What Is Blended Learning?
Education is no longer about listening to instructors, taking notes in class and doing homework. With rapid digitization, we’re currently…
June 23, 2021 | 7 mins read
Education is no longer about listening to instructors, taking notes in class and doing homework. With rapid digitization, we’re currently living in an age of innovative education. In other words, technological innovations are at the heart of the new wave of learning. Whether it’s academic institutions or corporate learning environments, rapid adoption of technology has transformed how we learn. A key learning model today is the blended learning approach.
Read on to understand the meaning of blended learning, its advantages and relevance in the corporate world.
Over the last few years, the term ‘blended learning’ has gained popularity in the e-learning field. New approaches to education are changing the learning landscape forever. Blended learning is one such approach that’s not only innovative but also advantageous. Also known as hybrid learning, the meaning of blended learning is rooted in the integration of technology.
In contrast with traditional instructor-led classroom systems, the blended learning approach makes the best use of two educational environments—traditional face-to-face classroom training and high-tech virtual learning. Therefore, it helps engage all types of learners—those who learn well in structured environments as well as those who enjoy semi-autonomous (independent) training.
Blended education has statistically proven to produce better learning results. By providing a more personalized experience, it creates an integrated learning environment. Here are some examples of blended learning models. Let’s see how each model is tailoring the learning experience.
This model mimics the typical classroom structure the most. In such scenarios, the implementation of online instruction depends on a particular situation. For example, if a learner is unable to keep up with the learning pace of the rest of the cohort, online classes supplement in-class lessons and help them progress at their own pace.
Here, the learner’s focus is on completing online coursework while meeting instructors only when needed. In other words, learners complete most of the work online but have a face-to-face interaction with instructors on a need basis. For example, students attending online classes during the week and attending in-person lectures during the weekend.
In this blended learning model, learners complete coursework online but in the presence of an instructor within a classroom. As learners progress through the course or modules, instructors provide support in the form of suggestions and answering questions. This is suitable for small group instruction, individual tutoring and group projects.
As the name suggests, the flipped learning model is when learners study the content at home and discuss it in a classroom with the help of instructors and peers. Completing the coursework at home first and then spending time with instructors for discussions flips the traditional classroom setting.
Project-based learning attempts to solve a question. Learners identify an issue and use online resources to gather data and relevant information. They use face-to-face direction and collaboration to design, iterate and publish project-based learning assignments and products. In short, they draw a connection between classwork and real life.
Here, a learner combines online and face-to-face learning approaches to guide their own learning goals and personalized enquiry. As there aren’t any formal online courses to complete, the two aspects of blended learning get redefined. Instructors have to be able to judge the success of the learning experience without letting personal biases affect it. Learners need to seek out processes, models and potential to sustain their learning journeys.
It’s evident that blended education engages learners and accommodates different learning styles.
Different learners have different needs and expectations because everyone’s learning style is unique. By allowing institutions to formulate personalized educational strategies, blended learning not only benefits learners but also instructors. Here are some advantages of blended education:
Blended learning helps learners become comfortable with reading materials faster because it’s often tailored to their needs. Moreover, this approach helps break several traditional barriers and includes tools such as video and audio. Learners engage better as text isn’t the only mode of instruction.
Diversifying teaching methods can help address different kinds of learning needs. Moreover, people don’t always learn at the same pace. Blended learning allows learners to revisit reading materials as many times as they want to. This takes off the pressure of keeping pace with the rest of the learners.
The ultimate goal of the blended learning approach is to help people take control of their learning journeys. By using gamification techniques (adding game elements to increase learner retention) such as presentations, blended models make learning fun. It transforms the learning experience by allowing learners to access information from anywhere, create their timelines and enjoy the semi-autonomous process.
Although the effectiveness of blended learning is substantial, there are several limitations that this approach presents as well. Here are the disadvantages of using blended models:
Not everyone has access to technology in India. Moreover, digital literacy has a long way to go before it can be termed universal. Not all digital resources are easy to understand or use. This issue of accessibility may impact both the learners and instructors.
Learners can experience cognitive load as they have the primary responsibility of determining their learning journeys. To navigate multiple reading materials and pay attention to audio-visuals may not always be easy.
Online resources may not always be reliable. Digital environments make it easier for plagiarized sources and unverified content to get included in the learning material. This may further provide learners with false or misinterpreted facts, negatively impacting their learning journeys.
Just like any other method, the blended learning approach has its positive and negative sides. The process is beneficial when wisely applied.
Blended learning not only provides a personalized and effective learning experience but also makes room for collaborative work and projects. Here’s how it’s applied in real-life scenarios:
Instructors can help learners reflect on their learning progress and help set goals to keep track of what they’re learning. Additionally, it makes learners more accountable as they actively participate in their learning journeys. Personalized goals provide individuals with the much-needed direction.
For learners to become personally invested in the curriculum, they need to see how it would benefit them. Creating relevance from the beginning by offering relevant work and mapping learning materials to their needs will help them stay engaged.
Making content and instructions clear improves learner engagement. Without proper understanding of the materials, the learning process slows down. For example, providing a content outline can prepare learners for what’s to come.
In addition to these strategies, instructors should ensure that the tasks they provide are challenging and authentic. Moreover, if there are disengaged learners, instructors should collect feedback and find ways to improve engagement.
Over the past few years, we have seen a sharp increase in self-paced learning programs. Common among such trends is the growth of learning and training programs in organizations. While blended education is typically associated with academic institutions, businesses across the globe have realized its significance and impact in enhancing employee training and development.
Blended learning in organizations combines online, live interaction and e-learning programs. Let’s see how blended approaches enhance learning and development programs, therefore benefitting employees:
Just like people have different working styles, they have unique learning styles as well. Many find it difficult to complete courses on time alongside their regular jobs. Blended models offer flexibility as learners learn at their own pace.
Many blended learning programs have task completion trackers that help learners measure their progress. This helps organizations overcome the challenge of in-person feedback or survey-response collection.
As blended learning uses a combination of different approaches, it allows employees to learn in multiple ways. For example, soft skill development is tougher to address through self-paced courses. Face-to-face interaction helps in practicing and improving those skills with greater efficiency.
As organizations continue to evolve, the ever-changing industry demands will continue to demand new skill sets from the workforce. Effective learning and development programs will help businesses have strategies and solutions in place.
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