What is Blended Learning
Blended learning is an instructional approach where the learning is imparted using both the traditional face-to-face classroom training and online training through videos, chats, social media platforms, or webinars, etc. It is not just a combination of teaching modes but also a combination of Instructor-controlled and learner-controlled learning.
With blended learning, we blend the best of classroom and online training. In the classroom environment, the instructor can motivate the learners, build a relationship with them, and provide them with the feedback or counsel them. In this environment, the instructor is in the best position to maintain discipline through the learning program to achieve the learning results. Through online learning, the learners get the flexibility of self-directed and self-controlled study with the instructor’s help as and when required.
Blended learning is also known as hybrid learning, mixed-mode learning, or tech-enhanced learning. The most basic example of blended learning scenario is students getting an introduction and explanation of the topic in the classroom and accessing more information about the topic from the internet in the form of online articles or videos.
The most common ways of imparting Blended Learning
Based on the different ways in which we can blend the learning modes, we can have different types of blended learning models like, face-to-face or online driver model, Rotation model, enriched virtual learning model, flex learning, or self-blend learning. Almost all of these models are similar in concept about blending online learning with Instructor-assisted learning; however, the proportions of time spent by the learners in each environment vary based on their learning requirements.
Some of the common ways in which we can impart blended learning are:
Rotation Model – In this model, the students rotate between technology-assisted self-learning and Instructor-assisted learning (discussions, activities, assessments). The students either start with self-learning at the computer station and move to the teacher’s desk/classroom or vice-versa. The students rotate between two learning modes based on the schedules set by the instructors, learning program coordinator, or by the learners themselves. The rotation model could be Mastery-based (assessment based), Individual or computer lab rotation model.
Enriched Virtual Model – In this model, the students receive one-to-one session with the instructor and complete rest of the curriculum independently on their own.
Face-to-face/Online Driver Model – In the face-to-face model, the instructor covers most of the curriculum and guides the students towards online learning material for further learning. In the Online driver model, the students complete most of the curriculum online through self-learning and contacts the instructor on need basis or mandatorily, as instructed in the program. The other blended learning program similar to face-to-face or online driver models is Self-blend learning.
Flex Learning Model – In this model also, students do most of the learning online but under the supervision of the teacher. The teachers provide timely support through group-sessions or in-person counselling. The Flex learning model is very popular in higher secondary schooling.
Flipped Classroom Learning Model – In flipped classroom learning model, the students read the study material based on the curriculum at home through online videos or courses. In the classroom, they discuss the read topics with their classmates and get in to group discussions or other learning activities under the guidance of an instructor.
Project based Learning Model – This learning model is used to complete a given learning project. The learners access online study portals – either self-directed or guided and take guidance from the instructor (personal counselling or collaboration) to complete the project. The project could be a learning assignments, learning products or artifacts.
Inside-Out/Outside-In learning Model – In the Inside-Out learning model, the learners are given education inside the classroom and then taken out in the world (communities or social groups – online or physical) to enhance and confirm their education. In the Outside-In learning model, the learners start their experiences in the outside world and finish their learning in the classroom where they collaborate and give/receive the feedback.
Why Blended Learning approach is Good
The blended learning approach provides you with various possibilities of learning with a blend of instructor-aided class room and online training. It is the most effective learning strategy as compared to only face-to-face instructor-led training or only online training. This approach allows the learner to complete their learning program using the strategy that best suits their requirements.
Some of the benefits of blended learning are:
- Practical learning – This learning approach provides learners with the opportunity to learn and practice in the real environment while being guided by the instructor.
- Highly Interactive Learning Material – The online study material given to the learners before or after the classroom is interactive, illustrative, and engaging.
- Learning Progress tracking – The courses and curriculum are built with learning progress tracker and assessments to help the learners assess their learning progress either online or get a feedback from the instructors.
- Self-Directed Learning – The blended learning approach allows the learner to navigate through the learning program as per their pace, schedule, and learning progress.
- Different Learning Strategies for Different Learners – The different blended learning models provide different learning strategies that the learners can choose from based on their requirements.
What could be some challenges with Blended Learning
- Dependence on Technology – For any blended learning program to become successful, the learner should have uninterrupted access to the electronic/media devices.
- Dependence on the Learner for course completion – Almost all of the blended learning models support self-directed learning. Sometimes, if now guided properly, the learning may not be effective and may not give the desired results.
- Expensive – Blended learning is supported heavily by the e-learning content and media devices like computers, laptops, smart phones, data and wi-fi connections, etc. The cost of making good e-learning content is high and so is maintaining the media devices.