To better understand what blended learning is about it is important to define the term and all its components. The concept first developed in the 1960s, and the terms “blended learning”, “hybrid learning”, “technology-mediated instruction”, “web-enhanced instruction”, and “mixed-mode instruction” are often used interchangeably. As the term implies, there are several elements blended in one notion.
Blended learning is an approach to education that combines technology-mediated and face-to-face teaching. This integrated learning experience requires the physical presence in a classroom setting of both teacher and a student combined with computer-mediated learning activities. The student has some control over the pace, time, place, or path. For it to qualify as blended learning from the student’s perspective, he or she has to control the content and instruction in some way (e. g. the ability for students to pause, skip forward, go back through online content, choose the time at which they do their online learning, etc.). From a teacher’s perspective, the face-to-face part of a learning process must be coordinated with the online part when a student returns to a physical classroom. Most blended-learning programs are designed to track each student’s progress and match the modality to a certain level or topic. If both of the above components are observed, the blended learning will provide a truly integrated experience beneficial for both teachers and students.
So, what are the benefits of blended learning?
Blended learning has several advantages for both students and teachers:
This learning approach provides ultimate flexibility for teachers in how they present the content, and for students in the pace and variety of learning tools. For instance, complex topics can be presented face-to-face in the physical classroom, while other subject matter can be accessed online.
The variety of instruction methods incorporated in this model has a positive effect on students’ performance. It also allows teachers to deliver instruction to a broad audience and gives the opportunity for learners to go back and re-use the material (such as videos, recordings and eBooks).
The blended method gives teachers more power to respond to students’ personal learning needs. A well-developed blended solution can provide a smooth transition from the classroom to the computer or vice-versa. Teachers can design personalizing content according to students’ level of education.
Nowadays, technologies are so incorporated in our everyday life, that students often engage more easily with the material presented digitally. Students can expand their technical skills and competency with technology. Additionally, high-quality digital learning tools allow teachers to assess each student’s learning level and engage them in the learning process according to their capabilities.
The blended approach to education gives instructors or subject-matter experts the possibility to mix the benefits of both virtual and in-class learning. It also caters to learners of different learning styles by incorporating a variety of digital tools and educational practices.
Are there any disadvantages of blended learning?
Even though the benefits of blended learning outweigh the disadvantages, there is at least one major obstacle: not all educational institutions in different countries in the world have the same infrastructure and access to the Internet. Moreover, any technology glitches or outages can interfere with the learning process. Since online learning is a big part of the blended method, digital tools and online assets are an integral part of the process, which have to be reliable and up to date.
Is blended learning good for anyone?
Due to its versatile nature, many studies concluded that blended learning is more effective than its traditional counterpart. Students’ achievements were higher in blended learning experiences when compared to either fully online or fully face-to-face studying approach (Zaeri, 2013). Apart from students of different educational levels, corporations and businesses can also benefit from blended learning by incorporating it into their training process. On top of all the benefits listed above, blended learning can be more cost-efficient, for it can save employers money for traveling, equipment rental etc.
With all the benefits that blended learning has to offer, it becomes a go-to approach to education and training. Successful integrating of online and in-person methods of studying and leveraging the opportunity of personalization can address the challenges and opportunities in education and move the learning process forward.