The internet has transformed many aspects of daily life, including education. With the development of connected classrooms and online learning, many secondary and postsecondary educators have begun experimenting with blended learning, an approach that combines online learning with in-person classroom activities.
Nailing Down a Definition
Blended learning is an emerging approach that lacks a widely accepted definition. It even lacks a standard name, as some educators refer to it as mixed-mode coursework or hybrid instruction. The broadest definition is that blended learning is a planned, integrated method of replacing some in-person classroom activities with online learning. True blended learning doesn’t use technology as supplemental instruction. Instead, in-person learning and online learning are seamlessly integrated so that they support and inform each other. Depending on who you’re asking, you might also hear these elements included in a definition:
- Student-led learning: students have some control over their online learning.
- Differentiation: online learning is used to customize lessons to a student’s preferred learning styles.
- Extended instruction: in-person and online learning do not redundantly cover the same material.
Understanding the Possibilities of Flipping
Some proponents of blended learning have embraced the concept of flipping the classroom, which is sometimes called the online driver method. In a traditional classroom, the lesson is delivered in the classroom and supplemental materials are distributed for at-home study. In a standard blended learning classroom, the students might still receive most of their lectures and materials in-person, with an integrated online component. A flipped classroom, in contrast, delivers lectures, course materials and notes to students electronically, with students going through the coursework at their own pace. This frees up the entire in-person class period to hold other meaningful instructional activities such as group discussions. The teacher can devote more time to one-on-one mentoring and answer questions without being overly pressed for time.
Identifying the Benefits and Drawbacks of Blended Learning
Blended learning has its ups and downs. Instructors are encouraged to consider the benefits and disadvantages in light of your school’s policies, your curriculum challenges and the needs of your students. Some of the benefits include:
- Maximizing time in the classroom
- Minimizing in-person student disruptions
- Increasing one-on-one mentoring time
Some of the drawbacks of blended learning include:
- It might be more difficult to determine if students are really doing the work.
- There are greater opportunities for plagiarism.
- Students with poor time management skills may struggle.
Taking Small Steps Toward Integration
As a new teacher, you may already be at an advantage in terms of making a shift toward technologically integrated learning, since you aren’t yet accustomed to running your classroom in a set way. Even so, consider taking small steps toward blended learning. You could start with the use of an online discussion platform. You’re likely to find that shy students who have trouble speaking up in class are more eager to add to the discussion online. Once you’ve experimented with effective ways of integrating this technology into your curriculum, you can look for other web-based tools to try.
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