A combination of both online and in-person teaching is the future of education. If you’re overwhelmed by the world of possibility available online, here’s where to start.
It’s been called ‘the future of African higher education’, and 2020 was even dubbed ‘the year of blended learning’… Love it or hate it, blended learning (BL) is here to stay, and will likely become even more entrenched as the threat of Covid-19 recedes.
Well, quite simply, it’s better for students.
A review of 26 studies by researchers from China, Spain, Tunisia and the USA, found that BL supports academic performance in a variety of subject areas, including health, language and STEM. A study conducted by the Center for Digital Education in the US found that 73% of educators using a BL approach observed an increase in student engagement. Research by the Advance Distributed Learning Initiative found that “blended models increased effectiveness at a rate of 13% for teaching declarative knowledge (information about facts or definitions) and 20% for procedural knowledge (information about how to perform a task or action)”.
Why is BL more effective?
While research-backed reasons are hard to come by due to the variety of BL methods, it’s been suggested that its success lies in the fact that in a BL environment, the class revolves a lot more around the students’ needs than before, thanks to e-learning platforms designed with these needs in mind, combined with educators’ heightened awareness of the importance of providing support for both classroom and home learning.
Interestingly, the success of BL may also be because it ‘levels the playing field’ and increases student engagement. An overview of research by Oregon State University found that it may be of particular benefit to students who are too shy to ask questions or offer ideas in the classroom: “A blended environment combines the benefit of giving students time to compose thoughtful comments for an online discussion without the pressure and think-on-your-feet demand of live discourse, while maintaining direct peer engagement and social connections during in-classroom sessions.”
The same overview posited that “blended learning allows both teacher and learner access to radically increased possibilities for understanding how we transmit and receive information, how we interact with others in educational settings, how we build knowledge, and how we assess what we have taught or learnt.”
It’s not just good for students – teachers benefit, too. Keeping tabs on students’ progress becomes easier with data analytics, and encourages learner engagement and collaboration, a boon for any educator.
Unsurprisingly, the success of BL rests not only on the strength of the technology, but also on the educator’s expertise. Teaching online – as teachers who made it through 2020 will no doubt attest – requires a whole new set of skills that formerly weren’t common in classrooms.
So – what are some of the most critical considerations?
1. Get the ratio right
While there’s no hard and fast rule, a learning model where over 80% of the content is delivered online is generally considered a strictly online course. Anything below that falls into the BL category, however experts recommend that 50-70% of face-to-face learning in a blended model is best practice.
2. Keep classroom time for active learning
Many of the more traditional or passive in-classroom teaching methods can be just as effectively taught online – which means your classroom time is freed up for more participatory, collaborative learning. Think group debates, team projects, improvised games, field trips, simulations and experiments.
3. Don’t use technology just because it’s there
Find which online BL tools work for you and your students – if it doesn’t work, don’t feel obliged to use it. If you’d like to expand your BL skills and capacity, start small by introducing one new tool (such as Google Expeditions, Google Classroom or EdPuzzle), get comfortable with that, then try another. Don’t sign up to too many platforms. Of course, if you’re already using a platform designed for BL provided by your school, that helps as everything you need, including instructions and support, is in one place.
4. Experience eLearning for yourself
Expanding your own experience with online learning platforms goes a long way towards, firstly, increasing your confidence and skill when using the technology, and secondly, providing insight into how online platforms are experienced from the students’ end. Continuous professional development (CPD) is essential to enrich your skills as a teacher and stay up-to-date with the latest best practices in the education profession, and a well-designed eLearning course is often the most convenient, flexible way for busy teachers to upskill at their own pace. So, why not take your next CDP course online
Sophia for Schools is a unique, cloud based, professional Learning Experience Platform (LXP) customised for the education community. Simply create your school and employee profiles to access our high quality, professional training and networking services. Our strikingly simple, modular pay-as-you-go format means you only spend time and money on what you use.