The past two years have been a disruptive time for the education system. Because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and institutions of all sizes quickly changed into online learning and blended learning. As experts look to a future beyond COVID-19, it’s clear that online classrooms and blended learning aren’t going away.
As schools and institutions are looking for a way to strengthen their offerings to promote long-term resilience, blended learning is an important aspect of that long-term strategy. While blended learning can be beneficial to the education system, the challenges it brings should also be considered.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) is a teaching method that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities. It’s not just online learning, because, in many cases, students and teachers will have to interact in a way similar to the way they would in a classroom.
In a blended learning environment, students are able to take online courses, and instructor-led sessions can be provided via online platforms or real classrooms. While students can study online by utilizing digital learning materials, teachers can engage with students via face-to-face interactions, or through webcams connected to their computers.
So, is blended learning a perfect educational approach? Are there any difficulties that need to be faced?
Benefits of Blended Learning
In a fast-paced and technologically savvy world, blended learning is a valuable way of utilizing technology without losing the importance and values of in-person learning.
Blended learning provides students with the ability to be flexible. Now, students can access learning materials from anywhere at any time, as long as they have a laptop and internet connection. They won’t miss out on education opportunities if they cannot be on campus, which is especially useful to students who might have physical or geographical difficulties. This approach was proven to be successful during the global pandemic, where learning activities were possible without having to go to school.
Work with faculty members
Blended learning also gives students more time and chances to work with faculty staff, since teachers are able to connect with students individually via technology. This provides a higher level of bonding between teachers and students, allowing those who are less confident in class environments to reach out. If students are struggling, they would have the time and privacy to ask for support right away.
Study at their own pace
Online learning gives students more autonomy, allowing them to make decisions on their own learning. Students get to study at their own pace and decide where and when they want to. As a result, students are able to complete schoolwork when it fits their schedule, allowing them to balance school life and daily life effectively.
Improve student retention
The level of freedom and trust is given to students while controlling their own learning, combined with the flexibility of blended learning can overall improve student retention. When students are learning online, they have more control over when and how they learn and are able to manage their own time as well as workload to suit their capacity. This way of learning can also help to prepare them for working life, which is an invaluable skill for the future.
Challenges of Blended Learning
Blended learning is definitely a crucial educational approach to the modern world. However, this model is not without its challenges.
This is probably the most obvious, yet common problem when it comes to blended learning. Students are required to have a great amount of self-discipline in order to control themselves while carrying out their education remotely. This might not be as big of a problem for students who are homeschooled; however, students who are used to physical classroom settings might need more time to adapt themselves to the new learning environment.
Students with a low level of self-discipline might not be able to perform well while studying remotely. Not only will it affect their performance in school, but it can also cause health issues. Some students might take online learning as a reason to sit in front of their monitors for the whole day, which is extremely harmful to their eyesight.
Students must be given the tools and methods to achieve this, while teachers and parents need to check in with them regularly to ensure that they are on track with their studies and are not struggling with their education.
New burdens towards educators
The blended learning model, where students learn both in the classroom and remotely, might require more staff and teachers than the traditional teaching format requires. Blended learning, they are more for teachers and staff to handle. They would have to interact with both in-person students and remote students, which might require more time and effort.
Adaptation to technology
Adaptation to technology is a must when it comes to blended learning. Teaching and learning well in a blended academic setting involve more technology than is needed for an in-person learning environment. Some faculty have no trouble adjusting to technology, but it’s best to have frequent training and support on technological problems. Not only teachers and staff but students and parents are also required to be comfortable with the use of technology.
Schools and institutions face plenty of advantages and challenges when implementing blended learning into the teaching environment. However, doing so is essential for organizations to be flexible and resilient, especially adapting to the post-COVID world.