Transitioning from the traditional classroom method of teaching to newer methods requires immense effort from teachers. Teachers often try to supplement their teaching in the classroom with digital content. Blended learning is a formal educational programme that combines classroom teaching with computerbased/online training. This method ensures multichannel teaching which brings in the best of classroom teaching and digital content.
Students can access digital content at home and they are encouraged to watch educational videos, play games and complete assignments in the classroom.
The techniques rely on technologies such as Google apps, Android and iOS devices, video, learning management systems (LMSs), and open-source tools such as WordPress to promote sharing and collaboration.
Blended learning makes learning more fun as there is better involvement on the part of students. It also has a number of advantages over other methods of teaching. Blended learning gives the learner more control over what they learn and how much time they need to learn it well.
1. Blended learning is flexible: There is immense possibility in presenting content. Complex topics can be covered in the classroom and since a chunk of the content is available online, students can work on learning the subject within a given timeline.
2. Blended learning is efficient: With a well-planned blended learning strategy, you can efficiently and quickly deliver training to a broad audience. Also, digital content like videos, recordings and e-books can be reused, which is an added advantage.
3. Blended learning has extended reach: Creating a blended learning strategy reduces classroom teaching time and, by digitising the expertise of talented instructors or subject-matter experts, you can teach more students with worldclass content.
4. Blended learning enables collaboration: Online assignments, course commenting and discussion boards naturally encourage student collaboration. Therefore both online and offline teamwork opportunities are more.
5. Blended learning supports personalised learning: Each person learns in a unique way and blended learning supports it. For example, you can assign reading comprehension passages according to the comprehension level of each student which can prevent unnecessary burdening for students who need to work harder.
6. Blended learning enables tracking and reporting: One of the greatest benefits of online learning, especially through an LMS, is data tracking and reporting. LMSs have the ability to track each step the student takes throughout the course, including logins, time tracking and grading. This brings online learning full circle, allowing you to better engage with your students and provide personalised materials based on what the data says.
Ways to implement Blended Learning in classrooms
1. Lab Rotation: In the lab rotation model, students fulfill the online learning part of instruction in a computer lab. This model requires adequate access to a computer lab. By using this model, you can free up classroom space for other activities within the rotation model. However, the teacher needs to plan the timings and lessons to include all classes.
2. Station Rotation: This model is another very popular approach already in place in many classrooms, especially in the elementary classroom. In station rotation, students rotate through modalities within a classroom or a set of classrooms.
In part, students learn using software or other online-based coursework on classroom computers. Students can do a variety of activities, including but not limited to previewing, completing, or reviewing skill lessons, reading stories, or taking computer-administered assessments. Through these kinds of tech-based activities, students have opportunities to work independently and privately, free from concerns about how they will perform in front of their peers.
For the offline part of their learning, students receive direct instruction from a teacher, followed up by a variety of activities, which could include modeled and independent reading, workbook pages or other pencil-and-paper tasks, one-on-one tutoring, small-group work, projects, games, flash cards—the list of possibilities is nearly endless.
3. Flipped Classroom: Flipped classrooms are very popular today. In this set-up, instructional content is delivered online, outside the classroom. It even moves homework into the classroom. Students are encouraged to watch online lectures, collaborate online discussions and carry out research at home while engaging in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of a mentor. Students can then take notes and jot down questions that this new concept provokes.
4. A La Carte: When you wish to offer courses for which you don’t have a teacher, you can offer the students to take an online course with an online teacher of record.
5. Enriched Virtual: This method encourages majority of the instruction to be delivered online. There is face to face learning with a teacher but majority of the coursework is completed in a virtual environment outside the classroom. This method is beneficial for students who need flexibility in their schedules.
Blended learning also comes with its own set of challenges…
A basic knowledge of technology is mandatory to convert a classroom into a blended classroom. If all the students are not tech-savvy, they may start to lose interest. IT literacy among teachers is also a must.
Even if students are tech-savvy, the institute needs to implement a large infrastructure to include online learning.
The online content given for learning needs to be properly sourced. If not, there can be plagiarism and lack of credibility. It can result in students learning false information which is very wrong.
Blended learning requires a lot of planning on the part of the teacher. Often, students also need to be motivated to keep up with the pace of teaching. This can prove to be an added pressure on the teachers.
Any new method comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. It is important to check what your requirement is and see if the pros outweigh the cons. It is important to take student feedback and try and improve on the method even if it is implemented. With good quality course content, proper planning, best in class technology and good relations between the student group and the teacher, blended learning can be implemented in schools with great success.
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