What is a blended classroom?
Before we can dive into the definition of a blended classroom, it’s important to clarify what blended learning is. Blended learning is an approach to learning that makes use of both traditional classroom learning and online learning. So, what does blended learning look like in the classroom?
A blended classroom allows learners to study at their own pace. By combining online and in-person components, learners will have more flexibility in how they approach their learning materials. As an instructor, the whole process can seem somewhat overwhelming at first, particularly if you have decades of experience in just face-to-face learning. So, we’ve compiled our top tips for creating a blended learning classroom design and applying this learning approach. With these tips, you should be able to create a course that’s not only effective but will enable you to create the perfect blended classroom.
10 tips to create a blended classroom design
We’ve put together our top tips to help you create a blended classroom:
Consider your rationale
Ensure the reason you decided to pursue a blended learning approach remains central to the strategy you design. For example, if your goal was to better cater to your learners’ different learning styles, make sure your strategy addresses this.
Keep learning objectives in mind
Your learning objectives should also be accounted for in your blended classroom. Before you start, establish a clear picture of what your intended objectives are for your learners, and be sure to include them in your strategic design.
Think about what your learners want
Because your learners are the ones who will be participating in your classroom, it’s important to think about the experience you’re creating for them as you design your strategy. You can also follow up with them by surveying them on their experience. This can help you understand your learners more and help you tailor your learning content to their needs.
Ensure your components work well together
Remember, the end goal of designing a blended classroom is to help your learners achieve the intended learning objectives. This means each component you add should continue to complement the others. Whether you’re adding an online course, in-person lecture, or a take-home quiz, ensure all the various components of your blended classroom work together effectively.
Don’t be afraid to start from scratch
When you have existing learning materials – especially ones you’ve been using for a long time – it’s easy to simply repurpose them for your new blended classroom. But we suggest avoiding this shortcut and, instead, giving your blended classroom design a fresh perspective. This means it’s okay to get rid of old lesson components in favor of something new that may resonate with your learners better.
Choose tools according to your trainers’ and learners’ needs
There are many digital tools out there for creating learning content. Keeping your goals in mind as well as your learners’ and trainers’ needs will help ensure you pick the right tools. For example, if you’re applying an Employee-Generated Learning approach where subject matter experts in your organization will be creating learning content for their peers, you’ll need a user-friendly authoring tool. Complex authoring tools meant for instructional designers might not be suitable.
Value all parts of your blended classroom design equally
If you’re new to blended learning, it can be easy to dedicate too much effort to the classroom parts of your strategy. But remember the meaning of blended learning is more than just adding online aspects to your existing in-person material. It’s important to spend just as much time crafting a thoughtful online approach to help your learners achieve their objectives.
Make room for collaborative learning
Collaborative learning can help enhance your learners’ experience significantly. Consider how you can include opportunities for your learners to collaborate with each other in your blended classroom design.
Test your new blended classroom design
Once you’ve created your new blended classroom design, it’s worth testing it out to identify any pitfalls and room for improvement. This is particularly important if you’re launching a large-scale strategy that will impact many in your organization, and especially if it’s the first time.
Reassure your learners and management
If your organization is new to blended learning, it’s also important to reassure your learners and management of its effectiveness. Sharing data on the benefits of a blended classroom can help alleviate any skepticism in the organization.
Insider best practices for your blended course design
Next to the 10 tips mentioned above, we’ve also compiled some insider best practices to help optimize your design:
In recent times, we have seen many instructors simply stick some online learning onto their traditional face-to-face courses whilst hoping for the best. If you do this, you might not see the best results because you need to approach it with a different mindset. Rather than being an add-on to your course, the two types of learning should be integrated with one another to form a well-oiled machine.
If we use an example, some courses will take place on a Wednesday and then two days later on Friday. If done correctly, the content on Friday should complement what happened two days earlier and build on what was learned. Essentially, the second day should always solidify knowledge but in a slightly different way; perhaps you want to apply it to a real-life example rather than keeping it as a purely theoretical process. On Friday, you then want to preview what will happen the next Wednesday and so on.
Content v Mode
When building a blended learning course, you need to understand the difference between content and mode. With content, this explains the instructional materials including lectures, assignments, and readings. On the other hand, mode describes the method in which the information is provided such as discussion boards, textbooks, videos. When you differentiate these two factors, you can soon work out which is the best form of delivery for the end-user. Lectures, for example, they can be given both inside and outside of class using online resources. If the interaction is important during the lecture, you might decide to go for in-class lectures because you can include various activities and peer instructions.
Plan Learning Time
Finally, we recommend planning when each piece of learning actually occurs within your blended course design. When feedback is required or you would prefer the learners to work together to build on their knowledge, this will need in-class sessions. With homework, reading, and these tasks, learning can take place at home. Essentially, you want to build a learning map of when and how they will learn each step of the process. By doing this, you almost control their progress whilst offering sessions to build on knowledge after the initial learning.
Blended classroom models
Finally, consider the different blended classroom models below for structure:
In a flipped classroom you flip the normal educational structure, and the homework will be done in class and the lesson will be followed at home. This way the teacher will be able to focus more on helping the students apply the content and focus more on the higher-level learning skills. At home, via an e-learning course, the students learn at their own pace, repeating or fast-forwarding through the lesson as needed.
One organization using Easygenerator in their blended learning approach is LECOM. At LECOM, one way that they flip their classroom is by using Easygenerator to create an e-learning course that can include readings, videos, questions, and quizzes, which the students take at home. Then when they come back to class they:
- Discuss the training
- Are given another quiz
- Break into groups to discuss a given scenario
- Break into groups to discuss questions given them in the e-learning
- Discuss the questions as a group
This method allows the learners to study the preliminary material/lesson before the actual training session. This pre-teaching, or pre-onboarding, enables the learners to stay prepared and avoid repetition of the basics in the classroom. Consequently, the trainer’s time can be used for discussion and queries during class time.
To improve the quality of the learning of your students, you need to make sure there is retention. What the students learn fades away in a short period of time. To retain what they have learned, repetition is needed. E-learning is an easy solution to deal with this issue. To check and guarantee retention, create an online course or test.
Electrolux is another organization using Easygenerator in their blended learning design plan. Electrolux incorporates e-learning into its course design in the following ways:
- Preparation before face-to-face training – to ensure attendees have the same base level of knowledge
- Repetition after face-to-face training – to ensure that key lessons learned do not succumb to the forgetting curve
For many, the blended course design process is one filled with stress and it can take up to six months. Therefore, you must always remain patient and determined because the results will come if you do it correctly. If possible, have tests continuously so you can receive feedback and keep improving the course. If you do this and follow the tips above, there is no reason why your blended learning course can’t be a hit with the learners.