“Remote Learning Is a Bad Joke,” alarmed a headline in the Atlantic in August last year. College students also regularly reported feeling distant and unsupported without the community and interaction that campus education offers. Psychologists even worry that a generation of students will miss a unique coming-of-age experience.
So, how do we design a future with meaningful and effective learning experiences for all students?
Blended learning combines face-to-face and online learning methodologies, offering a best-of-both worlds experience.
The roots of blended learning can be traced to 1969 when Open University in England offered undergraduate courses through television broadcasts on the BBC. While the concept was critiqued as “Do-it-yourself degrees”, it gathered momentum to become an alternate educational stream across the world.
Today, blended learning stands as a methodology offering a dynamic and immersive classroom experience on and off campus. It is offered in several ways:
- Flipped classroom method where the students study material on their own and come to class only for group activities and interaction
- Flexible models where students pick and choose the courses they want to attend
- Lab-rotation learning where students access lab equipment in turns to practice what they’ve learned online
- Supplemented learning where students learn on their own online and come to class for additional support or work with instructors during office hours
- Mastery-based blended learning where assignments and problem-solving take central focus
How you can design a blended learning experience for your students
The good news is that time is ripe for implementing blended learning models. Over 98% of Gen Z own smartphones making it easier than ever before to reach them online. And the scales to an increasingly online education started tipping much before 2020. Sloan Consortium, as far back as 2005, found that in higher education in the US “two-thirds of all schools offering face-to-face courses also offer online courses”. When the pandemic struck, educational institutions simply put the remote learning motion into overdrive.
Even as colleges resume, the advantages of online learning might be too hard to ignore. With blended learning, teachers and educational institutions can combine best practices for an improved campus experience and higher student retention.
1. Deliver personalised learning
“Why cram hundreds of people into a room to consume information with little interactivity?”
— Simon Nelsen, CEO of FutureLearn.
With one the key methods of blended learning — the flipped classroom — you can flip the way you’re delivering your lessons. By allowing students to learn from static sources such as recorded lectures, books etc., you can use classroom time for interaction, experimentation and debates, supplementing existing student engagement strategies.
Graduate students can also use their education to meet their employment goals.
2. Allow self-paced learning
Every student is unique, as should their learning experience be. In a self-paced learning curriculum, students take control of the nature and the timeline of their courses. They enjoy the flexibility and individuality to study at their own pace with proven results such as better retention of concepts.
3. Make it cost effective
One of the biggest problems that students face is the increasing college tuition costs. Hosting thousands of students every year is a resource-intensive exercise for the institutions as well.
By delivering lectures online, and leveraging in-person time for social and collaborative activities, blended learning offers an opportunity for both the parties to cut down their costs — improving student retention.
4. Enable global learning experiences
With the challenges of being bound to campus and in-person classes tucked away, blended learning can facilitate learning experiences at a global scale. For example, the John Hopkins center for Bioengineering, Innovation and Design created an entirely online design challenge. Contestants from over 25 countries collaborated in this 5-day event to design innovative solutions in the world’s fight against COVID.
5. Bridge the accessibility gap
The flexible nature of blended learning allows room for customized learning helping level the playing field for the marginalized.
By allowing students to choose their own time and ways of learning the course, it encourages physical and emotional wellbeing. This is especially useful for students from low-income communities who might not have laptop/internet access at all times. By enabling personalized learning, it allows instructors to offer more time / help for those who need it. As a strategic initiative, it encourages educators to build a curriculum that’s inclusive. By adopting methods like project-based learning — where small groups are given problems to solve, from which they’ll learn key concepts — you might be able to engage neuro-diverse learners as well.
In post-COVID world, technology is inevitable. Blended learning offers a unique process where, with the help of right tools and partners, universities can offer the ideal learning environment for their students to learn and thrive.