The rapid advancement of technology has touched almost every imaginable sector of human life, and education is no outlier. In fact, the education field has been at the forefront of some of the ways that technology can transform and improve human endeavors. With technology promising to increase accessibility, reach, and individuality of educational delivery, blended learning operates as a beacon of promise for the future.
What is Blended Learning?
Put simply, blended learning is any combination of traditional face-to-face classroom delivery with online education (sometimes called e-learning). There is a wide continuum of what this blend can look like. A mostly face-to-face class where a teacher makes materials available online for review is on one end of the spectrum while a class that meets entirely online but has a face-to-face lab component for question is on the other end of the spectrum. Many blended learning experiences fall somewhere in between.
By combining elements of both traditional learning and online education, blended learning is able to capitalize on the strengths of both approaches. Students are still engaged in the human aspects that have been found to be so crucial to the exchange of knowledge, but they also get the benefits of accessibility and depth of material that online education has been lauded for providing. It can be the best of both worlds.
What are the Benefits of Blended Learning?
The benefits of blended learning have the potential to be truly transformative to the field of education. By integrating technology into a traditional classroom approach or by adding face-to-face components to an online educational environment, educators have the potential to reach more students, work more effectively in collaboration with one another, and build a sustainable education plan for the future.
Benefits for Students
- Constant access. One of the main benefits of blended learning for students is that they have constant access to materials. If students miss a class, they can catch up on the material before they even return to class, allowing them to stay on track without falling behind. They can also review material at their own pace, allowing them to catch up if there are concepts that take longer to understand.
- Parent involvement. When materials are available online, parents are more empowered to get involved in their children’s education because they can see the lesson plans and the connections between ideas more readily.
- Multimodal delivery. Making materials available online allows for multimodal delivery that simply isn’t possible in the confines of the classroom due to time or technology limitations. Materials that were originally delivered in a discussion format in the classroom can be reinforced through audio, visual, and lecture-based formats.
- Opportunities for self-assessment. With automatically graded quizzes, students can use online access to do self-review of their understanding of key concepts and get access to materials relevant to their specific needs to work more effectively toward improving comprehension.
- Individualization. Perhaps one of the best benefits of blended learning is that it can meet learners where they are in a way that classroom delivery cannot. In a classroom, an instructor often has to teach to the norm, and understandable approach that has the unfortunate effect of losing learners who are struggling to keep up and boring learners who are surpassing expectations. By making materials available online, educators can differentiate instruction and meet the diverse needs of learners who are advanced and struggling with materials.
Benefits for Educators
- Increased collaboration. Collaborative learning can be difficult to fit into a traditional educational setting. After all, classroom management alone takes up a tremendous amount of time and energy, and finding coordination among busy schedules is difficult. Moving this collaborative component to an online platform allows educators the chance to discuss, align curriculum, and share materials with ease.
- Interdisciplinary opportunities. Related to increased collaboration, online learning environments readily lend themselves to co-teaching and interdisciplinary approaches because instructors can easily share resources and work together to create and evaluate assignments without the confines of scheduling and physical resources that often limit these opportunities in traditional educational settings.
- Curriculum alignment. Using online learning to store, share, comment on, and archive lesson plans, assignments, and even graded student work makes curriculum alignment a lot easier and more effective.
All in all, blended learning offers a wealth of benefits for both educators and learners, and embracing these opportunities is an excellent way to galvanize education for the complex needs of the future.