No doubt you’ve heard about blended learning and the opportunities it presents to students and institutions alike. Defined broadly, blended learning combines in-class instruction with some component of computer-mediated activity, giving students an element of control over the pace, timing, or method of their education.
As blended learning tools and models continue to develop, let’s take a moment to explore the specific benefits of this approach and the reasons behind its continued attention and success.
Why It Works
Virtual networks = real world opportunities. The wide networks that are part of some blended learning models can offer significant professional opportunities — especially for students who are geographically or economically isolated. In a traditional classroom setting, students only interact with those classmates or lecturers who are physically present. But eLearning models allow facilitators, students, guest speakers, and curriculum contributors from around the globe to participate together and build relationships that tend to be more social, informal, and collaborative. These associations might last well beyond the duration of any one particular course and can inform and benefit a student’s educational and career path for years or decades to come.
More customized instruction. Mixing traditional teaching methods with various eLearning tools and techniques lets instructors modify their approach to fit individual needs. LMS solutions, flipped classrooms, and other virtual learning programs can become tools for facilitators who are focused on pulling the very best from each student. In-person class time then, becomes an opportunity to observe progress, offer additional guidance, and reinforce the core lessons that are being explored remotely.
Independent, self-directed study. Much like life, blended learning environments depend on self-motivation and personal drive. The very nature of learning models like the flipped classroom is a teaching tool — students are responsible for their participation and peer interaction, topic research outside of class, independent reading and video learning, etc. Though this might present a challenge for students new to college or unacquainted with the independent expectations of blended learning, over time, the approach reinforces the self-advocacy, networking, and personal participation that are so important to long-term professional success.
Ongoing Assessment. Delivering a portion of a course curriculum online and letting students to move through material at their own pace allows instructors to closely monitor progress, provide feedback, and successfully assess outcomes. These ongoing, formative assessments give instructors a chance to modify lesson plans and other materials as-needed to achieve better results.
Pragmatic teaching solutions. Formative assessment helps shape pragmatic teaching solutions. Course facilitators have the opportunity to gauge what works best for a particular class, group, or student. Without being tied to the traditional lecture-read-exam teaching orthodoxy, instructors can make changes as-needed. The result is often a richer and more dynamic learning environment that’s focused on tangible outcomes at an individual level.
Flexible and efficient delivery. When courses are blended between in-class and online work, students can more easily balance their school schedules with their transportation needs, their career and family obligations, and the other social and cultural events that enrich college life. In this way, blended environments can promote a more authentic participation in the act of learning by meeting students where they are and presenting information when they are most ready to receive it without competing distractions. Likewise, for schools, blended learning affords the chance to better manage specific logistics like parking, traffic to and from congested commuter campuses, and some on-site student services. For schools operating on thin margins, well-designed blended learning programs can offer a cost-effective and efficient way to expand learning opportunities without sacrificing successful outcomes.
As the individual tools of blended learning continue to be refined, the term itself will certainly take on new shades of meaning. Students, instructors, even schools themselves will be the ultimate testing ground for the success of combining the best of in-person and online education. But with a set of clear benefits and quite tangible results, blended learning has the capacity to help students take a more active role in their education, achieve more, and build vital connections along the way.
Enrollment Builders consults on a host of teaching tools and methods for institutions of all sizes. If you’d like to design a blended learning program or explore how strategic blended learning environments can benefit your school, we can help. To learn more about what we do, call us at 513-518-7824 or request information here.