When educators look back on the early days of teaching remotely, many remember feelings of uncertainty, confusion, frustration, and even a little excitement. For most, the first year was filled with broken links to assignments and blurry screenshots of textbooks. While teachers battled technical difficulties, students received a crash course in self-discipline and accountability. Eventually, instructors and their pupils found a sweet spot that made an ideal environment for learning.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is defined as a teaching method that combines traditional in-person classroom lessons and activities with online educational materials and media for a personalized learning experience. ELearning modules, educational games and applications are all tools used to support a blended learning curriculum.
Making online synchronous learning effective is a delicate balancing act of engaging students with digital tools and keeping the in-person benefits of classrooms. Blended learning, the combination of virtual and traditional instruction, offers the best of both worlds when implemented correctly.
What are the benefits of blended learning?
In 1992, education theorist Neil Fleming, publicized the VARK learning approach. Fleming theorized that by personalizing learning and teaching styles, students’ understanding and interest in learning would amplify. The visual, aural, reading/writing, and kinesthetic categories are the most common styles of learning.
Students tend to be more engaged when learning is fun and relatable. Different tools increase the odds of capturing students’ attention, whether they immerse themselves in an interactive video or create a project in class.
Using technology to manage and support students gives teachers enhanced data to monitor their progress. Administrators can also gain insights into attendance, engagement, and other areas where students may need extra help.
Organizations and schools save money by using eLearning software for students. Daily operations are less expensive, plus less money spent on school supplies.
Instead of the traditional learning model that may not be the best fit for every student, a blended learning solution answers the need of different learning styles. Social and kinetic learners can thrive in an instructor-led classroom while visual learners take advantage of video lectures.
Blended learning models encourage learning from instructors and building upon that knowledge with a variety of digital media outside of the classroom. Extending the reach of a lesson from one activity to another makes the material more effective and easier to learn.
The ability to access their classes and assignments at any time or place gives learners the autonomy to work at their own pace. Adult learners or children with complex learning styles see huge improvements in their success when they choose how to study.
5 Tips for blended learning
You may have practiced blended learning in your classroom unknowingly. Playing an interactive game (like Kahoot) to quiz students or using a learning management system (LMS) are both examples of introducing blended learning to your curriculum. Build off your momentum or map out a new teaching plan with five tips for blended learning.
Find your blend of learning models
Depending on your school system and what type of students you teach, certain blend models will be more fruitful than others. Here are some examples of blends that work for different learning styles:
Station rotation model – The most common form of blended learning involves students rotating between virtual and in-person instruction within a class. This model is best executed from elementary to middle school grades where students may stay in one classroom (or hallway of classrooms) all day.
Face-to-Face driver model – This model is the closest to the traditional way of teaching. Teachers lead the course and set students up with technology to facilitate self-study. Instructors can help students below or above average grade level work at their own pace by supplying them with educational technology.
Online driver model – Students are almost fully virtual learners and receive their work remotely, typically using an LMS. They can interact with teachers through the online platform’s messaging board or email system.
Flex model – Also known as personalized learning, students are able to choose their own pathways and decide what they want to learn. Instructors act as mentors or guides on-site, available for face-to-face meetings when needed.
Gamification – Integrating play with schoolwork yields great results with learners. Assign points, levels, or quests to students and watch them work to ‘win’ the game. Check out Classcraft to turn your classroom into a multi-level adventure, or Wakelet for an educational scavenger hunt.
Whether you pick one blend or take inspiration from several, make sure it’s sustainable. In order to properly support your students, you need to be consistent with whatever model you choose.
Mix up your tools
At its simplest, blended learning is the practice of using electronic and traditional materials to enrich your lessons. Disrupt the monotonous flow of your everyday activities by using multiple tools that are accessible to all students. Instead of using the computer lab for individual assignments, show a video that sparks group discussion and have students submit a short summary.
Try to keep up with the latest educational games and apps that encourage productive class participation. Some online resources may be fun, but not the right fit for your lesson. When choosing an educational technology for your class, remember to weigh your decision by learning objectives and overall goals.
Outline learning pathways
Years of traditional learning has shown that students learn in a variety of ways. While you can’t personalize lesson plans for every learner, there are steps you can take to ensure all students are set up for success.
Provide work that ranges in degrees of difficulty. Make a plan for students who aren’t doing well with online learning, and vice versa. If you have students that blossom at their own pace, create objectives for them to reach with your supervision.
Maintain traditional methods
A common mistake instructors make when incorporating blended learning is forgetting about the traditional side. Students need one-on-one attention, hands-on activities, and the opportunity to make decisions with their peers. In-person learning is equally beneficial and shouldn’t be underestimated. Continue to assign chapters for homework and assignments that require traditional reading and writing.
It’s also important to remember that every student may not be as technologically savvy as the next. Take time to go over the basics on operating new classroom tech and how to play online games.
Establish individual and group goals
You need measurable, defined goals to correctly gauge how well your new teaching methods are working. Before you introduce blended learning to your students, review expectations and walk them through the online learning platform you will be using. Once they’re comfortable, inform students on how their progress will be measured and how they will be graded. On top of students’ individual grades, you should also have a system of grading class success with the blended learning model.
Create milestones for your goals and remember to keep detailed records. If you’re trying blended learning for the first time, you’ll want to make sure you have an accurate record of your students’ journey.
Is Blended Learning for You?
Providing students with new ways to learn and grow as individuals is part of a teacher’s mission. Choose a learning management system that can support your students and nurture their development. Reach out to us today and find out how we can help you manage online learning.
See how GoSignMeUp & Learning Stream can improve registration management for your school – book a demo today!