Blended Learning

Blended Learning

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Term2.png BLENDED LEARNING

Blended Learning is an integrated learning approach that combines traditional learning methods and media with modern e-Learning/computer-mediated tools. It seeks to integrate these methods and tools to enhance learning outcomes. A primary consideration is how to best bring together the social aspects of face-to-face communication with the flexibility and efficiency of e-Learning.

Kinds of blended learning

While the ways of combining e-Learning and face-to-face teaching practices are many, the nature of ‘the blending’ can be characterised in two ways:

1. Supplemental Blending: the incorporation of computer tools for delivering learning elements of a course without altering the structure of a traditional course. In other words, technology is used to enhance traditional instruction, most typically in the provision of course content and important information.

E.g. Electronic/power point web notes in a university lecture (replacing text books); computer based quizzes/exams with written and multiple choice answers.

2. Replacement Blending: full integration of web-based computer tools and media into the instruction of a course, causing changes in structure and methodology which differ from traditional teaching methods. Such blending typically causes radical changes in the balance between face-to-face and virtual learning environments, and the nature of any face-to-face learning taking place.

Replacement blending is an evolving concept, with continuous innovations in computer-based methodology. Some contemporary examples include:

  • The replacement of classroom lecture time, with interactive computer based modules for the communication of lesson content. Such a change greatly reduces teacher-student interaction and allows more times for collaborative student-student activities during class. The teacher’s role in this case becomes more like that of a facilitator.
  • Assessment and activities administered through web 2.0 tools (see web 2.0 tools section in the toolkit for more information). E.g. Students demonstrating their learning through an online ‘Prezi’ presentation or uploaded ‘YouTube’ video, instead of performing or presenting in class; students creating a written blog entry on ‘PB Works’ with embedded photos and video, instead of a traditional written report.
  • Group work and collaboration for assessments occurring virtually through wikis, online forums, social networking tools etc., instead of in physical space.


Toolkit.png Designing a Blended Learning Program

Dimensions

There is no fixed method or technique for designing a blended learning course. However, the dimensions and major options to be considered for a teacher/trainer concerning the balancing and integrating traditional and computer-based learning approaches for a given course, can be summed up in the following model:

Dimensions Blended Learning.jpg

All seven dimensions represent important components making up the framework of a given course. When planning their course, teachers must choose the most appropriate option for each dimension. There is no formula for doing this. Rather, teachers/trainers must consider the parameters of their education field – target group, teaching content, teaching and learning objectives, learning situation etc. – and their own preference/style, in order to make an informed judgement for each dimension. Furthermore, each dimension cannot be planned in isolation. Teachers must consider how each dimension integrates into an optimal whole.

For example, a teacher may choose to have comprehensive course materials made available online for the ’Level of instruction’ dimension of their course. This would likely mean that a ‘Fixed Daily Schedule’, ‘Teacher Driven Learning’ and ‘Teacher Led instruction’ would be inappropriate. Instead giving students initiative to conduct ‘independent learning’, and allowing ‘open entry/exit’ for the timing in which students can access the learning materials, would integrate more effectively.

On the other hand, if the ‘Role of the Online Components’ was only to ‘assist traditional instruction’ (instead of driving the learning), then a ‘fixed schedule’ and ‘teacher led instruction’ would be probably integrated more appropriately.

Advantages and Disadvantages of different instructional forms

The pros and cons of online vs. traditional forms of teaching depend on a teacher’s personal style, and the parameters of a given teaching context. However, some generic considerations concerning in class work vs. e-learning are provided below:

In class Positives

  • Face-to-face instruction is much more social, which can be a strong motivation and support for learning. By contrast, e-Learning instruction and activities can be very impersonal. This can be reduced through the employment of e-tutors and facilitators, but even then, the social connections between teachers and participants, and between participants themselves, remain much less personal.
  • In a similar way, instructors are far better able to notice and respond to student difficulty and misunderstanding in a physical classroom, than in an online environment. Thus suggestions and helpful advice can be much more immediately administered in most traditional teaching environments, although this can be partly mediated through online support forums.

Online/E-Learning Positives

  • Online activities allow students to learn in a way customised to their own needs – i.e.preferred pace, location and method. This offers significant pedagogical and organisational advantages compared to most physical classrooms, which require students to meet in the same place and be of a reasonably similar ability level in a given subject.
  • E-Learning modules usually have a much greater potential for catering to different learning styles, through the use of various electronic media – e.g. presentation slides, videos, audio recordings, computer simulations etc. These different media forms, allow students to use content suited to their own learning preferences.

Other points

  • Activities that require practical skills are far more suitable in an in-class environment, as it is very difficult to simulate the performance of such skills via computer technology.
  • Also, in class lessons are generally suitable for students with low motivation, because teachers can supervise and drive their progress more directly. Conversely, the use of computer based learning modules for highly motivated groups can negate the lead for teacher explanations, creating the potential for greater student-student discussion of material during remaining in class hours.


Important Tools for Blended Learning Programs

Learning Management System

The vast majority of blended learning programs, use a computer based class management platform, called a Learning Management System (LMS). This is a place where an administrator (or teacher) and students can interact for both learning, and administrative purposes. Common features include:

  • Lesson modules - which can be simple documents, or more interactive.
  • Discussion forums – where students can ask their teacher questions, and share posts about lesson content with other students.
  • Administrative features – e.g. assessment drop box, course calendar, grades, file storage, glossary etc.
  • Useful Links – usually related to particular lessons, or to web 2.0 tools.


Web 2.0 Tools

Increasingly, modern ‘blended learning’ courses look to incorporate new tools and media into their lessons, learning activities and assessments. By looking beyond traditional norms teachers and trainers aim to prepare their students for the use of modern technology in the demonstration of their learning.

Common examples include:

  • Class Blogs – E.g. Word Press or Blogger – Allows students to express their written ideas and practice communicating them to a wider online audience.
  • Class Wiki or website – E.g. Wikispaces – Gives students the potential to work collaboratively when+ conducting group assignments and assessments.
  • Cloud file management system and storage – E.g. Google Docs,Drop Box – Enables students and teachers to access files in and outside a physical class room.
  • Audio Learning Channels E.g. Podcasts – Offerteachers new resources for content delivery, and students the potential to create audio-material for demonstrating their learning.
  • Audio-visual Learning Channels – E.g. You Tube - Offer teachers the a new way of conveying lesson content, and students the potential to create video-material to demonstrate their learning.
  • Visual Creation Media – E.g. Glogster – Offers students the potential to create interactive representations of their ideas in visual form, with embedded video and useful links.
  • Online Assessment Tools – E.g. Tech4Learning – Offers teachers more efficient and innovative forms ways of assessing their students.
MATERIAL.png Additional Materials
Document Content
Blended learning: Uncovering its Transformative Potential in Higher Education The purpose of this paper is to provide a discussion of the transformative potential of blended learning in the

context of the challenges facing higher education. Based upon a description of blended learning, its potential to support deep and meaningful learning is discussed. From here, a shift to the need to rethink and restructure the learning experience occurs and its transformative potential is analyzed. Finally, administrative and leadership issues are addressed and the outline of an action plan to implement blended learning approaches is presented. The conclusion is that blended learning is consistent with the values of traditional higher education institutions and has the proven potential to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of meaningful learning experiences.

Blended Learning Systems: Definition, Current Trends, and Future Directions Article by Charles R. Graham.
Blended Learning—Current Use, Challenges and Best Practices, Report 2013 The Oxford Group and Kineo surveyed a wide range of companies, asking a structured set of questions to build up a picture of how they use blended learning and the trends they are seeing, as well as to gather examples of best practice and learning. This report highlights the key conclusions from this survey.
Link icon.png Web Resources
Below you have some links to resources and materials providing additional information about blended learning.
Link Content
Filling the Gaps of Traditional Training During this short training you can analyze the pros and cons of traditional training approaches and discover the benefits of a blended learning solution. You will identify key factors in choosing a learning solution and consider multiple options to meet learners’ needs. Although there’s no single formula for a “perfect” training program, this session can help you build unique and customized strategies. (Video; 14 minutes)
Estimating Project Scope Successfully In this brief course you will examine some industry metrics for scoping different components of a blended solution. You will also discover tasks to perform when estimating a project, and you’ll learn how to estimate development time for newer technologies that so far don’t have established metrics. By the end of the course, you will have a good foundation for scoping unique and customized training strategies. (Video;9 minutes)
Blended Learning: How to Incorporate E-Learning into a Blended Classroom Model

(Video, 4 min)

This 4 minute video gives advice on how to view e-learning as a supplementary resource that learners work on during their own time. Other tips in the video include discussing content review, assessments and when to fact check.
Man Versus Machine An article that illustrates the benefits of blended learning and provides suggestions on how to make it more effective. The main aspects analyzed are: the content, which should be adapted to the media used in the course and made consistent across units and modalities, and the balance, which should be found between asynchronous and synchronous modalities as well as between knowledge acquisition and practical application.
Real Blended Learning Stands Up An article that points out the benefits of blended learning and gives some examples of blended curricula as well as activities (e.g. role plays and games) that can be included in a blended learning programme. The article also illustrates the importance of enriching the learning process with a variety of learning methods in order to match different learning styles.
11 steps of effective project-based learning in a blended classroom An article that analyses student-to-material interactions as part of the blended learning model, specifically the process of project-based learning in a blended classroom.
What is Blended Learning? These videos will get you started Videos from Edudemic reader Frederic Skrzypek shedding some light on the importance of Blended Learning.
Pinterest Board on Blended Learning

(Infographics)

Check out Click4it's Pinterest Board on Blended Learning and discover more about Blended Learning!


References

http://www.educause.edu/research-and-publications/books/learning-spaces/chapter-11-designing-blended-learning-space-student-experience (14 December 2012), http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integriertes_Lernen (14 December 2012), http://weblearning.psu.edu/blended-learning-initiative/what_is_blended_learning (14 December 2012), www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM_Y2NSJcmE (14 December 2012); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning (14 December 2012); http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org/decisions/what-does-online-and-blended-learning-look-like/the-dimensions-of-online-and-blended-learning/ (14 December 2012).