The Complete Guide to Blended Learning

In recent years, there has been one theory in both education and the business world gaining traction perhaps above all others; blended learning. As a result, we have seen various different terms being used such as flipping the classroom, blended education, hybrid learning, and many others. However, they all come down to the same theory which sees the combination of face-to-face and online learning. As time goes on, the debate over its effectiveness is sure to keep going but one thing is for certain; the introduction of technology has challenged the way in which we teach and learn inside (and outside) the classroom. Today, we want to dig a little deeper and really get to grips with the theory in question to see if we reach a solution or overwhelming opinion. What is Blended Learning?

What is Blended Learning? 

Although we touched upon the basic premise of blended learning during the introduction, opinions vary as to how it should be installed and to what extent technology should be introduced. If we were to define hybrid learning in a general sense of the term, we would suggest a combination of traditional and online lessons. One would then do this in a scheduled manner to enhance the learning of each individual. Essentially, whatever definition we use, we are suggesting that technology now plays a larger role in the classroom. Rather than supplementing education (as it has done for many years), technology is now heavily involved in the learning process.

Moving forward, we should perhaps be careful with the term though as a teacher can’t just set up a chat room for the class and suddenly be a blended learning teacher. For blended learning to be successful, the two sides must complement each other and the material becomes dynamic. Nowadays, the internet and technology offer different ways to reach students so teachers must utilize this. Whenever online learning is used, it must progress the students’ understanding of a topic.

 Current Trends

If you’re wondering why there is still so much uncertainty surrounding hybrid learning, this actually comes from the sheer amount of options professors have at their disposal. For example, the most common solution is some form of course/content management system (CMS) such as Moodle or Blackboard. With these in place, students can watch videos, interact with colleagues and teachers, track their assignments, and access various resources whether it is online articles or presentations.

Of course, professors tend to use different CMS platforms and even the ones that use the same platform vary greatly in how they integrate the process into the classroom. While some professors use online teaching within the classroom, others prefer to alternate between the classroom and online learning at home. More recently, we have seen a move towards ‘flipping’ which sees students start a topic online at home before then confirming this learning in the classroom with the professor.

 Flipping a Classroom

With a flipped classroom, the basic understanding takes place away from the classroom and students already have this before a professor can utilize their skills and knowledge in reaffirming the knowledge in class. Rather than wasting time going over the basics and asking students to progress at home, this flipped environment allows for a more long-term understanding. From a student’s perspective, they can come into class the next day with questions prepared rather than leaving the classroom with questions that cannot be answered at home.

In terms of the online learning itself, this could come from notes, presentations, lectures, and various other course materials. As another advantage, each student can take their time learning the basics rather than having to match the speed of their peers. From here, the lessons in class can be more hands-on and the professor can take the topic to the next level by engaging the whole class in discussions and providing support. According to experts, this allows the student to take control of their learning and it gives the professor a better opportunity to share the extent of their knowledge rather than just the basics.

 Does it Work?

With all of this information in mind, there is one question left to answer ‘does it actually work’ and this is a question that’s asked every day all around the world. To start, we should note that not all students learn in the same way because we are all unique and respond to different techniques. Of course, this isn’t exactly news to any of us but it is vital for blended learning. In fact, it is important for all learning and it is a fact utilized by Sesame Street and many other children’s programmes on TV.

Whilst some students learn through listening, others need visual or kinetic learning before really understanding. From children to adulthood, we don’t lose the way in which we learn most effectively yet traditional college classrooms are still failing to meet the demands of certain students.

Above all else, this is the biggest benefit blended learning has to offer. Since students have control over their learning, they can access the resources right for them. For example, they could choose to read a dozen articles or watch a video depending on what they enjoy. In a face-to-face lesson, this option just isn’t afforded and those students who require interactivity are being left behind.

 What’s the Catch?

Finally, is there a catch to all this? Well, there is no educational model that will ever be ‘perfect’ for absolutely every single student. Therefore, the success of hybrid learning will depend upon several factors including the commitment of the teacher, the willingness of the student to learn at home, and a clear sense of expectation from both sides. Since this will be a new environment, clear communication is vital and students need to know what is expected of them in order to succeed.

Over the next few years, it should be an exciting time for the education industry as more students and teachers embrace the philosophy. Over time, we will learn more about blended learning and how to utilize it effectively. This being said, there is certainly a significant amount of promise and a real feeling that this could change the face of education.

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