Blended Learning in the New Normal

[Approximate Reading Time : 4 mins]

Blended learning assumed status as a learning option with the first generation of web-based instruction, beginning in 1998, when computers started becoming a household item.

What is blended learning?

Wiki defines it as an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further stretched and flexed the definition of blended learning, wherein brick-and-mortar classrooms have, for the longest time since the start of the pandemic, been replaced by virtual classrooms, where students and teachers are face-to-face on each other’s computer or mobile screens.

Blended learning is the new (and envisaged to continue) normal.

Let us look at how this medium of learning is beneficial, not just in current times, but also as a sustainable and effective ongoing learning model:

  • Holistic and flexible: Face-to-face interaction on video with the teacher, access to digital learning assets including prerecorded on-demand lesson presentations 24-7 to review as and when required, and project-based community-learning activities. Grading is based on classroom interaction, homework, assignments, and group projects. Teachers are inspired to be creative and innovative.
  • Heightens student interest and engagement: Shy and introverted students use digital chat room options and digital signage (raise hand, etc.) to engage with teachers and their peers. In fact, the flipped classroom concept, which encourages students to consume the content (text/video) independently before it is introduced in the classroom, helps students to review the material at their own pace, thus intellectually engaging them with more rigor, leading to better retention and confidence. The subsequent interaction in the virtual classroom helps clarify questions, in peer-to-peer learning, with a deeper understanding of the material, and in critical thinking, all of which propel interest and engagement.
  • Higher-order thinking: Students must look up vast resources on the internet to explore and research. This activity enhances the ability to explore, focus, analyze, filter, take decisions, and put together information in a cogent presentation.
  • Instills sense of autonomy, responsibility, and ownership: The above set of activities instills in students a sense of taking charge of and being responsible for one’s learning, thus inducing in them a sense of ownership of their learning.
  • Prepares the student for the future: Life skills such as applying knowledge; knowing how and where to research; depending on the teacher for guidance and direction and not for knowledge alone; and knowing that learning is a lifelong process, not limited to the four walls of educational institutions are treasured lessons that will help anchor students in their life journey.

How have schools, teachers, parents, and educational publishers embraced blended learning in the new normal?

  • Schools have invested in technology, starting with a learning management system (LMS), which hosts all the learning activities and lessons that students must complete. An LMS also supports discussion forums and asynchronous learning. Popular LMSs being used are Canvas, Google Classroom, Blackboard, Schoology, and D2L-Brightspace, as is the collaboration platform Microsoft Teams. File storage and sharing is another consideration, and popular options include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and so on. The third technological factor is the platform to connect in real time; Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams are the ones most used.
  • Teachers have had to transform their learning material into digital formats, including lessons, activities, assignments, and lab work; upload onto an LMS; and learn how to navigate through it.
  • Parents have had to invest in better broadband and Wi-Fi plans to ensure seamless connectivity for everyone at home engaged in online classes and online work. They also have had to invest in mobiles or computers to enable children to participate in class.
  • Educational publishers are ensuring accessibility is the norm, by prioritizing responsive web design, alt-text, subtitles, closed captions, metadata interoperability, EPUB 3 accessibility, and audiobooks.

Blended learning is here to stay. At Amnet, we collaborate with our customers in producing digital learning of the highest quality. Learn more at Educational Publishing.


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