The discussion is ongoing. In 2021, should we hold on to traditional face-to-face learning, or should we move on to eLearning? Any method that can help our students or trainees learn new knowledge and skills is fair game, and a combination of methods will be most effective. Enter blended learning. In this post, we’ll discuss what is blended learning. We’ll also explore the ins and outs of blended learning and how to incorporate this method into your organization or institution.
- What is Blended Learning?
- The Benefits of Blended Learning
- Disadvantages of Blended Learning
- Main Blended Learning Models?
- Blended Learning in Organizations and Institutions Today
- Get Started with Blended Learning
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning —also called hybrid learning or mixed-mode learning— is a teaching method that combines eLearning with traditional in-person learning experiences. It leverages the advantages of both methods in an integrated learning environment.
Though the concept is quite simple, it’s difficult to define blended learning. There is no set rule about the amounts and types of technology-based training and instructor-led training that should be ‘blended’.
Let’s look at these two components in greater depth:
- Face-to-face learning activities
The face-to-face part of the learning takes place in a brick-and-mortar classroom, facilitated by an educator. The activities can include role-playing, tutoring, and hands-on practice, all followed by immediate feedback.
- Digital learning objects
The online part of the learning method is ideally integrated into the Learning Management System (LMS) of the institution and enables more personalized and self-paced learning, often organized in bitesize chunks of information. eLearning activities can include tutorials, video, social media components, gamification, and quizzes.
These two components are consolidated with a third component: structured independent study time, guided by the face-to-face teaching experience.
For example, students might prepare for class by watching a video-on-demand at home. They then do group work on the subject in a brick-and-mortar class, supervised by an instructor. Finally, the students consolidate their understanding of the subject with an online test.
This method requires independence on the student’s end but at the same time fosters self-paced learning. The instructor becomes in part a facilitator in 3 key areas:
- Developing digital and active learning course content
- Guiding the learning experience of individual students and improving that experience through customized course material
- Assessing the students’ performance and progress
The students enjoy a full learning experience through online research, and collaboration and information-sharing with their peers. For example, flipped classrooms, a type of blended learning in which students complete online work at home followed by face-to-face class activities, are known to deliver a much richer educational experience.
The Benefits of Blended Learning
Different students fare better with different types of learning. Some students process the learning material better when hearing it directly from the instructor in an in-class interactive environment. Other students might benefit more from digesting the material in chunks, by playing and replaying pre-recorded video classes. Blended learning takes all types of students into account by combining various methods.
The traditional lecture style, with large groups of students passively attending a class, lacks engagement.
Blended learning moves online most of the learning process that can be done by the students individually. This frees up much of the teacher’s time during face-to-face interactions. It enables more personal learning plans, in-depth learning, guided practice, and inquiry-based teaching. All students can now reach their full potential because the classes are no longer limited by the lowest common denominator.
Blended learning platforms usually collect student data and measure academic progress. Tests are graded on the spot, with automatic feedback. Student logins and work times are clocked to ensure accountability during independent online learning.
The learning is self-paced and can be done anytime, anywhere. This kind of convenience and flexibility enables the students to adapt the learning to a time and speed that works best for them. Because educators have more time to invest in their individual progress, students enjoy a small-group experience, even in larger classes.
Students get a full grasp of the study material, through the combination of learning methods,
the use of fun tools like interactive media, and a community of inquiry, where the students can enjoy information, open dialogue, and critical debate. They can measure their progress through real-time feedback and analytics.
Teachers will have a much easier time planning for small group instruction and managing classrooms. Blended learning also saves time on student evaluations, as grading, progress tracking, and reporting can all be done automatically online. This increased efficiency allows the teacher to focus on the face-to-face part of the blended learning method and allocate more time to the individual students where needed.
Blended learning doesn’t only offer tools to monitor student engagement, but also to increase student engagement. Communication with and among students about the course material vastly improves through the use of email, discussion boards, and direct messaging.
For institutions and organizations
Blended learning has a lower price tag than that of a full-time traditional learning structure. Blended learning cuts down on certain costs such as travel, instructor time, textbook publishing, infrastructure, and all sorts of overhead costs. Most material created for blended learning may represent an initial production cost but can then be used and reused every year.
With blended learning at the heart of its learning and teaching strategy, the University of Northampton in the United Kingdom recently opened its new Waterside Campus with no large lecture theatres at all. Instead, they partnered with Kaltura and launched an enhanced interactive campus experience for their students, solving the issue of physical space needed to accommodate 12,000 students and 2,000 staff.
The college and university benches are currently occupied by the first generation of digital natives. They are the biggest consumers of videos and online content. The best way for their educational institutions to reach digital native students is through their computers and mobile phone screens. INTI International University & Colleges in Malaysia researched this in their 2015 survey Decoding Gen Z, after which they transitioned to an institution leaning on blended learning, powered by Kaltura’s video tools and LMS integration.
Disadvantages of Blended Learning
Because they can be (partially) solved through the application of best practices, These are not so much disadvantages as they are pain points that separate good blended learning programs from bad ones.
- Heavy reliance on technology – because a large part of the program is delivered through computer technology, these tools need to be reliant, convenient, and up-to-date. A good blended learning program offers tech support to the institution, the teachers, and the students.
- Difficulty monitoring online learning – self-paced learning requires independence, responsibility, and discipline from the student. When using lecture videos, a study showed that only half of the students watched the video regularly, while 40% of students binge-watched several weeks’ worth of lecture videos in one go. A good blended learning program controls what online material is available to the student at any given time, adds in checkpoints, and verifies online participation through analytics.
- Poorly adapted online content – what works for traditional face-to-face education may not work in an online environment. Course material needs to be properly translated to fit online self-paced learning, so students can consume the learning material independently. Digital technology offers wonderful tools that improve student engagement and learning. Collaborative tools like whiteboards and breakout rooms, interactive quizzes and polls, and of course video, all contribute to a richer learning experience.
- Lack of strategy and assessment – blended learning needs to be built on learning goals. The best strategy combines the advantages of online learning with those of face-to-face learning to meet those goals. This is a long-term process. A blended learning program needs constant assessment of what works well and what doesn’t, based on analytics and results from online learning, and student feedback and progress.
Main Blended Learning Models
Though new and derived models pop up regularly, such as gamification and self-blend, we distinguish five main models of blended learning. Each one with its own merits.
- Flipped Classroom – a flipped classroom is a type of blended learning in which students learn and prepare study material at home. This can include watching online lectures, join online discussions, and perform online research. They then apply that knowledge with live problem solving, supervised by an instructor in a traditional class environment. The name refers to the learning being done at home, while doing in class what might have used to be considered homework, such as exercises.
- Lab rotation – students alternate between a classroom and a computer lab. The data obtained from the latter help personalize instruction in the classroom.
- Class rotation – also called station rotation. Students are broken up into smaller groups that rotate at short intervals between learning stations. Each station offers learning activities that can be teacher-based, computer-based, or guided practice. The teacher meanwhile monitors and directs the whole class.
- Flex – also called personalized learning. In this model, smaller breakout rooms are organized around a large central learning lab with computer stations. The students work mostly on the computers in the central lab. Meanwhile, a teacher pulls out students for seminars, intervention, or direct instruction.
- Learning Pod – the pod model is also called micro-schools or nano-schools. Each pod might have students of different grade levels. This expands the content and teaching expertise that’s available to the students, offering greater flexibility for ‘stronger’ and ‘weaker’ students. The role of the teacher is redefined to that of an advisor, a behavior specialist, or other more discrete roles.
Blended Learning in Organizations and Institutions Today
The 2020 pandemic rocked the education world, to say the least. Schools and other institutions turned to technology to bridge the challenges and health restrictions. In fact, a third of schools were completely virtual in September 2020, for the semester at least, while two-thirds tried to hold on to at least some in-person activities. Online learning and blended learning became the de facto learning method in 2020, with video as one of its most crucial components.
This giant imposed experiment proved the worth of video in education, both as a pedagogical tool and a means of communication. In a survey conducted by Kaltura on The State of Video in Education 2020, 84% of the respondents (500+ educators from around the world) saw video’s positive impact on student satisfaction. 73% even indicated it increased student achievements.
Video also increased instructor satisfaction for 76% of the respondents. The main pain point, however, was proper access to easy-to-use tools and equipment, and staff to assist with video creation.
Of course, such a major and lasting disruption in how our education system works will inevitably be followed by the question “what’s next?” Will we return to the classrooms and pick up where we had left off? Will COVID-19 have instigated a definitive shift in the way we teach and learn? The survey results of this question are not surprising at all.
Only 5% of educators suggest going back to how things were, pre-pandemic. On the other hand, 27% of educators would like to seize this opportunity to completely rethink how we approach education. The remaining majority, 68%, would like to evolve to a combined system of in-person traditional activities with virtual innovations. In other words, blended learning seems to be the natural and preferred evolution for our educational system.
As COVID seems to be loosening its grip on the world (we’re crossing our fingers and hoping this is not just premature optimism), it’s time for our educational institutions to start planning this transition. If we can keep all the good practices from our makeshift solutions over the past year and get “back to the old ways” in areas that didn’t work out well, then we’ll somehow have scored a win from this past year’s insanity.
Get Started with Blended Learning
Chances are you built up experience in online and/or blended learning and you have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t work for your institution, your educators, and your students. Now is the time to plan what should be part of your eLearning program and what should be part of your instructor-led sessions, and develop your own ‘blend’.
The next crucial step is to find the best solution to host your online learning. One that will fit in perfectly with the face-to-face segment of your blended learning program, and with your existing Learning Management System or Video Learning Environment.
You want to look for a system that powers remote teaching and learning through virtual classrooms, lecture capture, and Video-on-Demand (VOD) repositories, to which you can fully control and monitor student access. The best solutions are purpose-built for learning, and for communication and collaboration between students and instructors. They offer advanced tools to increase student engagement, such as interactive video paths and quizzes.
Finally, we recommend you adopt a system that is fully customizable to the specific needs of your institution, your instructors, and your students. The blended learning solution that checks all these boxes and much more is Kaltura’s Video Cloud Platform for Education. Click on the link in the banner below to learn more.
Kaltura can help you make your blended learning program a success!