The Craft of Blending Learning.
Part 4: Complementing the Blend
In this blog series, Dr. Mark Spokes, explains why blending learning is the right option for many online learning service providers. He describes what features of blended learning are needed for successful online learning and how to best implement them.
COMPLEMENTING THE BLEND
Blending learning now has the potential to radically transform education, which continues to be dominated by an old paradigm of passive learning. The previous blogs in this series described how online learning can make an ideal base for a specific blend of learning called the flipped classroom, where learners can access direct instruction online whenever and wherever they choose. The last blog also emphasised the need to balance this blend of learning and fill in the gaps that are left in an online model of standardised instruction. The final step in the process of crafting a perfect blend of learning is to identify a method of learning to best compliment this base. It is the technological development that has enabled the delivery of direct instruction online that has really allowed educators to repurpose their classroom time. They can now focus more of their time on dynamic interactions that empower learners to actively construct their own knowledge. However, the success of the flipped classroom still depends on an experienced educator facilitating a person-centred approach with engaging activities and meaningful relationships.
A rise in demand for more personalisation in education is an unintended consequence in an old paradigm that has turned learners into consumers, thinking more about the return on their investments. It is possible to design online learning to differentiate content and empower learners to work at their own pace, taking ownership over their own learning. Spokes Education provides experienced instructional design, working with subject matter experts, to ensure that online courses provide learners with more choice and engagement.
Innovation in a Fourth Industrial Revolution might bring a further evolution of new technologies that are capable of differentiating learners and personalising support and challenge. In the meanwhile though, online learning still struggles to fulfil expectations for customisation. The self-directed and personalised learning that is typical to online courses at the moment is only really effective if users have developed the advanced skills and experience needed to take full control over the setting, monitoring, and assessment of their own educational objectives. The majority of learners without these skills and experience would still benefit from serious interactions with educators, able to guide them away from mis-educative experiences that prevent development and towards more independent learning. An experienced educator scaffolds the content with the support that each learner needs and works intentionally to remove this support as the content is mastered over time and gradually handover more control to the learner to direct their own studies. These educators are not expected to act like experts covering content that is to be deposited with passive learners. As the facilitators of a flipped classroom, educators host meaningful conversations that help learners to discover and create ideas together on a shared journey. They also guide learners to uncover their own unique path of learning.
Jon Bergmann, the designer of the flipped classroom, warns that a blended approach will not make teaching easier, but it will make it better. Clearly, the flipped classroom demands more from education providers than the traditional classroom of the old paradigm or a simple online course. The preparation of standardised content to be reused or accessed over and over again is to be replaced with a person-centred approach that requires a significant focus of time and effort if more fulfilling interactions in the classroom are to be facilitated and closer relationships with learners are to be fostered. Educators must be able to curate meaningful experiences for active learning; be ready to respond to the unpredictable needs that emerge in the moment from these learning experiences; and be willing to provide personal support and guidance to every learner sharing these experiences.
Blended learning might not seem to be a simple solution. But it is also good for providers of both online and classroom learning to remember that their experience in one of these environments is a solid foundation to try blending in another. The process of crafting the perfect blend is perhaps more art than science with plenty of scope for experimentation and no single solution. And if even with this in mind, the flipped classroom still seems too much of a challenge, Lisa Dabbs reminds everyone that teaching is always far from perfect. It’s messy and in that mess is where teaching is crafted and enjoyed. The next series of blogs explores this mess in more detail and describes three pillars of a person-centred approach that education providers can develop to enhance both the online and face-to-face learning of the flipped classroom and promise a real transformative journey for education.