Modern technology and the changing demands of students have forced educational institutions to find ways to deliver education. To this day, the norm is to have students enroll in classes and attend them on campus in a face-to-face setup. This is a widely practiced and accepted method of teaching. The education industry has learned to slowly adapt because of the internet and fast-developing technologies.
eLearning has been heavily utilized by universities to deliver graduate, postgraduate and non-degree programs. Delivery through an online course was convenient because students at the graduate and postgraduate levels usually have full-time jobs. Therefore, schools had to find a way to deliver a curriculum that did not disrupt the students’ working lives. Some online homeschooling programs are available, but the preference of the majority has always been in-person instruction.
A new and different approach—the blended learning approach is being utilized for students of all levels. Some call it hybrid learning because it combines principles of online learning and face-to-face classes.
The blended learning system provides a structure for learning. Like in face-to-face classes, there are goals, requirements, and assessments the students have to comply with. Although it’s more flexible and convenient, schools have ways to ensure that the students meet these goals and minimum requirements in order to move up a grade level.
Related reading: 10 Steps for Successful Online Learning
Blended Learning vs. Traditional Classroom Setup
There is some debate as to which one is better between blended learning and traditional face-to-face classes. Face-to-face classes allow students to have real-time interaction and engagement with their peers.
Schools set the routines for students: show up to school, have a morning break, back to class, have lunch, have afternoon classes, go home, and do homework. This routine is one that even our parents and grandparents grew up knowing. This method has allowed people to live more or less regimented lives.
eLearning does not take place in a classroom. It can happen at home, at a foreign country, at a relative’s vacation house, or at a cafe. Students follow the curriculum set by the school, but learning goes beyond the four walls of the classroom.
In both cases, the course content is delivered and is meant to ensure a complete learning experience for students. The main difference between the two is that of the learning platform. – one through the traditional classroom setup, the other in front of the computer.
How Blended Learning Works
Blended learning requires careful outlining of the course content, planning assessments while making sure that these are aligned with students’ developmental and learning goals. There is no fixed formula for the number of times students and teachers have to meet face to face versus the amount of time on eLearning platforms. However, here are some guidelines to follow:
- A schedule of face-to-face classes will be set in advance. All students are expected to attend
- During face-to-face sessions, teachers will take the lead.
- For eLearning sessions, teachers may deliver lessons through webinars, online lectures, or making activities that students could do independently or in groups.
- During blended learning, sessions may be conducted through synchronous or asynchronous sessions.
And so, to be able to deliver lessons effectively, there needs to be a blended learning model –a framework—to serve as a guide. Blended learning is practical and flexible, but it’s not a free-for-all. Students should not miss any learning milestones, and teachers have to be on their toes, making sure that they have enough tools and creativity to come up with engaging lesson plans.
Be Patient with the Transition
Having a solid learning management system will be advantageous to the extent that it will help manage and execute learning and teaching strategies for a specific course. Instructors who are trained in the traditional teaching principles and methods should reconsider the tools and strategies that they deployed in face-to-face classes; some of them might work in the online learning setup.
Benefits of Blended Learning
This hybrid of both the traditional and eLearning methods allows all students to experience the best of both approaches. However, teachers still take the lead by providing the course structure—they determine how often they should meet face-to-face while allowing students to have the freedom to study on their own.
Blended learning allows students to have a deeper understanding of course material because they learn at their own pace. They can devote an extra hour to reading a challenging text or solving a series of complex word problems as needed. On the flip side, they can move on quickly from a topic or that they were able to complete in a short amount of time.
Blended learning empowers students to take responsibility for their education. By working independently, students develop a work ethic and attitude that can help them transition into university and/or professional working life.
A common misconception of self-paced learning is the belief that students will procrastinate—put off studying only when it’s convenient. If anything, students have to learn self-management and self-discipline, both of which are essential life skills. Students still have to comply with requirements and take exams and assessments. To prepare for these, students have to be intentional with setting a study schedule to keep up with the demands of school, while preventing procrastination and burnout.
- Takes the best practices of both online classes and face-to-face classes and allows students to have a more personalized learning experience.
- Blended learning provides the opportunity to explore various learning tools that can be used to facilitate students’ face-to-face and online learning experiences.
- Teachers are encouraged to expand their beliefs and skills about their role in educating students.
- It is convenient and flexible for students and teachers.
- Blended learning caters to the needs of different types of learners. Some students learn best from a structured environment. Other students can learn independently.
- Students and teachers are working towards clearly set goals while exploring different ways to achieve them.
There has to be a system and structure in place to implement blended learning effectively. Here are some of the best practices that teachers, students, and school administration can do to maximize the benefits of blended learning.
- Explain the structure of the blended learning setup. This is meant to set the tone for the entire course. Explain the course outline, the dates of face-to-face classes, and the various ways to keep in touch.
- Prepare a variety of activities. Use quizzes, games, group activities using tools that can engage students. A lot of information is already available through the internet, so the last thing the students need is a lecture that will only repeat something they could have picked up on the internet.
- Explore all forms of media. Use apps and social media tools as needed, being mindful that while it can engage students, it could also be a source of distraction. Use with caution.
- Keep communication lines open, but set boundaries. Blended learning means not meeting with students daily. As such, keeping in touch is very important. Meanwhile, avoid sending emails late at night and on weekends. Try to be mindful of professional communication etiquette with students.
For Department Heads and School Administration:
- Invest in a good learning management system (LMS).
- Train the teachers and non-teaching staff (like school counselors) on how to use the LMS. Emphasize the benefits and practical use of this system.
- Conduct regular alignment meetings to assess and troubleshoot the system.
- Raise concerns about the setup, schedules, and content so that they can be addressed early on.
- Create a routine and structure. Blended learning means being able to learn at your own pace. To reap the benefits of this learning setup, students have to have a routine that will keep their minds alert and awake to do the school work.
- Get rid of distractions. It’s easy to get distracted when there are no teachers to monitor students’ behavior. This goes hand in hand with following a routine. When a student is at their study area, they have to remove any distraction to be able to focus on their school-related tasks, before proceeding to other activities.
Is this the Future of Education?
In the past, eLearning and online classes were presented as options for students who could not make it to class. However, universities limited these options to working students and those who may be abroad.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the entire education system of different countries to adapt and explore more flexible methods. At first, all classes had to be conducted online, but as the world learns to live with the virus and schools start to reopen, they need to be prepared should campus closures occur.
Depending on where you are in the world, schools that have opened may limit the number of students in a classroom, therefore at some point, students and teachers have to get used to the blended learning system environment. So schools may close, but learning should not stop.
Blended learning provides a learning experience that caters to the needs of different types of learners. By combining elements of face-to-face teaching and eLearning, students get the best of both worlds. Likewise, teachers are able to explore a different type of teaching.
Teachers and instructors are forced to reevaluate their strategies and methods (which may have focused on face-to-face and classroom instruction). Overall, blended learning is a step toward the future of teaching and learning.