Blended learning explained: models, benefits, and how to start

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Technology has an enormous impact on our lives, and it is present in almost all fields of our activities. Obviously, we won’t be throwing a farewell party for it any time soon.

The learning and teaching methods have been influenced by new tools, digital access to information, which created a brand new study environment. The approach to learning has changed by introducing many of EdTech solution and forming a sphere called ‘blended’ learning.

Definition of blended learning

Blended learning is nothing more than a mix of the traditional way of teaching and online teaching based on technology and the internet. It’s a hybrid approach to education that mixes different teaching and learning strategies in order to deliver the best results.

One may say that blended learning takes the best from traditional and modern approach to education. It simplifies and shorten access to information, it makes the learning more personalized since teachers and students can use a variety of tools, and it still keeps the teacher – students relationship important and vivid.

This approach is a natural evolution in teaching due to the growing accessibility of eLearning, online resources and the sustained demand for a human ingredient in the learning experience.

Blended learning brings guarantees that the learner is engaged and driving his or her individual learning experience. This approach also helps cater to the individual needs of the learner, most students have unique learning styles and a blended approach is more likely to cater to those needs than a traditional classroom teaching experience.

Elements of blended learning

Many institutions realize the essential advantages of introducing blended learning strategies. Research shows that by 2019, 50% of all high school courses will be delivered on online platforms. Luckily, the blended learning approach offers many modifications of methods and tools, depends on the needs of students and teachers.

What does blended learning include:

  1. Programs that combine online with face-to-face activities.
  2. Courses that are explained both in the classroom and at the distance. Teachers use traditional books as well as online whiteboards, and voiceover video lessons.
  3. Mixing or combining instructional technology with actual job tasks, in order to create an equal result of learning and working.
  4. Blending computers with traditional teaching. For instance, the approaches of flip teaching, backward classroom, or reverse instruction.

Based on the elements the blended learning includes as well as the needs of educators, we can point out six main models of this approach.

Blended learning models to help reach students’ goals

Once could be argued that there more than only 6 models of blended learning. And it’s totally true! There are hundreds of types of blended learning developed by teachers of different levels of education and used content, technology, learning spaces, and so on.

Although, the blended learning approach can be grouped into 6 central models that differ by teacher roles, physical space, delivery methods, and scheduling.

  1. Face-to-face Driver

In this model, the teacher delivers most of the curriculum, and online learning it’s just a supplement to the whole experience. Students are obligated to attend all meetings throughout the course.

The face-to-face driver approach serves best in diverse classrooms in which students are working at different levels of understanding and mastery. It means only some students will engage in the online learning segment.

For instance, students who mastered the content faster and the teacher wants to prevent boredom by providing appropriate challenges for highly capable students. It works the same for students who need some extra help with acquiring the material. It is a great way to give students appropriate skill remediation in an effort to accelerate their learning.

  1. Rotation

During the course, students switch between self-paced online learning and classroom meetings with a face-to-face teacher.

This model is a set schedule by which students have face-to-face time with their teachers and then move to online work. This model seems to be most popular in the following environments.

  1. Flex

In this model, an online platform delivers most of the curriculum. The teacher provides extra, as-needed support through one-on-one tutoring or small group session.

This model relies on online instructional performance, with teachers acting as facilitators rather than as the main source of instruction. The Flex approach appears to be the most used and most successful in alternative school settings in which students are involved in work-study programs, have attendance problems or have been placed in a part-time schooling program.

  1. Online Lab

In this model, an online platform delivers the entire course, but in a physical location. It happens that students who participate in an online lab program also take traditional courses. It involves students going to and attending a school with complete online educational delivery for entire courses.

The Online Lab model does not require certified teachers on hand, but, rather, trained paraprofessionals who supervise students work.

It serves the best in situations when students need the flexibility of schedule due to other responsibilities like work or family duties. It is also a great solution for students who want to move in a faster or slower pace than the classroom provides.

This model is also a way to overcome classroom size issues and obstacles that schools face when they cannot accommodate their total populations in traditional classrooms, either because of facility restraints or the inability to employ enough certified teachers.

  1. Self-Blended

This model provides students with an opportunity to take remote online courses to complete their school’s traditional curriculum.

The Self-Blended approach is extremely popular among high schools students. Students participate in regular classes but then join online courses to supplement the regular programs of study.

This approach is particularly beneficial when a student wants additional learning in a specific content field, and is interested in taking a course that is not offered by the school.

  1. Online Driver

This approach is the full opposition to a conventional face-to-face instructional environment. It’s a model where an online platform and teachers provide with all the curriculum. Students can work remotely, and face-to-face check-ins are either available or mandatory.

The model works well for students with chronic illnesses and others who find it difficult to attend school. It is also beneficial for students whose jobs demand flexibility to “be in school” at hours during which schools are not open. Online Driver is also a solution for highly motivated students who want to progress faster than would be possible in the classroom.

Advantages of blended learning for teachers

Blended learning has many advantages both for teachers and students. The process of sharing and acquiring knowledge is much more personalized and designed according to the needs of the classroom.

  1. Blended learning offers flexibility in terms of availability. Teachers are able to share via eLearning the materials from anywhere at any time.
  2. Teachers who often struggle with budgets can take advantage of technology that makes teaching less expensive to deliver, more affordable and it simply saves time.
  3. Teachers have access to global resources and materials that meet the students’ level of knowledge and interest.
  4. E-learning allows more effective interactions between the learners and their instructors through the use of emails, discussion boards, and chat room.
  5. Teachers can track students progress by using educational technology.
  6. Educators take the most of the time spent in classrooms since students visit them prepared to work or
  7. Teachers are able to receive more honest and deeper feedback via educational technology channels.
  8. Motivate hard to reach students.
  9. Building more individualized professional development plans,

Benefits Of Blended Learning For Students

The mix of traditional and modern learning environments brings even more advantages to students educational experience. Blended learning provides with a multitude of real-world skills, that directly translate into life skills.

  1. Developing research skills by retrieving information from databases and eLearning platforms.
  2. Technology increases a student’s interest, when EdTech is present in the classroom, learners are more likely to be involved in and excited about the subjects they are studying.
  3. Students are focused for longer because of the engagement and interaction with the interactive resources, then they would be with books or paper resources.
  4. Learning at students’ own pace, according to their needs, and studying styles.
  5. The use of eLearning materials increases student’s learning autonomy. Students set suitable goals and manage their own learning.
  6. Introducing blended learning helps to develop a ‘self-driving force’ in students. They become more responsible and develop self-motivating systems.
  7. Blended learning enables students to increase their computer literacy skills which are crucial in our modern, technology-focused society.

Disadvantages of Blended Learning

The best method can have a small flaw – same with blended learning. Even though it fulfills a lot of students and teachers’ needs, many educators throw some shade on this method.

  1. The most remarkable difficulty that educators come across is that blended learning often relies heavily on technology to deliver online learning experiences while many students do not have access to it, and schools are not prepared to provide them with it.
  2. Educational technology tools and online platforms need to be constantly up-to-date to have a meaningful impact and be reliable. Technical issues can be a significant barrier, so it is important to create strong technical support.
  3. Lack of students’ motivation is another dilemma teachers have while switching to blended learning. eLearning does not provide as much supervision as face-to-face learning, and many students might decrease their performance due to self-management.
  4. Among the cons, teachers point out plagiarism and credibility problem. In the age of seamless access to content and information students often cannot resist the temptation of looking up things on the web and use the ready works.

Tips For Successful Blended Learning

After learning all about blended learning – its element, models and pros and cons, nothing stops you to mix a bit your classroom!

Blended learning is not a simple method to implement. Remember, that the goal is always to find the best way to improve your students’ experience. If you are looking tricks on how to start with blended learning just check out our tips below.  

  1. Plan it out and start small. Define the needs of your students, your possibilities and equipment. Decide on which model of blended learning you want to start with, and plan a key strategy. Don’t be afraid to start small – there is no rush and no need to redo the entire program. Begin with little steps and extend the experience as you get more comfortable with it.
  2. Begin with simple and intuitive technology. While the tech-tools available to us are excellent, many of them are easier to use than others. Choose the tools and platforms that require the least amount of technical “know-how”.
  3. Focus on students collaboration. One of the blended learning goals is to increase the participants’ partnership. Make sure that the devices and media you use in the teaching process encourage collaboration on both levels: digital and in the classroom.
  4. Observe the outcome. Constantly evaluate what works and what doesn’t!
  5. Ask students and parents for their opinion, analyze what you get and adapt based on received feedback.
  6. Go further! Once you successfully blend some parts of your curriculum go bigger! Find another tool worth to try, for instance, turn lectures into online video content (make sure to try ShowMe online whiteboard!), or make online examination!

Conclusions

The mix of teaching methods is no longer an option for classrooms. Educators need to take the most from face-to-face instruction and online learning opportunities.

Blended learning brings many benefits both for students and teachers. It gives individualization, flexibility, and a greater chance for students’ success since it offers the ability to learn at their own pace.

Undoubtedly blended learning will play a more prominent role in the future. The upcoming generation that grows up in the reality full of technology will require modern educational technology and e-learning solutions.

The adoption of new teaching solution may be difficult to start with, but don’t hesitate to try out and introduce EdTech in your teaching process. We assure you that your students will appreciate it!

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