Mind-blowing developments in science and technology across the globe have affected countries, societies, and economies, as well as the schools and education systems established to foster a new generation of people that are going to be ready for further turmoil. The most significant changes that occurred in recent years can be explained by the development of information and communication technologies.
Moreover, the developments in the educational sector have had direct consequences on the way the educational process is organized. As the result of never-ending challenges in the world, it has become crucial to reconsider the whole purpose of education, the content of education programs, as well as the role of the school as a learning organization. It has also become important to educate individuals equipped with the skills required in a recent couple of years.
All these developments have also influenced the learning-teaching theories, and new theories, models, and approaches or new paradigms have been introduced. The pandemic has significantly exacerbated the need to employ them as things were changing fast.
In this article, we will look closer at the blended learning process, its origin, and how it affects the educational process.
What is blended learning?
According to the Pennsylvania State University definition, blended learning combines face-to-face “methods with computer-mediated activities to form an integrated instructional approach”.
Blended learning, which is also referred to as “hybrid learning,” is a way of learning that combines live instruction with digital learning tools for independent practice. High-quality blended learning supplements live tutoring (either virtually or in-person) with adaptive software, which modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance to support student learning.
A studying course might include online discussions, tutorials and research activities, and student responses to a podcast or video. The variety of online and face-to-face combination activities is almost infinite and is limited only by the teacher’s imagination.
Blended training can be approached in multiple ways, whether in business, higher education, or commercial training offerings. For several businesses and organizations, it helped to support all activities during the pandemics and effectively became a lifeline.
Here are some examples of how it works.
6 types of blended learning
1. Station Rotation model
The Station Rotation model allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is an online learning station. This model is most common in elementary schools because teachers are already familiar with rotating in “centers” or stations.
2. The ‘Flipped Classroom’ model
The Flipped Classroom model flips the traditional relationship between class time and homework. Students learn at home via online coursework and lectures, and teachers use class time for teacher-guided practice or projects. This model enables teachers to use class time for more than delivering traditional lectures.
3. Lab Rotation model
The Lab Rotation model, like a Station Rotation, allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule. However, in this case, online learning occurs in a dedicated computer lab. This model allows for flexible scheduling arrangements with teachers and other paraprofessionals and enables schools to make use of existing computer labs.
4. Individual Rotation model
The Individual Rotation model allows students to rotate through stations, but on individual schedules set by a teacher or software algorithm. Unlike other models, students do not necessarily rotate to every station; they rotate only to the activities scheduled on their playlists.
5. Project-based model
Blended project-based learning is a model in which the student uses both online learning and face-to-face instruction and collaboration to design, iterate, and publish project-based learning assignments, products, and related artifacts. It may be used either in the form of courses or self-directed access.
What software you may need to implement those models?
There’s a huge variety of remote learning software that helps both teachers and students to run the process smoothly.
For example, some of them represent an AI-based platform that provides adaptive questioning to assess students’ knowledge of a subject (no multiple-choice, only free response questions). After the assessment, the platform provides students with topic choices based on prerequisite knowledge, then offers practice problems.
Gamified educational platforms contain game-like elements to a standard, routine process to make these processes more engaging and enjoyable. High-tech companies and organizations often employ gamification in their employee training programs as it increases engagement, increases knowledge retention, and decreases training costs.
Moreover, data analysis programs automatically pattern incorrect answers on student assessments. They identify students’ strengths and struggles and measure instructional effectiveness.
While the scope is broad, software tools are not the only thing that matter. Before educational institutions dive into the adoption of this approach, it is quite important that they are well aware of the positives and negatives, so that they can make an informed decision and are prepared to deal with all the obstacles on their way. Here’s a deeper look at several pros and cons of hybrid learning both for two sides of the process.
Benefits for teachers and students
Blended learning environments allow students to access a variety of media for multimodal learning. Teachers can use videos for visual learning, podcasts for auditory learning, and hands-on activities for kinesthetic learning. Multimodal learning engages students in learning in multiple modalities to reinforce concepts and help students learn more quickly and profoundly than when information is presented in a single mode.
2. Social atmosphere
Online learning components such as synchronous chats, question and answer sessions, asynchronous case studies, and group work give all students, especially those who tend to be quiet in face-to-face classrooms, the opportunity to speak up in a safe and open learning environment. Moreover, group collaboration can be easily facilitated by allowing students the ability to share files, create discussion threads, and participate in virtual chat.
3. Track participants’ skills and performance
Teachers can review each individual’s time spent on a task, gather meaningful insights from student data generated on online apps, and determine effective activities and the ones which need improvisation. Modern microlearning software provides customizable charts with automatic grading capability
Challenges of blended learning
1. New course design
One cannot simply take an existing offline course and just make it an online one. The teacher should identify which content would best be presented face-to-face and which content would be presented online for a blended course. He must also decide how best to change the presentation of current materials for the online learning environment.
The decision is to align course learning goals and objectives with instructional strategies, activities, and assessments that work best in the online versus face-to-face learning environment.
2. IT literacy
The lack of basic understanding of the online tools and technologies may become a significant barrier for teachers. Technical training and support are a must for them in the first instance.
Although the instructor creates the blended learning environment, the technology takes center stage as students interact with technology through its delivery, accessibility, flow, content, and activities. Thus, it is a complex task for developers to make a novice-friendly educational software equipped with every feature users might require.
3. High costs
Last but not least is the cost of development and implementation of hybrid learning technology in the educational environment. The incorporation of advanced technology for blended learning in schools may require building an infrastructure from scratch, its setup, investment in devices, additional training for education personnel, and other unforeseen costs.
With the changing times, going digital is the need of the hour.
Since blended learning helps online learners to have more autonomy and responsibility for carrying out the learning process, students more often distinguish which behaviors help them learn and apply those strategies in a proactive way. This awareness is a key practice for any student’s success.
Author – Egor Bulyhin, CTO at Smart IT, speaks on social media around the world focusing on software development strategy for Fintech, Healthtech, and other hi-tech areas. A former Project Manager and Lead Software Engineer, Egor practiced for more than 15 years on multiple IT projects before sharing his experience.