The education landscape is evolving. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed a huge shift from in-person teaching to virtual classrooms. But rather than opt for 100% of one or the other, schools and colleges are discovering the advantages of mixing traditional and digital learning.
Known as “blended learning,”’ this type of education model is growing in popularity – in fact, 9 out of 10 higher education institutions have adopted blended learning. But why? And what are the potential accelerators and drawbacks of blended learning? Our education experts at Sphero give a clear breakdown of blended learning below.
What is Blended Learning?
Sometimes referred to as “hybrid learning,” blended learning is the combination of traditional teaching environments (in-person classrooms) with digital environments and tools. Blended learning gives students greater flexibility and variety in their education and makes more materials available to students with different learning types.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw schools around the world integrate an online learning strategy, but as students return to in-person teaching, more institutions are choosing to move forward with blended learning.
Advantages of Blended Learning
There are plenty of perks to using blended learning that serves both students and teachers. First, 73% of teachers say that their students are more engaged with blended learning, while nearly 60% of students say they are more motivated in a blended learning environment.
Part of the reason is that blended learning enables teachers to create fun, interactive lessons in more diverse scenarios. Students can therefore maintain concentration more easily, and are more likely to retain the information they are shown across different mediums.
Additionally, blended learning gives students more autonomy over their learning– they become responsible for time management and completing digital lessons at home. Likewise, teachers can streamline tasks more efficiently and aren’t required to make time-consuming commutes to schools. The result is that they have more time to dedicate to supporting students on an individual basis.
Digital tools can also gather and organize data around students’ progress. Teaching professionals have greater visibility around which students need extra assistance, when students are most productive, and what assessments need to be more clearly communicated. This data is extremely valuable to optimizing learning pathways and students’ performance.
There’s a safety element to blended learning too. The pandemic showed us the importance of having spaces to isolate without compromising education. Blended learning gives teachers and students the option to participate remotely and to adjust the percentage of time they spend on-site according to their needs. Not to mention, blending learning brings financial savings, as people spend less money on transportation.
Disadvantages of Blended Learning
While the advantages of blended learning certainly outweigh the disadvantages, it’s important to note some of the challenges that teachers may face when actioning blended learning.
Many people use the terms “blending learning” and “hybrid learning” interchangeably, however, there is a slight nuance. Hybrid learning gives students a greater scope of choice in how they learn because they can freely move between remote and on-site activities. Blended learning, on the other hand, tends to be a more fixed division.
Blended learning can pose challenges in terms of access to resources. Students need to use technology outside of the classroom, which they may not have at home. Similarly, teachers may not be able to get the resources they need on-site because of school budget restraints. Teachers also have to take initiative with blended learning, as there are no formal pathways to implement the strategy.
Fortunately, however, there are a number of successful blended learning examples that can guide teachers and help both teachers and students get the most from blended learning.
Blended Learning Examples
There are four main blended learning models:
- Flipped classroom
- Enriched virtual
Flipped classroom is one of the most common blended learning examples. Students are asked to participate in classes and submit homework virtually, while in-person classes are reserved for teacher-facilitated activities.
Enriched virtual has students attend in-person lessons, but the majority of their learning takes place outside of a school environment. In contrast to the flipped classroom model, enriched virtual doesn’t ask students to join daily on-site classes.
Flex enables students to shape their own learning path according to their specific needs. Students have a significant amount of control over how and when they receive instructions and support from teachers. For instance, all students could have access to a computer in the classroom and work through the material at their own pace (with the option for teacher’s guidance when they want).
Rotation is when at least one of the students’ learning modules is online. Rotation models generally take place at an in-person education site, and alternate between digital tasks and in-person tutoring, written assignments, and class presentations. For example, students could be asked to brainstorm a project in the classroom, and then during the next lesson have to conduct online research. For the third class, they present their findings back to the group.
Blended learning is a natural step forward in education given the number of digital tools and processes at our fingertips. It supplies students with more diverse, fun ways to absorb the material, and allows teachers to accurately tailor their curriculums and assistance to individuals. However it is also important to acknowledge that the distribution of technology—key to blended learning—is rarely equitable so blended learning still has a ways to go until it is inclusive for everyone.