The Craft of Blending Learning.
Part 1: The Perfect Blend
In this blog series, Dr. Mark Spokes, explains why blended learning is the right option for many digital learning service providers. He describes what features of blended learning are needed for successful digital learning and how to best implement them.
THE PERFECT BLEND
Blended learning is a simple solution for digital learning, a simple solution with the potential for huge impact in the education sector. I have seen consistent positive results from travelling the world, teaching teachers how to teach using this extremely powerful, yet simple approach. Simple does not always mean easy though. Anyone looking to discover more about blended learning faces the immediate challenge of just understanding different definitions. For some, blended learning is simply understood as a combination of different methods of learning. For others, it is more about the blend of different modalities (the media used for learning). In practice, both these definitions mean that blended learning can cover a multitude of approaches in education.
For the purpose of this blog series, blended learning is defined as a combination of online instruction and face-to-face learning in the classroom. This definition acknowledges the convergence of previously distinct environments of online and face-to-face learning that has become more evident with ongoing technological developments. A blend of online and classroom learning can offer the best of both worlds, but this is only if the blend is well-designed. This blog series provides education providers with the insights and guidance needed to achieve the best results in blended learning.
There is a broad spectrum of blends that vary according to how much the online and classroom environments are used. At one end, an educator drives most of the learning in a classroom, just using online spaces as a supplement. At the opposite end, online platforms are used to deliver most of the learning with face-to-face interaction limited to checking in and supervision. There are numerous blends that lie in-between. This includes online courses offered as an optional supplement to a face-to-face class or a course with a fixed schedule rotating between online and face-to-face classroom learning.
At its most complex, blended learning includes the flex model, which gives learners their own choice over methods of learning and modes of delivery for each of the activities and assessment in a course. From all of these blends, the selection of an educational provider might depend on their available resources and expertise. The flex model clearly requires more time and money, as well as a high-level of mastery in instructional design and the experience in both online and classroom learning. However, like other artisans of coffee, spirits or spices, education providers can also learn the fine art of blending together online and classroom learning to enhance the best qualities of each. This blog series details the key steps in a process of crafting a perfect blend of learning that is even transformative and more than the sum of its parts.
This blog series introduces a particular blend, known as flipped learning. The fact that there are many different kinds of flipped classroom means it is not always considered by all to be true blended learning. But the flexibility to experiment with how much online and classroom learning are used in this blend means that flipped learning has an appeal to education providers with a foundation of experience in either environment. It also presents itself as a useful first step for any education provider to further develop its own transformative blend of learning. The primary feature of flipped learning is the inversion of the traditional classroom, shifting all the direct instruction online to be accessed before a scheduled class. This approach plays to the strengths of current online learning providers and also assures educators in a traditional classroom that they can continue to share their expertise and deliver the core content and supporting material online, often through recorded videos that learners watch at home. But the real impact of flipped learning is in how the shift to online instruction frees up educators to refocus their time in the classroom towards more active learning.
Education providers with a focus on face-to-face teaching can still benefit from a flipped classroom, where learners start each class with a shared base of knowledge. This increases the opportunities to curate richer, more meaningful experiences in the classroom that help learners explore content in depth. The flipped classroom also enables educators to provide individual learners with more productive and personalised support when they need it most, on the work normally set to be completed alone at home. This blend of learning can double the opportunities for constructive interaction between educators and learners.
The next blog explores the first step in crafting a perfect blend of learning and identifies the benefits of using digital learning as a base for this blend.