Blended learning has been a major buzzword in education and training circles over the past couple of years. But exactly what is blended learning? This article introduces you to blended learning and provides some examples of how it can be used in the classroom.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is any educational environment that combines both face-to-face and online learning. If that sounds like a very broad definition, well, it is. Blended learning can essentially be any type of learning experience that relies at least partly on technology. This format is also commonly referred to as “hybrid learning,” “technology-enabled learning,” and a few other less common terms.
Although blended learning has only recently become part of the education vernacular, the idea of combining in-person and technology-enabled learning has been around for a long time. However, the recent explosion technologies like software-as-a-service has made blended learning practical in a wider variety of contexts and accessible for anyone with a computer or even a smartphone.
One popular type of blended learning is a course in which students watch video lectures online before attending class. Then, while in class, they participate in interactive activities such as discussions and group projects. This model is also frequently called “the flipped classroom.”
Examples of blended learning
Since blended learning can involve any combination of technology and face-to-face education, perhaps the easiest way to understand what it is, is by exploring some different examples of it in action.
Here are five ways blended learning can be used in the classroom:
- The flipped classroom. As mentioned earlier, in a flipped classroom, rather than attending lectures in person and then doing homework outside of class, students watch the lectures on their own and then use class time for activities usually thought of as homework. This format is popular because it gives learners the best of both worlds: video-based lectures that they can go back and watch at any time to ensure comprehension and retention, and valuable interaction with both the instructor and their fellow classmates.
- Digital assignments. Digital skills are some of the most important ones for today’s learners to master. Digital assignments, like making videos, creating presentations, and writing blogs are all fun ways for learners to engage with both the course material and technology, to learn those necessary digital skills.
- Online assessments. Many teachers are now moving their assessments online, even if the rest of the class is conducted in person. This format has several advantages: it frees up class time for other learning activities, it allows teachers to use a wider variety of question types than is possible with paper-and-pencil tests (e.g., incorporating multimedia), and it makes assessments much easier for teachers to create and score using online assessment tools.
- Online course discussions. Online course discussions allow students to continue the conversation even after class is over. This makes it easier for all learners to participate, even if they are shy about speaking in front of the class. Online course discussions can be held via email, in virtual classrooms, or even over social media—anywhere learners gather can become a digital discussion forum.
- In-class polls and surveys. Using a classroom response system (aka a “clicker”) is a way to incorporate technology during lectures. Teachers can use an online survey tool to create opinion polls or comprehension questions, which students then respond to in real time. This both increases learner engagement and provides information teachers can use to adjust their content or delivery as necessary.
These are just five examples to illustrate what blended learning is. There are many, many more ways to use technology to create meaningful learning experiences. Which idea will you try first?