Blended learning is a hybrid between traditional classroom learning and online or e-learning. It is best described as a mix of traditional classroom teaching and online learning. When designed properly, blended learning, or b-learning, is a powerful learning and teaching tool that can be used in education and training.
B-learning is often overlooked in instructional design and training in favour of e-learning. This may be because of the added cost of renting facilities where learners can meet instructors face to face; however, it is a powerful tool that, when skillfully used, is the best of online and face-to-face learning.
Over the last few years, the flipped classroom has become more pronounced in the education mix. The flipped classroom is an excellent example of b-learning. In this this method, students use online tools to view lectures, listen to podcast, or conduct inquiry-based learning as the home portion of learning. Later in class, they use this knowledge to complete assignments and partake in classroom discussions, assignments, and exercises.
When creating a b-learning curriculum, the designer must answer the following questions:
- What percent, or how many classes, will be held in a classroom
- How will the students connect with the teacher and other students during the e-learning elements?
- Will some e-classes be held synchronously, asynchronously, both or neither?
- What e-tools will be used (pre-recorded teacher lectures, videos, webinars, podcasts, social networks, virtual worlds, games, etc.)?
- Who will create the e-learning material?
- How will the teacher integrate the e-learning material with the classroom elements of learning?
It’s important to remember that the time in the classroom need not equal the time spent in an e-learning environment. For example, in a 13-week college or university course, four or five may include e-learning, while the remaining be traditional learning.
Also, if the school or corporation insists that all learning takes place in a classroom, then some e-learning can take place in the classroom, perhaps in group work or discussion. This can be effective if learners are directed to bring their e-resources to an upcoming class. In essence, this is a flipped classroom, but it does not take place consistently throughout the semester.
Inquiry-based learning is another effective method that can easily be used at any level of formal education. For example, the students are given specific tasks or told to gather information to solve a problem. They are permitted to use whatever resources they can find and need not stay in the classroom to gather information.
Some student may wish to visit the school’s library, or use periodical searches on the Internet. After a predetermined amount of time, the students return to the classroom and present findings while other students ask questions and pose questions.
The most important aspect of blended learning, as with all other types of learning, is teacher preparation. As with most teaching endeavours, the preparation can take some time, but the learning potential and student engagement makes the efforts worthwhile.