In spite of the fact that online education has been massively developing over the last decade, we cannot deny the fact that the majority of teaching still takes place in a traditional classroom. A teacher has to teach over 20 students with different learning styles, skills and priorities, which is a challenging task, especially when the classroom time is limited. To enhance the learning environment with technology and use the classroom time more wisely teachers start implementing additional types of activities such as working in groups, collaborative learning, independent preparation at home, and, in doing so, unwittingly start using the blended learning approach.
The blended Learning is an instructional mindset in which online learning tools are leveraged to enhance the face-to-face learning that already exists in a classroom [source]. Since its first occurrence in the late 1990s the idea of a blended learning, as well as the means with the help of which the approach is delivered, have changed and widened. Today teachers have a variety of blended learning models and education tools at their disposal, including Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to manage online and offline learning environments.
In comparison with a traditional classroom-based learning, a blended learning offers a teacher much more flexibility and shifts a teacher-centered classroom toward the student-centered one. There is also a shift in the roles of a teacher and students. In a blended learning the teacher becomes more of a guide, not the store of knowledge we are used him to be; while the students, in their turn, turn from knowledge consumers into knowledge creators. Besides, the blended learning approach makes learning more personalized, increases engagement, social and group collaboration, provides more time for preparation and 24/7 access to the learning materials.
As you see, the blending learning has a bunch of benefits, but only when it is applied wisely. To create a “good blend” to simply add computers to the classroom is not enough. The blended mix should be well thought over; otherwise, instead of an enhanced learning environment you risk to receive confused students and increased workload for yourself.
How to make a good blend then?
- The first step is to create a plan with clearly defined goals. Let say you need to conduct the debates. The traditional way to do so is it to gather students in the classroom and allow time for a discussion. If we need to blend the class, a digital element is required. If the goal is to save the classroom time – ask the students to watch videos at home, thus do not waste the classroom time on a lecture. If the goal is to have more students participate (shy students remain silent in such kind of activates) then move the discussion online. Two more examples: To encourage collaboration and mutual help, you can ask students to publish their questions on forums where other students can help with the answers. To practice writing, a line of thoughts and arguing encourage students to blog online.
- Remember to start small, try one blended learning model, one technology tool at a time, analyze the mistakes you have made and then move forward.
- Make sure the students are comfortable using the technology you offer to them and there are no technical issues preventing them from accomplishing the tasks. Remember that a tech-rich classroom is not the same as the blended one.
- The learning materials, as well as the way they are delivered, should be selected depending on the students’ learning styles (there are visual learners, auditory learners, kinaesthetic learners) or there should be a number of resources to choose from (text, video, audio etc.).
- Select a blended learning model based on the audience type and age. For example, elementary school teachers often use the station rotation model (students move between the stations (computers) in the classroom), high school teachers decide on the flipped learning model (students watch videos at home and then there is a discussion in the classroom) while the college teachers prefer the flex model (instruction and learning most of the time take place online). You can read more on the blended learning models here.
- Find an LMS that is compatible with what you already have in the classroom and has a variety of features and learning tools you can choose from.
- Find a group of like-minded educators online (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook groups) to help you with your journey towards a classroom with perfect blended learning.
Restructuring the classroom, persuading the school board and making students involved in the blended learning can be daunting, but when it is finally achieved, it won’t take long for the success to come.
Author bio: Ilona Hetsevich works for a project, devoted to eLearning software development, and writes based on the company’s experience in the eLearning field. More information about available LMS features can be found at the JoomlaLMS website or social media platforms