In today’s technologically advanced society, educators are taking advantage of new modes of communication to deliver courses in ways that combine the traditional face-to-face instruction with modern technology. The varied combinations of techniques they are using fall under the heading of blended learning. Students will encounter blended learning opportunities in universities and colleges across North America.
Common types of blended learning include:
- Rotation: Students alternate between classes and online learning.
- Flipped Classroom: Students listen to online course lectures at home. Class time is used for projects, group activities or questions about the lectures.
- Flex: The majority of instruction takes place online, with face-to-face support as needed.
Blended learning often means that all the necessary learning materials will also be available online, allowing students to access them at any time to refresh their memories, to ensure that they understand the course content or to seek out additional, in-depth resources about a topic of interest.
There are pros and cons to blended learning, but since educators agree that it is here to stay, they are focused on finding the best mix of strategies for each individual course. Knowing the positives and negatives can help students understand how to get the most from blended learning, so let’s explore them.
OPPORTUNITIES IN BLENDED LEARNING:
- Allows for Differences: Students aren’t cookie cutters and they learn in different ways. A mix of teaching approaches makes it likely that a larger number of students will absorb the material more easily. It reduces stress for those who find it challenging to keep up during classroom lectures and can increase satisfaction for quicker learners.
- Availability of Resources: Students can access online materials anywhere, anytime. They can review the materials as often as they like and study them at their own pace. Blended learning includes new technologies, and for many of today’s students, using such technologies is a natural part of everyday life.
- Enhances Learning: A blended approach can offer richer, more interactive learning experiences.
- Better Communication: Blended learning improves communication between student and teacher. Generally, using technology means offering a variety of methods for communication, such as email, instant messaging, online discussions and news announcements online.
- Collaboration: Online tools also allow students to collaborate and communicate better with each other. They can connect via email, text messages and online discussions, as well as face-to-face in the classroom.
- Easy Feedback: Tests can be given online, allowing for easy grading and quick feedback that gives students the opportunity to see where their weaknesses are before they forget what the test covered. Teachers can also quickly get a sense of who is having difficulties with the course material and can take action to address these students’ problems.
- Promotes Autonomy and Responsibility: When a portion of the material is online, it is up to the students to keep pace and meet deadlines. This is good training for life after graduation.
- Helps Maintain Focus: Using a varied collection of tools prevents students from becoming bored with course delivery and material. They stay engaged longer than they would with only books as resources.
CHALLENGES IN BLENDED LEARNING:
- Lack of IT Knowledge: If students don’t understand how to use the necessary technology, there is a learning curve that can interfere with their ability to absorb the course material.
- Lack of Discipline: If students aren’t disciplined about keeping up with online material, they can easily fall behind in their coursework.
- Untrained Faculty: Teachers must be trained to incorporate new technologies successfully into their courses in a way that engages students, making the content accessible.
- Faculty Flexibility: Teachers must be open to adjusting their teaching styles to accommodate new ways of delivering material.
- Competing Priorities: Students must have the time to do coursework at home, despite the demands of their jobs or extra-curricular activities.
- Access: Students must have access to the necessary technologies for blended learning to be successful.
- Outdated Tools: The technology used in blended learning must be kept up to date, because students, more than most people, will be adopting the latest technologies.
As you can see, the positives of blended learning far outweigh the negatives, and it’s apparent that students will encounter blended learning wherever they study. In fact, many post-secondary institutions such as George Brown College and the University of Toronto are already using this model in a number of courses, while school boards are also beginning to incorporate it into their curriculums. Why not be prepared?