Blended learning is becoming a reality in education. Many schools now require some sort of online presences not online of the school but also for individual classes that teachers teach. This has led to much more pressure for teachers to figure out some sort of way to get content online to support studnets. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of blended learning and provide tips on how to approach the use of blended learning.
Pros and Cons
Blended learning gives you flexibility. You are not tied to either traditional or elearning completely. This allows you to find the right balance for your teaching style and the students learning. Some teachers want more online presence in the form of activities and submission of assignments. Others just want a centralized place for communicating with their students and tracking academic progress. Whatever works for you can probably be accommodated when employing blended learning.
Communication and documentation is another benefit of blended learning. Announcements and messaging can be handled by the online platform and these forms of transactions are usually logged by the system and saved. This can be useful for referencing in the future if confusion arises.
The drawback to the flexibility is actually the flexibility. When employing blended learning a teacher has to be proficient in both e-learning and traditional teaching. In other words, you have to become a jack of all trades. Without strength in both methodologies, it will be difficult to determine what you want to do online and to determine how the online experiences augment or replace in-class learning opportunities.
Another problem is the confusion over what is done in class and what is done online. When learning takes place in two mediums it increases opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. I have frequently had students confused over what was to be submitted online vs in class no matter how clear I was in the course outline and calendar.
Success in a Blended Learning Context
To have success using blended learning involves doing some of the following.
- Focus on using the online platform less for learning and more for communication when you initially begin using blended learning. There is a lot for you to learn as the teacher and trying to move everything online will lead to confusion for you and the students.
- Consider having students submit the final version of assignments online. Final versions of assignments usually require the least amount of feedback because they have already been vetted by you in person. This will allow you to focus on the grade rather than on providing more support.
- Online activities should support learning and probably not replace it. Blended learning is often more effective if it helps students to understand content in class rather than replace it. This means the blended learning platform is a study tool to scaffold students learning outside of class. If an assignment can be completely done online without having to go to class then perhaps this is no longer blended learning since the in-class part is not needed for support.
- PLanning is critical to using any web-based resource. Websites are designed in advance before they are set up. Even post a blog requires you to develop a draft or two. Therefore, online activities and expectations must be planned well in advance and not just thrown online at the whim of the teacher throughout the semester. Many teachers fall into the trap of just making stuff up as they go. This is a poor methodology in a traditional classroom and a disaster in a blended learning context.
- When in doubt go traditional. If you are unsure how to achieve a specific learning goal online it is better to stick to a traditional approach until you can figure it out. In-class teaching is old but it still has a place in the 21st century especially when it is unclear how to do it online.
Blended learning can be a powerful tool for helping students are a major headache that annoys everyone. The secret to success lies with the teacher who understands what they want from the online aspect of the students learning as well as what they want in the classroom. When this is clear is it critical that the teacher determine how to meet these goals through the use of various learning experiences.