Teaching and learning practices are continually changing to fit the expectations, learning styles and interests of students. Technology has been at the core of the most recent innovations, altering the traditional classroom. This has resulted in the emergence of blended learning, where students and teachers are no longer solely constrained to interact face-to-face; instead, they now have a plethora of tools and technologies at their fingertips.
Blended learning combines the flexibility and accessibility of technology with the in-person interaction and support of a teacher. Read on to find out how we define blended learning at D2L® and the four ways to incorporate this model in your classroom.
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a learning model that combines in-person classroom instruction with online and virtual components to reap the benefits of both. The result is an enhancement of in-person teaching with the ease, flexibility and accessibility of technology. Blended learning also allows students to simultaneously master their coursework alongside the technology they’re using to learn it, preparing them for a digital future.
According to a 2020 report by the RAND Corporation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, about two in 10 districts have adopted, plan to adopt or are considering adopting virtual components to education. District leaders shared that student and parent demands are some of the main reasons for implementing online instruction in the future.
Four Ways to Incorporate Blended Learning
As with any teaching environment, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There are several ways that you can incorporate blended learning into your classroom, depending on the needs of students, teachers and parents.
- Flex model: Teachers are at brick-and-mortar schools and students mostly attend class in a physical classroom. They do most homework online, saving in-person time for questions, discussion and group work.
- Rotation model: Teachers decide how much time is spent in face-to-face learning and how much is spent on alternative learning activities through different rotation models such as station, lab or individual rotation.
- Station rotation: Students rotate through different learning stations, including online options like computer or tablet activities.
- Lab rotation: Students spend a specific amount of time at a computer lab where larger groups of students can go online at once.
- Individual rotation: Students rotate on an individual basis according to a schedule set by their teachers.
- Flipped classroom: Students first interact with new material and concepts through homework. Teachers then use in-person class time to put these new ideas into practice. This differs from the traditional model where students first learn in the classroom.
- Enriched virtual: Students see their teachers in person and get face-to-face instruction, but most of their classwork happens online.
To implement the blended learning model that works best for you, you’ll need the right tools. The right learning management system (LMS), for example, will offer all the tools and integrations you’ll need to deliver the most seamless and effective learning experience possible.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning combines the best aspects of online and in-person learning. It gives students an element of control, improves communication and is incredibly flexible.
1. Provide Students With Autonomy Over Their Learning
Blended learning lets students progress at their own pace. Students can refer to course concepts and material as needed and can advance when they feel ready. An LMS makes it easy for students to look back on earlier materials and to move through coursework at their own pace.
With blended learning, an environment of autonomy empowers students to learn, study and troubleshoot questions on their own, while guidance is always a click away. This can help students build discipline, independence and problem-solving skills as they learn the material.
2. Enhance Communication With Teachers, Students and Parents
Blended learning environments combine the benefits of in-person and online teaching. This technology-infused learning helps enhance communication for teachers, parents and students both synchronously and asynchronously. For example, in a blended environment:
- Teachers can use announcement features in their LMS to communicate class updates, changes and new information to students and parents all at once.
- Students can use discussion forums to ask questions, discuss course content and assignments, and work together in assigned groups and sections.
- Parents can get a window into the classroom by using the same LMS as their children to see what they are working on and what’s on the schedule. This lets them stay up to date on the latest news from the classroom.
Strong communication is the key to a fulfilling educational journey for students. Blended learning can help improve communication and ensure that students who are behind, receive the extra help they need, while those who are ahead can take on enrichment opportunities to keep them challenged and engaged.
3. Track and Improve Engagement
Using EdTech tools to enhance traditional learning practices also helps provide educational stakeholders with more information about learning, engagement and adoption to inform teaching and decision-making. But success is dependant on using the right tools, such as an LMS, with the right reporting capabilities to match your needs. For example:
- Measure engagement: Gain insight as to how learners are engaging with their courses. This helps teachers identify at-risk learners so that they can intervene and get students back on track.
- Understand assessment quality: Access visualisations to help teachers understand the quality of assessments using quiz and question statistics such as reliability, average grade and correlation for all quiz and question types.
- Monitor adoption levels: Understand the level of usage of EdTech tools along with breadth and depth of usage. This helps teachers and administrators get an idea of the wide variety of tools and features being used in the learning environment as well as which features are being used to their fullest ability.
Using analytics to track students’ engagement and the quality of assessments allows instructors to create more dynamic and interesting content, improving retention and understanding in their classes. This helps students get the most out of their blended learning experience by ensuring they’re well equipped once they leave the classroom.
4. Improve Accessibility and Reach
The integration of technological tools not only ensures that students can use material any time, from anywhere—it also improves accessibility for all students regardless of their learning needs. Some technology tools that can enhance learning experiences in blended environments include features that make content more accessible to students who use assistive devices, as well as features that allow content to be accessed on demand.
Here are some tools that help make courses more accessible:
- Accessibility checkers help catch common accessibility issues on static HTML content and offer suggestions to help you fix them on the spot.
- Closed captions provide students with a text version of the speech and non-speech audio information needed to understand the content.
- Assistive technology integrations ensure that all learners can thrive in a blended learning environment. These technologies—which include listening, visual and communication aids—are used by about a billion people around the globe.
These tools ensure that content is accessible and within reach of all students while making it easy for educators to create an inclusive learning environment. Every student deserves to learn in an environment they can succeed in; technology ensures that inclusion is the baseline rather than a luxury.
Chase Banger is a Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. An award-winning journalist and former communications specialist, he has a passion for helping people through education.
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