Blended Learning Today
73% of teachers say that blended learning increases engagement. 60% of them say that this learning approach increases academic ability. There are many more statistics that illustrate how productive blended learning is . But what makes it so effective?
Many components of blended learning have been used commonly in the past but were utilized separately. Blended learning filtered these methods and activities, developed some new ones, and combined them into a single approach based on 4 general principles. Some of them come from the achievements of the past, and some arise from mistakes that were made. Let’s look at each of them.
Engagement, Not Coercion
Ever since the very first lessons were taught in the history of humankind, people delivered education through practice and games. Adults taught children to hunt by drawing animals on cave walls and giving them sticks to imitate their future weapons. Kids would develop their knowledge and skills by playing hunting games with each other, preparing for real life.
Blended learning incorporates these multi-millennial methods and enhances them with technology. Authoring tools help Instructional Designers create online courses that fascinate learners, just as animal drawings did in the past. Except that now, there are many more challenges than hunting and fighting, and they are far less thrilling.
Let’s say you need to train sales managers on how to sell your product. Just as kids used sticks before receiving an actual spear, your learners need to imitate the sales process. Tools like iSpring Suite allow you to do this by creating dialogue simulations. Managers can try different client approaches and see how interested a person gets about your product, what they do right, and what they still need to work on.
Flexibility, Not Standardization
Standards are an essential part of education. However, using them without considering current learning needs, types of learners, their preferences, and other important factors may result in applying a lot of time and effort to things that are not worth it, at best, or even cruel. Forcing left-handed people to write with their right hand, selecting learners based on race and gender—history provides many horrifying examples.
Blended learning has a number of models that can be used both separately and together, depending on a particular case. This fact already speaks to the flexibility of this learning approach. In the past, students had to sit together in the same classroom and stay there until the bell rang. If you were good at a subject, you were bored because a teacher had to repeat material to learners who weren’t present when it was covered the first time or forgot to do their homework, among other reasons. And conversely, if you were the one who had skipped the previous lecture, you couldn’t get a solid understanding of the content because a teacher was in a hurry to move on.
Blended learning models help solve such problems by providing students with a variety of learning paths. If you learn quickly, you can take on another topic or get more practical tasks to train your skills. And if you’re struggling with a subject, you can take your time, revise the materials, and ask a teacher or an instructor to help you. This way, every learner can reach their full potential.
Motivation, Not Punishment
From ancient times, teachers have used different approaches to motivate learners. But the crucial difference between today and the past probably lies in the general message. Now we say: “If you do this, you will get that (knowledge, skills, promotion, etc.).” In the past, it would be more like: “If you don’t do this, you’ll get that (punishment).” And if you were in Sparta, you would be punished occasionally no matter what you did or didn’t do, just because they thought life worked that way, and you had to be ready at all times.
At any rate, some motivational factors are common to any epoch: competition, recognition, and development. In the past, young people would compete with each other to prove they were worthy. They might be left alone in a forest for a few days without any weapons or food. If they returned alive, they were initiated and became members of society. And the initiation process was always ceremonial.
The online part of blended learning usually involves a Learning Management System that allows the restoration of these practices. Many LMSs have gamification features that award learners for their progress and show their place on a leaderboard, motivating them to compete by acquiring more knowledge. The initiation happens through giving certificates once learners complete a course and pass the final test. The certificate shows an employer or a teacher that a learner has gained knowledge and is ready to take on new tasks, just as initiated boys would be allowed to go hunting with other men.
Interaction, Not Isolation
Isolation became a significant problem in education during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s not so new. For example, individual mentoring in wealthy families isolated students from other people and didn’t help them develop social skills.
The online-only format does have lots of peer interaction capabilities like working in groups in Zoom or collaboration on projects in real time in an LMS or another eLearning tool. Still, 2020 proved that it’s difficult to not have live interaction with other people. Regardless of the software used, you can’t replace live communication. And that’s what makes blended learning so valuable. While transmitting a lot of activities online, this approach still offers regular in-person sessions.
To Sum Up
Technological progress nowadays is faster than ever before. Many experts believe that the future of education will involve VR and XR learning experiences in connection with other currently popular software like course development tools and LMSs. Some other innovations might also appear and change our view of online learning. And what is so great about blended learning is that it can easily incorporate any new technology, provide the best-matching learning experience for every individual case, and maintain a balance between online and in-person formats. Think of modern cities: parks and skyscrapers with green grass on the roof and walls. That’s what blended learning is, a mixture of nature and technology. A merging of the past and the future.