five to ten times because some students were lagging behind others was an incredible time sink in class.

I thought that there must be a better way to utilize that time. The videos on the Blended Teaching platform do just that.

2. Was there a particular reason why you didn't have a textbook for the class?

I haven’t found a textbook that's anywhere near able to cover the breadth of the topics that we cover in class. There isn’t one single textbook that covers Excel modeling, leases, valuation, and all of the other subjects we cover in the class, and I'm not going to give students a resource that is a waste of their money.

If I'm going to give students a resource it has to be worth their time and effort to use it.

3. How do things differ now that you have Blended teaching?

Now that students are able to go through the resources at their own pace, and recap the material when they’re not clear, it definitely speeds up the class.

I tell students they need to watch the videos before coming to class so they have a background on what we're going to be covering in class. Whether a student actually has or not is obvious when they come to class, because they're asking questions that should have already been answered for them in the video. Those that aren't using Blended Teaching are losing out on an incredible resource 

4. Do you see any differences between the students who do use the resources, compared to those that don’t?

There’s an immense difference in progression and performance on assignments. You can split the students into two groups. Those that understand the material when they're in class, and those who don’t.

The students who understand the material in class don't need the videos so much. Those that don’t get the material in class go one of two ways. They either don't watch the videos (and they are the ones who are starting to look like they're not going to pass the class). The way they go is to commit to watching the videos. For those that do, you see a huge improvement in their performance.

5. Has it changed the way that you teach your classes? 

I use Blended Teaching in a somewhat supplementary way, but it does change how I approach the class because now I don’t need to repeat myself multiple times in class. If somebody asks a question that I answered 20 minutes ago, I can tell them to watch Blended Teaching. That student can then watch the videos at their own pace, and catch up without it slowing down the rest of the class.

6. Was there anything in particular that you were hoping to get out of using Blended Teaching when you when you first started to use it?

I thought that it would only fill the need for my Commercial Real Estate Finance class, but we're actually going to be using it in two more classes that I teach. It’s great that we're expanding our use of Blended Teaching because I don't have great textbooks in one of those classes either, and the book used in the other one doesn't update fast enough. Real estate laws and rules change quickly, and textbooks don't change fast enough! 

7. Are there any specific elements of the platform that were particularly valuable for you?

The diversity of the people that are covering topics in Blended Teaching. Students get great instruction from professors from all over the country in one platform, bringing a diversity of teaching styles and diversity of thought to the students.

8. Do you have any advice for new Educators planning to use Blended Teaching for the first time?

Dive in, watch the videos, pick what you really want, and what fits your topic best. There are so many resources that you can piece together to build your Classbook. You can design it to fit your specific use-case, and in a way that works with your teaching style, unlike a textbook, that only partially fits what you are teaching.