The emergence and acceptance of Blended Learning
The world is gradually coming out of the CoVid-19 freeze. It is not coming back to the way it was earlier, rather we are defining it as “New Normal” or “Neo-Normal” – a world which co-exists with the virus around us. This new way of life is very different to what we were used to. Every aspect of our lives has changed and still it is very dynamic. Most experts and academicians feel this change is permanent and perhaps many of the things which we were used to are all the thing of the past.
While there have been unprecedented loss of life and livelihood due to the crisis, it has also made us adopt many new ways which are for the better. Education also has undergone a massive change. Even a few months ago, traditional teaching (Classroom based Teacher Student Learning) was normal and Online classes was known to a very few and used by even lesser students/teachers. With the world going into lockdown due to the CoVid-19 crisis, every institution turned towards online education. From play schools to large universities, everybody went online. So much so, that few thinkers have started calling it the future of teaching-learning. Universities, Tech giants and governments have started to think of ways to make online education more seamless, far reaching and weed out issues that are still persistent. In the last couple of months, I have read many columns discussing about how online education would be the new norm and gradually we would find the brick and mortar universities & schools fade away.
While this might be a very farfetched thought, we might see a rapid adaptation of Blended Learning going forward. Blended learning is a concept of learning that combines educational materials available online, online interactions, online collaborative research along with the traditional physical classroom methods. Students attend a normal school with a teacher to attend a face-to-face class but then some learning practices are also combined with electronic/internet-based activities. Blended learning is already majorly being used in professional development and on the job training.
Simply put blended learning is something which adapts the better of both the methods. This is Blended Learning.
Why blended learning?
Post covid-19, one thing is very clear that we would not conduct the classes the same way. With lesser students in a classroom due to distancing norms, but similar infrastructure, we would have to adopt online classes. But research show that concepts learned online, are gradually forgotten over time compared to concepts in a classroom environment. Blended learning is a structured approach to tackle this problem.
Advantages of Blended learning
- Blending learning ensures that the student is always engaged and in control of their own individual learning experience in their own pace.
- Blended learning is much more interactive than conventional learning. As this is simply not just learning by listening but also mixes traditional classroom training with online sessions, many more senses and skills are engaged in the process.
- A student may first do self-studies or pre-learning, followed by Face-to-face interactions, or vice versa. This way of learning adopts the benefits of both the modes by optimizing and reinforcing the different techniques.
- Knowledge gained in the classroom, digitally allows students to develop their critical thinking, logical reasoning and problem-solving skills in the specialized subject.
- Adopting multiple learning channels and ICT allow students to access large amounts of information in a variety of ways, such as videos, podcasts, and more—and they can go deep into any topic or review it as per their choice and convenience.
- Knowledge retention is significantly improved with a variety of interactive elements in the learning process, built-in assessment and feedback, and real-world implementation.
- The blended learning approach delivers a much richer training experience and helps you to immediately begin to use what you have learned in the sessions while receiving valuable feedback from an expert instructor so that you can focus on improvement in your weaker areas.
The typical elements of any blended learning system normally comprise of:
- In-Person Training:Normally done in a typical classroom by a teacher. It can also involve peer group learning from classmates and seniors.
- Online Learning:This module involves self-learning and often is through various ICT channels. This helps the learner to deep dive into the concepts which he or she has learned. The module can also be used for pre-learning before the in person training about the topic.
- Coaching:The last module is one to one coaching. This is extremely important module as this provides individual feedback to the learner based on which he/she can improve their learning further
Ways to implement blended learning
There are various ways of implementing blended learning. These ways can be adopted depending upon resource availability, length of the curriculum, complexity of the course and number of learners.
- Face-to-face driver:In this process the trainer/instructor or teacher gives instruction and take aid of various digital tools to augment the learning. In other words, we may say that traditional teaching is the main mode of delivery but technology is also used to supplement learning.
- Rotation:Students or learners go through a cyclic schedule of self online study and face-to-face classes and also if required field work.
- Flex:The flex model delivers most content online, but in a traditional school setting. Teachers guide students through the learning process and provide one-to-one or small group help when needed. This model helps students to learn in their own pace and select their content.
- Online Labs:The online lab model gives the maximum of the content online and remotely. This is different from strictly online learning as learners gather in a traditional setting to access computers for learning. But face-to-face interaction with teachers is very limited.
- Online Driver:In this model the entire course is primarily delivered based on technology and over internet. Most instructions are given remotely. Teachers and students can be geographically in different places. Most of the times there is no face to face interactions, and teachers are mainly there to provide guidance, support and in some cases act as resource only if needed. This model offers maximum flexibility and brings down the costs associated drastically as the mode eliminates the need for any form of physical space and has a reduced resource requirement.
Thus, blended learning has a lot of advantages and helps teachers to retain the attention of students longer. It introduces flexibility in learning along with putting the learner in charge of his own learning. Blended learning as a concept was always prevalent, with student using libraries for additional learning, institutes conducting seminars and workshops for additional learning. With the emergence of technology and internet, the options are far more and possibilities endless.
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