Blended Learning

Blended Learning
 By Lisa King

As we move further into the Digital Age, technology is changing the way we conduct nearly every aspect of our lives, including how we learn and are taught in the classroom. While bionic instructors or cyborgs will not replace human teachers anytime soon, it is very likely that digital brains will do most of the work or at least a good portion of it, in 21st century classrooms.

Schools across the nation are moving toward blended learning. Blended learning combines digital and traditional face-to-face instruction. Students have some element of control over their learning for a portion of the day, using some type of digital media such as tablets, computers, Smart Boards, video cameras, MP3 players, or Portable Digital Assistants.

Online learning gives students an opportunity to learn in their own way and at their own pace. Gifted students are able to move ahead and advance while struggling students can gain additional practice in problem areas. In addition, digital learning has been shown to decrease student anxiety and behavior issues.

Some online programs currently being used such as Dream Time Math, allow children to log on at home or at school without adult support. The program teaches new skills and challenges students. A teacher or parent can access real-time reporting to see how the child is progressing.

Blended learning is also being used in universities around the country. Online instruction will free up time for both students and professors. Professors may use digital media to deliver instructional materials, lectures and announcements. Students are then able to access the materials from the comfort of their home.

There are many different types of blended learning which include station rotation, flipped classroom, flex, a la carte, rotation and the enriched virtual model to name a few. Let’s consider some pros and cons.

During the rotation model students rotate between online learning and face-to-face instruction, giving the best of both worlds!

The flipped classroom model allows students to watch video lectures from their instructor at home. Students are then expected to complete the corresponding assignments in class. This model is perfect for students who were absent from school because they are able to view video lectures that the teacher uploads from their home computer or phone. Recording messages also helps struggling students who may have trouble listening to class lectures because they are able to replay the information as much as necessary for true comprehension. In addition, parents can watch the videos and become better equipped to help their children. The downside is that some children may not have Internet access.  The flipped model also allows for more hands-on instruction during the school day. However, some parents worry their children will be expected to watch numerous videos and are concerned about the amount of time they are spending online.

In other models such as the a la carte and the enriched model, the majority of learning is online. The teacher and student meet in a virtual environment, so there is very little face-to-face instruction occurring.

In conclusion, some experts feel that online instruction is geared more toward mature, organized, self-directed learners. Some claim that struggling students are just not equipped to learn in this environment. In addition, students with disabilities may require assistance using on-line tools. And of course, technical problems are inevitable!

So whether you have or have not experienced blended learning, get ready because if it hasn’t already arrived to a classroom near you, it is coming!