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The New Approach to Education: Blended Learning

08 - September - 2020

In today's world if you're not working “online” you are in the minority. Online is where we're all at, even when we're working face-to-face as this blog points out.

During the last few years it has been even more paramount. Work and study were both successfully transitioned online, and while things are getting back to normal, many are not so eager to completely give up the convenience of learning from home, or would like to at least be given the option to balance face-to-face and online learning.

This brings us to ‘Blended Learning’. Another buzz word that’s been whirling around the Education, Workplace Skills and Training sectors recently.

But what exactly does it mean?

What is Blended Learning?

Blended Learning refers to using a combination of In-Person and Online Learning to achieve learning objectives.

Often referred to as “hybrid learning”, the amount of each delivery method in a course can vary. The Blended Learning method is much more than just adding computers and internet access to your courses, it represents a foundational shift in the way trainers and learners approach the learning material.

More Than Online Learning

Blended Learning is different to distance or self-paced learning, which means learners are not in the classroom and could be at home or in any other location. The work may be under timed conditions or self paced. During online learning, there isn’t any formal interaction between the student, cohort or trainer.

Different Blended Learning Models

There are different ways to approach Blended Learning, depending on what your learners are looking to achieve. We'll discuss the most common types here:

Flipped Classroom

This model moves instruction from a group learning space to an individual one, where students learn individually with assigned content prior to attending onsite and then use their group time for analysis or assessment.

For example, students are assigned learning material to complete at home or offsite, and then attend face-to-face training together to discuss, debate and reinforce what they've learned. 

The methodology stems from Trainer assuming facilitator role rather than teacher as outlined in Mark McCrindle’s work.

Remote Blended Learning

Also known as Enriched Virtual, this model moves all coursework online, while face-to-face meetings with the instructor are kept on an as-needed basis.

This model requires learners to work and learn completely independently.

Flex Blended Learning

The Flex Blended Learning model has learners mostly attending onsite, engaging in learning online. Their trainer is also onsite and can provide face-to-face support and feedback when required through individual meetings and tutoring, small group activities, and group projects.

This model is very well suited to both formal and informal learning such as homeschooling, vocational education and professional development.

Blended LearningHow to Successfully Implement Blended Learning

In order to be successful and provide learners with a quality experience, Blended Learning must be thoughtfully and deliberately implemented. Consideration must be given to each unit and assessment as well as the different scenarios and environments that you’ll be supporting your learners in.

Technically Speaking

Technology should be integrated effectively to enhance the learning experience for trainers and learners.

Blended Learning doesn’t always require a wide range of technology or devices. It can merely mean adopting a few tools, used effectively, to achieve the desired learning outcome.

For example, learners may attend lessons with a trainer in a more traditional classroom setting, while also completing components of the course, such as online activities or assessments, outside the classroom.

Face Time vs Screen Time

The division between the face-to-face and online components will vary from course to course.

The online component may be minimal, simply complimenting an in-class course, or it may represent the bulk of the learning, with learners working independently for the majority of the course and only meeting sporadically with trainers to review their work.

Examples of how to incorporate online resources into Blended Learning:

Example 1 - Using online resources to facilitate a course

The trainer may communicate via email and online forums, upload notes, worksheets, presentations, etc. regularly.

Example 2 - Using online resources to communicate and collaborate within a course

The trainer may upload videos, podcasts, quizzes and interactive presentations while using forums to facilitate discussion.

Example 3 - Using online resources as the main element of the course

The trainer fully integrates digital technology into the delivery of the course.

Supporting Your Learners Using Blended Learning

Recent statistics have shown that while learners who undertake online learning tend to have better outcomes, they also report lower satisfaction. 

Let's discuss some ways to help support learners who are participating in Blended Learning make the most of their online experience:

Ease of use to navigate and manage workload

This will appeal to learners no matter their level of digital literacy. Whether they are tech savvy or not, an easy to use online solution should make it easy for all learners to find units, assessments, resources, calendar, and required information.

Real time submission and feedback

Communicate in a timely manner with all of your learners throughout their journey. With an online solution you can set up workflows that notifies them when assessments have been released, set up due date reminders, let them know when assessments are marked and even send out links to surveys when required.

Easily consume engaging content

Videos, podcasts, presentations, etc. can all be made available to learners online. You can also embed media into your assessments to enable students to access vital sources of information when they need it.

Portable and flexible

Learners have the ability to access records at any time, with no need to carry around paperwork.

What are the Benefits of Adopting Blended Learning?

Appeal to a wider market

Offering part of a course online will appeal to the more tech savvy learners, while not excluding those who still desire the support of studying face-to-face. Offering a solution that combines the two is likely to be seen as an attractive option.

Achieve higher learner outcomes

Encouraging individual and collaborative learning facilitates the type of environment required to develop a deeper understanding of unit material.

Research has shown that learning is more likely to occur and is enriched when learners go beyond the passive tasks of simply listening, reading or viewing.

Blended learning facilitates the active engagement required for a deeper understanding by giving learners the opportunity to discuss and debate their ideas with others

Who Benefits the Most From the Blended Learning Model?

Blended Learning is an attractive option for many, but there are certain industries that will gain maximum benefit.

Workplace Skills Training Programs

One of the key elements of Blended Learning is flexibility. This is also an important part of workplace skills training programs, as workers must be able to balance their training with their workload. The Blended Learning model allows learners to learn at their own pace, when it suits their schedule.

There is also a higher return on investment without the need for face-to-face training and the associated costs. The ability to implement training on a large scale is an added benefit for large organisations with lots of employees.

Blended Learning can be delivered relatively inexpensively. Adopting digital technology allows paperless learning and assessment, which saves expenses in the long term as well as frees up administrative resources and creates a more sustainable business model.

With a fit-for-purpose solution you can run other parts of your process online too including enrolment, feedback and more. Automation reduces the amount of time spent on administration.

Vocational Education

Blended Learning is a good fit for the VET sector because it requires learners to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical setting or context.

This can be achieved by incorporating workplace activities into vocational education, using online resources.

Make Sure You Have the Right Learning Management System

The right fit-for-purpose online solution will allow learners, assessors, trainers, and 3rd parties to actively participate in every step of the learning journey, keeping compliance top of mind.

For example, practical assessments can often be conducted offsite and either assessed live via video conference, or recorded and submitted for assessment at a later time.

Compliance is Key

When it comes to the Principles of Assessment and the Rules of Evidence you must be able to show how you collected evidence following the rules and that assessments were implemented in line with the four principles no matter which delivery method is used.

Providing a Quality Learning Experience

Using a fit-for-purpose solution that will meet the needs of your Training and Assessment Strategies is key. If you settle for second rate you are likely to run into trouble when it comes to managing your compliance requirements. An online solution not fit-for-purpose may lack functionality that gives you the control over the validity and authenticity of your assessments.

Why is this? Well, most LMS’s were designed for universities and schools who use them for the transfer of knowledge. The workplace skills and training sectors are driven by a different set of rules.

For Vocational Education, the national regulator states, “Assessment is the gatekeeper of quality.” So with an undeniable impetus for Quality assessment (tools & practices) within the VET sector, why do we continue to see such high numbers for assessment compliance (75% non compliant) for training providers audited?

The answer could lie in the understanding of quality and how to apply it in the digital age.

Working with a digital solution, training organisations can achieve more with less and gain appreciation for the bigger picture. In addition training organisations assessment practices can stand out above and beyond other providers.

In Closing

There is a growing demand for flexible training and assessment options.

By offering a Blended Learning model that has been thoughtfully planned out to incorporate the best face-to-face and online training, your organisation not only provides learning pathways for more learners, but also those that are able to work autonomously, are self-motivated and have developed skills that are transferrable directly into the workforce.

Blended Learning

Sources:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/215615102_Blended_learning_in_vocational_education_Teachers'_conceptions_of_blended_learning_and_their_approaches_to_teaching_and_design

http://blend4vet.eu/toolkit/Blend4VET_Toolkit_English.pdf

Tags: blended learning, online learning, blended learning model, learning management system, blended learning models, online courses, student learning, blended learning strategies, blended learning approach, blended learning programs, blended learning methods, traditional classroom learning; virtual classroom; blended learning program