As technology races ahead in the modern world, traditional pedagogical styles of teaching are now considered as outdated as dinosaurs.
Students expect a far more interactive experience, with lessons and homework which provide them with the opportunity to explore and discover in order to reach the solution.
ICT has started to play an increasingly important role in teaching, a move which has led to the introduction of a style known as blended learning.
But what exactly is blended learning and how does it work in practice?
Put simply, blended learning takes the best from all styles of teaching and puts them together to create an entirely new approach for the classroom, but crucially also involves the student spending some time completing their learning on-line usually in a remote location.
Rather than dedicating an entire lesson with the pupil sat in front of the PC, or listening to the teacher spout facts and figures from textbooks, blended learning weaves together different teaching skills to develop an approach which is designed to suit every learning style.
Digital media has moved from a peripheral role to centre stage but is by no means the only focus for blended learning. It is about using the best that technology has to offer to adapt lesson plans, homework and content to help students fulfil their potential.
Exactly how blended learning is embedded in each school can vary widely but at its core, includes some time where the student has the opportunity to continue their learning at a pace they can dictate, using online learning tools in addition to some traditional classroom time.
Models of learning
In the US, blended learning has been in place for quite some time and six distinct styles have been identified:
1) Face to Face Driven: the majority of the content and learning is delivered in a traditional face-to-face environment but the student has the opportunity to supplement this with online learning either in a separate technical laboratory or elsewhere within the classroom.
2) Rotational: as part of a specified course, students rotate between traditional classroom time and self-paced learning carried out online. The schedule is fixed.
3) Flex: much more student-driven, learning is carried out online with the teacher available to provide support and guidance either through one-to-one sessions or small tuition groups.
4) Online laboratory: the entire course is delivered via an online platform but rather than being carried out remotely, either all or the vast majority is in a physical schooling location.
5) Self-blend: where blended learning is not available, students can opt to take additional remote online courses in order to supplement the traditional classroom style of learning being delivered at their school.
6) Online driver: the curriculum is delivered almost entirely online via both a platform and the teacher. Physical check-ins can either be mandatory or optional.
The role of the teacher isn’t diminished with blended learning but changes from being the sole source of input to a more supportive and guiding role
There are many reasons why a blended learning approach may be adopted as there are advantages to both the students and the teachers, even though it represents quite a big shift from traditional methods.
Students who want to attend schools or courses which are popular may struggle to get in with a traditional type of learning. However, by switching to a blended learning style, the school is able to accommodate a greater number of students without compromising on quality or putting undue pressure on the teacher.
In fact, embracing technology could result in an easing for the teacher, as processes are improved and made more efficient. The teacher is able to spend more time on enhancing the learning experience for the students, with better quality assessments, feedback plus a more collaborative approach.
Blended learning also has benefits way beyond attaining qualifications; self-motivated learning using ICT is perfect for getting students ready for the workplace, both in terms of using technology and personal attributes.
Schools which offer blended learning where the focus is on remote options also could result in those who are unable to attend conventional classes being enabled to complete the course. The flexibility of self-paced learning means students with other commitments, or difficulties with travel can still benefit from the teaching.
Blended learning is a concept which is only just starting to become fully embedded in educational facilities and it will undoubtedly continue to evolve as it becomes more commonplace. However, with benefits for the school, teacher and student, the one thing that is certain is that blended learning is here to stay.