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Exploring EdTech’s Early Lessons in Blended Learning

 

Many teachers have implemented some form of blended learning in their classrooms even before COVID-19 turned the world upside down. But just as many had the mindset that blended learning wasn’t considered important for K-12 children.

After the pandemic pushed most schools toward remote learning, new educational technology has been quickly emerging. And after using these tools almost consistently for the last 2 years for children in all grades, education will never look the same as it did prior to the pandemic. 

Using online technologies to strengthen student engagement is a great way to improve the learning experience—if those technologies are paired with experiential and activity-based learning. Students of all ages require consistent opportunities that promote intellectual, creative, social, physical, and emotional engagement.

Many school districts are embracing the future by incorporating a mix of hybrid and blended learning in the classroom. Teachers are quickly learning how to fuse online education with experiential and activity-based learning to avoid the curriculum becoming strictly screen-based, which can limit the growth of social, psychomotor, and affective skills. 

There are several learning programs available today with 70% of students saying they learn best in a blended learning environment, and a whopping 82% prefer blended learning over traditional learning methods. 

Here’s everything you need to know about blended learning and how it looks to be the future of education.

What is Blended Learning?

Simply put, blended learning is an educational approach that combines online teaching with face-to-face learning. You may have heard of other terms relating to blended learning—hybrid learning, the flipped classroom, or web-enhanced instruction. 

Many teachers are impressed by the effects of blending learning. 73% reported that blended learning has increased student engagement when compared to the slower pace of traditional learning. When students are more engaged, they have an easier time improving on their strengths, being successful with digital tools, and preparing for their future.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

There are 2 types of learning synonymous with blended learning: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous learning refers to the teacher and student(s) being together as a group or 1 on 1 when learning takes place so teaching and learning can happen in real time. Synchronous learning can include in person classes or live online teaching with the class as a whole, or broken down into smaller groups. Students can listen to instruction in real time and can respond and ask questions immediately.

With synchronous learning, students usually learn together, assisted by the teacher who’s available for support while learners go through their tasks and activities. Synchronous learning is mainly used when there’s a need for live interaction or discussion, or as a way to build collaboration among students. 

Asynchronous learning is more student-based and is commonly used in online learning. A more individualized approach to learning, asynchronous teaching, can happen at different times or spaces unique to each student. 

Asynchronous learning involves having the teacher create an individualized learning path so learners can engage at their own pace.

Why Many Teachers Are Embracing the Asynchronous Mindset

Over the last 10 years, teachers have been slowly transitioning to using digital resources as part of their curriculum. Documents, images, hyper-docs, and videos are becoming the norm in the classroom setting and are integral for the blending learning curriculum to be successful:

  • Students can move at their own pace using asynchronous resources: Not everyone learns the same way or at the same speed. Asynchronous teaching allows learners to speed up or slow down their learning, learn when they’re most comfortable, and take breaks when needed. 
  • Asynchronous learners can review and repeat key points as often as they need to: Asynchronous learning resources allow students to pause, consider, repeat, and review as many times as it takes for information to be retained. This is beneficial in blended learning, as traditional classrooms don’t allow for attention to drift without the consequence of falling behind.
  • Teachers can take their time with preparing asynchronous learning resources to make sure they get it right: Brainstorming, practicing, creating, and delivering learning activities that are accessible for all learners takes time. Asynchronous resources give teachers the space they need to get the learning path right, as they have more time and opportunities to practice. 

Teachers can share digital asynchronous resources across grade levels, schools, districts, and global networks: This successful collaboration of resources can be seen through the use of Google Drive, teacher blogs, social media networks, YouTube, and podcasts.

The Benefits of Blended Learning

A well-executed blended learning plan can be used with any curriculum that incorporates traditional learning with digital technology. 

Here are some fundamental benefits of blended learning for students:

1. Increased Student Engagement

When technology is used throughout the curriculum, students are more interested and excited about the subjects they’re learning about. They even have improved retention for monotonous subjects like math and science. 

2. Better Student Focus

The internet is full of valuable resources, so having continuous access to online information can be a huge benefit for students looking to further their knowledge on a certain subject. Being able to engage and interact with resources online keeps learners focused longer than they would be with traditional resources, like books or lectures. Being able to do their own research at the touch of a button further develops their exploration skills. 

3. Boosts Determination and Independence

Because students can take control of their learning through blended programs, they have an easier time setting personal goals and staying accountable for their own learning. This leads to less frustration, and an increased desire to seek additional resources or to ask for help when needed.

4. Increased Interaction and Collaboration

With everyone easily connected, interacting and collaborating is simple, even at a distance. Individual learners can work together digitally. Blended learning platforms can increase activity among students, as well as between student and teacher. This, in itself, is a great learning practice.

5. Instant Feedback

Because blended learning strategies allow learners to send and receive quicker feedback on their work and learning abilities, teachers have an easier time adjusting their teaching style according to the feedback received from students. 

6. Increased Flexibility

Digital learning allows a student to study anytime, anywhere. Sure, the same can be said about traditional books, but those books don’t come with the support of live engagement. 

7. Students Learn at Their Own Pace

Blended learning is so flexible, students can easily learn at their own pace. With continuous access to internet resources, students can skip ahead in assignments, or those falling behind can easily request additional resources to get ahead. 85% of teachers reported improved individualized learning experiences when using blended classrooms. 

8. Future Preparation

Blended learning can offer students a variety of real-world skills that are beneficial for their future:

  • Better decision making
  • Self discipline
  • Research skills
  • Social skills
  • Increased responsibility
  • Enhanced communication 
  • Computer proficiency
  • Self-learning

9. Master Technological Skills

Because students are consistently engaging academically and socially online, they’re preparing themselves to become digital learning masters. Virtual skills are key for the future.

How Can Teachers Use Blended Learning in Their Curriculums?

Successful blended learning techniques require more than just mixing online and face-to-face teaching. A great blended learning curriculum should be a well-planned combination of experiential and activity-based learning based on the 5 “E”s:

  • Engage
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Explore
  • Evaluate

1. Engage (Asynchronous Learning)

Engage with students using brainstorming—ask thought-provoking questions or use question slides. Determine learning goals and practices, and access students’ prior knowledge. This is the beginning stage for piquing your students’ interest in the subject at hand. Brainstorming by asking questions can tap into previously learned skills and ideas. 

2. Explore (Synchronous Learning)

The key word in the exploration stage is collaboration. Pair up students or place them in small groups to allow them time to create, share, experiment, and problem solve. Encourage students to capture these moments with photos and videos, they can be used for presenting their projects later. 

The explore stage is a great time for watching videos, reading articles, searching for information, class discussions, and doing offline tasks together as a group. 

3. Explain (Synchronous Learning)

Hands-on experiences and group discussions are beneficial for students to show off their current knowledge and to ask questions. In this stage, the teacher should look for opportunities to trigger reflection and cultivate critical thinking. Student-generated quizzes and collaborative projects are a great way to foster peer feedback. 

4. Elaborate (Asynchronous Learning)

The elaborate stage strengthens the student learning experience by challenging them through new experiences. This is where you can encourage students to use a variety of digital tools to work remotely on a collaborative project or presentation. Allow them options when presenting their academic strengths and content knowledge: record an oral presentation, submit a written assignment, create a stop-motion video, or design an informative comic strip.

5. Evaluate (Asynchronous Learning)

The evaluation stage allows you to gauge the understanding and achievement of individualized learning goals and provide constructive feedback on students’ work to encourage self-evaluation and problem-solving skills. 

Try to base your assessments on the development throughout a project instead of solely on the final outcome. Encourage peer-to-peer critiques by showcasing students’ talents in a slideshow or online gallery. Use this as a learning experience to teach students how to give and receive constructive feedback to their peers in a respectful, useful way. Be sure to moderate all comments.

The Future of Blended Learning

Blended learning requires both teachers and students to be present, but having flexibility in the time or place of that happening helps achieve success in digital education. Having this adaptability gives teachers and students some control over their education experience and makes it a more well-rounded way of learning. 

As blended learning becomes more accepted worldwide, it’s quickly becoming the ideal partner for future-focused components of education, such as digital citizenship. Future-focused teaching and learning methods, when properly integrated, can significantly develop digital skills for both teachers and students. 

Combining the benefits of digital learning with face-to-face interactions can improve the future of learning in so many ways that would otherwise be unattainable using only one method:

  • Blended learning encourages two-way learning interactions by using an online educational platform that promotes collaboration between students and teachers
  • Students and teachers gain a better attitude toward learning by having unlimited resources on hand
  • Blended learning improves communication between students, making learning more engaging and fun
  • Enhanced student—teacher interactions allows for more customized evaluations
  • Having the flexibility of the time and place for learning promotes independence and self-direction
  • Students can work at their own pace without feeling like their capabilities are being judged or inadequate
  • Blended learning gives the student a sense of responsibility and teaches them how to manage their time

The push to online learning has made such an impact on the way education is being taught that it’s revolutionized the look of education forever. So what does the future of blended learning look like? We think it’s safe to say goodbye to traditional learning as we know it and instead focus on how to create the best combination of experiential and activity-based education through blended learning.

Ready to Move to the Future of Education?

Don’t replace traditional learning—enhance it. Give your teachers and students the best of both worlds with blended learning. 

Edsembli can modernize your district’s systems, software, and processes with a smooth transition toward blended learning. 

Book a demo of our most powerful platform yet—the Edsembli Ecosystem—built by education for education.

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