Blended Learning Best Practice
With classroom education coming to a halt, eLearning has become the new medium to deliver education while ensuring classroom quality. Technology is in charge now, and it has become very convenient for both educators and learners to interact on a personal face-to-face level without actually facing each other in person.
Blended learning is the finest amalgamation of years of classroom learning and technological advancements. It lifts the restraint of place and time and can be adjusted according to the needs of students as well as teachers. The most attractive facet of blended learning is that it incorporates the good points of both traditional and eLearning while leaving out the unattractive aspects.
The biggest drawback of traditional learning is that it requires commitment and cannot be modified. It is very rigid in conduct and requires an in-person presence. For students of this era, education is not the only thing going on in their lives.
Some are working part-time, some have enrolled in multiple courses, while some cannot attend classes every day because of a very hectic social life or illnesses. For such students, online education appeals more. But again, a completely online approach has one major drawback. Everything cannot be taught or learned via a video-call.
Blended Learning Definition
Blended learning is where both modes of education, traditional and online, meet halfway. It is a flexible method of imparting education that makes use of more than one approach and involves both online as well as face-to-face learning sessions.
Students prefer this model because it gives them more control over how, when, and where they will receive lectures. It also gives them more comfortable access to study-material. It is also known as hybrid learning and can be extremely beneficial for students who don’t function well in a social setting like that of a classroom or an isolated one, like studying from home.
Moreover, blended learning is not just ideal for educational purposes; it can also be utilized for corporate training. Online learning makes it easy for students and employees to access the course material from anywhere. Thus, they can be consistent even if they’re sitting at some café at 8 in the morning.
The instructors can record the lectures, upload the study material, schedule tests, and provide a deadline for submission of assignments that they can grade at their own convenience. And activities that are not possible online and demands real-time interaction can be planned accordingly by consulting students. This is a way of ensuring that whatever’s being taught online is being applied offline.
Types of Blended Learning
Although there more than 10 types of Blended learning, we will discuss the 5 major ones:
1. The Face-to-Face Driver Model
This model of blended learning is pretty much like a traditional classroom but uses technology as a secondary means for some aspects of learning. The online compartment of learning is comparatively smaller and used less frequently. Teachers use technology as a means to supplement classroom learning and not replace it.
If some students are facing issues in the classroom and lagging behind, they can be assisted through online learning activities. Teachers can formulate quizzes and provide a more visually stimulating approach so concepts can be understood better.
It can also help students who are fast learners but suffer from boredom due to a slow-paced classroom learning. They can indulge in interactive sessions where they can polish their skills and also enjoy the learning process. Computer labs and projectors at school or a personal computer at home are the mediums through which the face-to-face driver model is implemented.
2. The Online Driver Model
This model is the exact opposite of the face-to-face model, and all communication between students and teachers is done via the online mode. This mode of eLearning is growing very rapidly as it has made education accessible even to people living in remote areas.
It also suits people suffering from some physical disability or chronic illness and cannot visit the campus in person. Students with full-time jobs or those living in different countries can also enroll in courses based on the online driver model.
This mode of learning is a great opportunity for students who prefer to work alone and without distractions. Instructors can formulate online quizzes, assign projects, and schedule tests. Then the data collected from these activities can be used to infer the individual progress of each student.
Most students have a good grasp of technology and are clearly more oriented towards this method than the traditional one. It allows for a broader reach of education while giving the opportunity to control the time and place of education to students as well as instructors.
3. The Flex Model
This type of learning involves both online and offline sessions but relies heavily on the former. The teachers only facilitate the learning process and are not as actively involved.
While the instructors can be consulted anytime through email, chat, or voice calls, the learning process is entirely done at the student’s liking. The learning material is provided online, and the courses are also pre-recorded. A deadline is provided to complete the course as well as for the assignments and the tests.
The students have the option to decide the time and place of learning, making it easier for them to complete other tasks simultaneously. It works best for those learners who cannot maintain regular attendance or have part-time jobs to support their families or their education.
It is also ideal as a long-distance education method, and students living in distant places can benefit greatly from it. The meetings can be arranged with mutual agreement between students and teachers. This method is also ideal in a pandemic situation where students and teachers are at high risk and cannot meet regularly.
4. The Rotation Model
This model, as the name suggests, oscillates between face-to-face meetings and online learning sessions. It employs the age-old learning-station model where one station would be in a traditional classroom setting and the other in an online one.
This way, the students get the best of both worlds. They get to work on the social and interactive aspects of life and choose to learn at their own pace. It gives a fair chance to students who are not quick learners as the study-material is accessible online and can be comprehended at a personal speed.
It also has more involvement on the part of the instructors, where they can integrate workshops to help students apply what they’ve learned. This also helps the teachers to access the progress of the class, and students who need to do more work can be personally assisted.
The stations can be adjusted according to the students also. A station with face-to-face meetings can be held for students who need help in a certain subject, and the students who are doing well can carry on with the online station.
5. Self-blend Model
In this model, the students enroll in multiple courses that can be pursued either online or offline. A student attending a particular school/college by daytime can take up an online course where he will study in the after-school/college hours. This way, even the courses that are not offered in that school/college can be studied.
They can also take supplementary courses to help with their ongoing studies and attain a better understanding and grades. This works best for unconventional learners who do not rely much on instructors and study-material provided by their institutions.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Here are some of the benefits that blended learning offers for students, instructors, and organizations.
Freedom and Flexibility
The most attractive aspect of blended learning is the flexibility it provides to the students as well as the instructors. All that’s needed is a computer and a working internet connection to access the study-material.
In models that rely heavily on online modes, there is no restraint of time or place, and the students have the freedom to learn from anywhere and anytime. This broadens the reach of learning and gives a chance even to those who have full-time jobs or other liabilities.
Personalized Pace of Learning
With blended learning, the students learn at a speed they’re comfortable in, and thus this learning is self-paced. There is ample time for students to review their work and study thoroughly. There is no pressure to respond instantly. The students have time to research and submit quality assignments.
Thus even those students who cannot keep up with other students in the class also get a chance to showcase their hard work. Thus it is an empowering way of imparting the learning experience where instructors also get a chance to work efficiently at their own pace, without the pressure that a traditional setting puts on them.
Availability of Information
The material shared on an online platform is always available, and the students have the power to look-up any information anytime and from anywhere. The reach of online education is broader and can be imparted from anywhere to anywhere on the globe. Students also get a chance to do offline asynchronous learning through DVDs, TVs, and all other electronic devices that can store information.
Any student can access the notes, videos, or audios, which otherwise wouldn’t have been available for them. Blended learning in crux offers a more unified and comprehensive opportunity for learning.
Improvement of Communication Skills
The amalgamation of different approaches broadens the spectrum of experience for students as well as instructors. This versatility helps in the overall development of communication and social skills. Some students are not able to ask questions in-person because of social maladjustment or anxiety.
They get a chance to directly ask queries through email, chat, and other online communication means. Instructors can host zoom meetings, chat-room sessions, online discussions, and even organize traditional meetings to ensure that students don’t feel isolated from each other.
The blended mode of learning is very cost-effective, both for learners as well as organizations. It will involve the cost of commuting, accommodation as well as classrooms. The organizations do not have to worry about providing facilities to the instructors or students.
There is no need for a huge infrastructure as students will learn from their preferred places while teachers will teach from theirs’. It also saves resources and is environment friendly. The wastage of paper, pen, and other stationery can be decreased at a striking rate.
Since learning is operating on two fronts, students and employees engage in more productive work on various levels. Variation means that more students and employees will engage in learning and show progress in results. This efficiency will be reflected in work done by employees for the organization.
Also, it will be reflected in the grades that students will attain from their educational institutions. The organizations can make use of webinars, zoom-calls, and group discussions and boost interaction and engagement.
Easy Management and Supervision
Since all the data collected is in the online mode, it’s comparatively easier to store it. Also, it's easier to keep track of it. For computers, assessment is an automatic task, and the instructors can easily check which student is excelling. They can also check which student needs extra help.
The data collected can also be used for assessing how successfully the model is working. This can help in determining whether the current model is the right choice or should it be replaced. The internet has numerous tools that provide automatic results, and thus no information can be misplaced or miscalculated.
Dynamic Learning Experience
A model such as the Flex model offers a very dynamic learning experience as there is real-time interaction. Also, there are brain-stimulating online exercises. Students engage in collaborative activities and learn team-work. Employees also learn how to work collectively. They also learn to pursue success not only on an individual level but for the entire team.
Moreover, the inclusion of technology into learning also helps the learners in building a better understanding of the technology itself. Thus, there’s an impact of multiple levels on the overall progress and outcome, regulated by instructors accordingly.
Drawbacks of Blended Learning
Misjudgment in Choosing the Right Model
One of the biggest mistakes that one can make in a blended learning venture for their organization/institution is choosing the wrong model. The model should be determined by the kind of students that are going to take up the course. Their preference should be of central importance, and if they are more technology-oriented, then the model adopted should also be the same.
The instructors should also be provided with the right environment and work-load. If the students desire more learner-instructor interaction, then offline meetings and zoom call sessions should be held more frequently. There should be a balance between the online as well as offline stations to ensure a smooth flow of learning experience.
Poor Tech Skills
Since online education opens doors for students from all parts of the world, not all students would be equally equipped for online sessions. Therefore, before enrolling a student in the course, it should be ensured that he/she is well versed in basic computer skills. They must have an internet connection and all-time accessibility to the study-material.
The institutions can help students by making instructional videos on how to go about the online course and the basic equipment required. Some students can even fall prey to unintentional copying from the internet and land in serious trouble. Everyone should be thoroughly educated about ethical and unethical activities on the internet and how they should always give references if they have taken something from somewhere.
Since students have more control in blended eLearning, time-management is a crucial quality. Some people show patterns of procrastination, and when there is no restraint of time and discipline, people tend to pile up the work.
Assignments, tests, and quizzes should be scheduled and conducted in such a manner that students do not get a chance to neglect their work. The results and assessment of students should also be done frequently to identify those who are running behind.
If the course relies heavily on the online mode, students can easily get distracted and eventually lose interest. The learning activities shouldn’t be executed in such a manner where students feel secluded.
Some students function well in a more social setting, and thus, interactive sessions should be made a crucial part of the course. Thus, the students should be kept motivated and frequent teacher-students discussions are a great way of doing that.
Implementation of Blended Learning through Webinars
Since it has been established that a blended model of learning is an effective one, implementing it is the next task. Since it is a fresh concept, not everyone will adapt to it as quickly. Also, instructors would require prior training before initiating the teaching. Even students would need instructional videos on how to access the course and consume the information.
Here are a few tips on how to successfully execute a blended learning course that ensures success for the organization as well as the learners.
The very first step would be to devise a plan by keeping in mind the preferences of the students and the instructors. This plan should incorporate both positive as well as negative aspects of learning. This is implemented so that a counterplan can be devised for each pitfall. Then there is the question of funding. Although eLearning is comparatively cheaper, it still requires a proper financial source to survive. The next step would be to create the online content you’re going to offer through your courses.
The more interactive and interesting the lessons are, the easier it would become for students to learn. This, in turn, would attract more learners, and the course would gain popularity. Finally, choose the perfect LMS (Learning Management System) that facilitates your course.
Webinars have proved to be a great tool for instructors to hold discussions and impart lectures. The choice of your Webinar should depend on the size of your class and their learning needs. Webinars can be conducted through Zoom, AnyMeeting, Google Hangouts, and many more tools available on the internet.
You have to choose the one that suits all your needs and integrate it with your LMS. This way, you can schedule the learning sessions and keep track of the attendance of the students. Also, you can easily monitor the course and data from all areas.
Blended learning is still a budding concept and has yet not been completely accepted in the education world. Blended learning best practice has a lot to offer as it provides the best of both traditional and online modes. This model offers additional support and opportunities for students as well as organizations.
It has been rightly termed as hybrid learning as it is an advanced and balanced alternative to the classroom and online learning methods. Moreover, it has the ability to drastically impact education systems all around the globe.