Blended learning combines the best of classroom-based learning and high-tech e-learning to give the student the best learning experience. This kind of learning keeps in mind the inclination of all kinds of learners. Some tend to learn better with the structured classroom-based approach, while others tend to assimilate better with the independent, semi-autonomous computer-led training.
With classroom-based training, students get immediate feedback, while online learning provides the avenue for self-paced and interactive learning. Overall, blended learning enhances the effectiveness of learning and cancels out the inadequacies of the two learning approaches, while complimenting each other.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Recently, blended learning has been utilized by educational institutions as a meaningful learning tool. Now let’s look at the benefits of the blended learning approach:
- Accounts everyone: Blended learning caters to every kind of learner regardless of whether they prefer a classroom-based approach, an online approach, or the combination of both. This type of combining both teaching methodologies helps in customizing the learning content in the most optimized manner.
- Trends and feedback: Since blended learning utilizes both online and offline methodologies, it is easy for instructors to adapt to the latest trends and modalities into the curriculum. Instructors can utilize the technology aspect to know data-driven insights and track student’s progress with ease. For learners, blended learning offers the unique opportunity to discuss, practice, and model their newly acquired skills without being restricted to the consumption of training material online.
- Cost-effective: The classroom option may appear cheaper but there is an immense drain on resources. Scenarios like paying the instructors, time away from work, and flying in remote employees for training can significantly increase the cost of training. On the other hand, a blended approach can considerably reduce such costs, as a result of which the student can repeat the course material time and again without any constraints.
- Better engagement: Blended learning is a highly interactive approach. Learners have the privilege of practicing what they have learned offline through a variety of different content media. Students can even choose what kind of content they want to interact with, practice what they have learned, and even communicate with the instructors and other learners without the restriction of time and location. This kind of rich community experience will keep learners engaged better than other teaching methodologies.
- Personalization: Instructors have long realized that the one-size-fits-all training approach is not effective in the long term. Hence, blended learning facilitates a buffet-style learning approach wherein learners are allowed the choice on how and when they interact with the training material. Such an approach brings about a personalized approach to learning where each learner is allowed to learn in accordance with their individual strengths without being compelled to learn in a herd-like environment.
- Global reach: Today, technology allows educational organizations to spread their wings far and wide. With blended learning, such organizations are no longer restricted by geography and can make their training material accessible universally to a global audience. Regardless of the location, learners can access training material online and have online discussions within organizations from the comforts of their homes.
Blended Learning Methods
Implementing a blended learning approach does require monumental changes to how you think about training. Here are some of the methods that work:
- Face to face: This is the traditional classroom-based approach that is accentuated with technology where each learner can learn at their own pace. Benefits include mentoring, practice, and feedback.
- Rotation: Learners are allowed to go from one learning activity to another either in a classroom session or in an online session. Examples include flipped classrooms where learners attend a lesson before face-to-face training.
- Online lab: This model can be called entirely digital without only little instructor interaction before, during, or after training. Learners are expected to access the training material on their mobiles, laptops, or other devices.
- Gamification: Introducing gaming elements to training is one of the most effective ways of improving knowledge assimilation. Learners are provided with a dose of competition in learning to make it more engaging.
- Flex: This method is synonymous with personalized learning. Here students learn with the help of the Learning Management System (LMS) but they have the freedom to choose their learning path in what they want to learn. Instructors are only present as mentors to answer questions on the training platform.
- Self-blend: Here learners are introduced to supplemental content either in the form of video tutorials, blogs, white papers, or webinars. This helps highly motivated learners to delve deeper into the subject. A robust LMS can be a mode of delivering such diverse content resources to increase curiosity and growth among learners.
- Online driver: This method is entirely self-directed and happens in a digital environment. Learners are encouraged to get in touch with instructors through chat, message board, or email. However, there are no face-to-face interactions unlike that in other types of blended learning methods. This method provides for a flexible schedule and personalized learning. Organizations eager to implement such a method must go in for an LMS for engaging learners in a personalized manner while still monitoring their progress as they engage with the media and eventually engage in a classroom discussion.
Practices for Good Blended Learning
While blended learning is effective on paper, this notion needs to be communicated to the learners for them to remain motivated and engaged with the medium. These practices can make it a reality:
- Articulate the reasoning: If learners do not understand the reason for combining traditional with digital methods, they are likely to leave. For this, communicate the reasoning behind blended learning as the mode of delivery. Be articulate about how you want learners to progress independently at different rates or how dialog, discussion, etc. help bring in a better understanding of concepts.
- Include diverse activities: You must walk the talk in what was said in the previous point. Instead of going for a cookie-cutter method, try to include as many activities as possible for effective learning. This can be in the form of games, quizzes, group discussions, or role-playing games to enhance user engagement.
- Optimum use of media: Learning has received a tremendous boost with the internet. Encourage learners to view online videos and do their own research online, and then ask them to be prepared to answer questions about the topic the next day in an online/ offline classroom. This is the beauty of blended learning as it encourages learners to put to use what they have learned.
When utilizing blended learning, it is always important to remember that there is an amalgamation of the strengths of traditional and digital learning to provide a better learning experience. While implementing blended learning you are likely to benefit both learners and instructors in a big way. Ultimately, blended learning stands a chance for being a critical milestone in learning methodologies that have come and gone till now.