Education is changing rapidly in the face of evolving technology, new learning models, and post-COVID social distancing requirements. In the midst of these changes, a new model of learning has emerged: blended learning. Both higher education and corporate learning are utilizing blended learning models to improve how people learn. Blended learning promises to give students more flexibility in their learning experiences, and is being rolled out at Fortune 500 companies, top business schools, and high schools alike.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is highly context-driven and a relatively new way to approach classroom learning, as well as learning in general. It is a teaching method that involves integrating digital technology with traditional teacher-led classroom activities, leading to more customized learning experiences for students. Blended learning allows a student to learn part of the time away from home and part of the time online.
Research has shown that blended learning is effective in boosting engagement, reducing failure rates and improving learning.
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Blended Learning Examples
Video is the most common technology used to provide blended learning – who by now has not been part of a class or training on Zoom? One popular platform that provides blended learning is Khan Academy. It has been used by individuals to focus on individual topics or even to prepare for college entrance exams, such as the SAT. Khan Academy is even used by teachers in their classrooms to augment face-to-face instruction.
To give you an example of blended learning in action, let’s look at a learning model known as “rotation.” With rotation, teachers have a specific curriculum that each student must complete. Students will rotate between in-class instruction and online learning to complete the curriculum. We’ll look at several other models later.
Advantages of Blended Learning
One of the biggest advantages of blended learning is that students have control over the pace at which they work and learn. If they understand a concept, they can move on to the next concept. In a traditional setting, they may have to wait for the majority of the class to grasp a concept before being able to move on to the next one.
Another perk of blended learning is flexibility over when students can do their work. Students can take advantage of the time of day they are most productive. Additionally, students have a choice over where they do their coursework. Assuming they have access to the digital platform, they are free to work where and when they choose.
However, blended learning is not used just in classroom settings. Organizations have embraced it for its effectiveness in professional training and development – including with us! All of the aforementioned benefits apply for employees as well. They may choose to learn when and where it works best for them.
Blended learning is not without notable concerns. Some fear that students will not be self-motivated enough to focus on learning with the allure of Instagram and readily available online games on their devices. Others worry that some students will not receive the dedicated time and attention they need to address learning challenges.
Teachers also need to be taught how to effectively lead students through blended learning – as anyone who has sat through a boring online lecture can attest, it takes a different skill set to teach via a different medium.
Blended Learning Models
Even though there is not one universal definition of blended learning, there are specific blended learning models identified by educators and researchers alike, including:
- Online Driver – In this model, students check in with teachers, but complete coursework entirely online. Teachers may be available either virtually or in person.
- Face-to-Face Driver – This model involves the educator driving instruction while augmenting with digital tools (how we run our university and corporate trainings)
- Flex – Similar to the Online Driver model, educators are available to consult either online or face-to-face, and most, but not all instruction is provided online.
- Self-Blend – In this model each student uses online instruction at their discretion to augment their existing classroom learning.
- Labs – This model involves students applying knowledge together in a specific physical location, but they learn online via a digital platform.
- Rotation – This model involves students rotating through traditional face-to-face classroom time and self-paced online study.
The type of information that must be conveyed and learned will dictate how much autonomy a learner should have to master a subject.
Learning with Staying Power
The benefits of blended learning are tremendous. Blended learning allows students to learn at their own pace. Research has shown that it is more effective than traditional classroom learning – it still allows students to interact with teachers and educators, but students get to work on their time and from anywhere.
The continued implementation of blended learning will reduce educational costs by allowing universities and companies to scale their teaching efforts. The education industry has been ripe for disruption for decades, and we are now seeing decades worth of changes in a matter of months.
Blended learning is the future of learning – like it or not, you’ll be experiencing the model firsthand sooner rather than later.
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