Perhaps no area of society demonstrates the impact of technology more than in the classroom. Today's teachers are tasked with the responsibility of integrating new computer-based tools into their curricula, while effectively educating a generation of students raised in the digital age. Enter blended learning. A teaching format that combines traditional and online platforms, blended learning is poised to become a key strategy in 21st-century education.
“Blended learning" has always been somewhat loosely defined. Although the concept was introduced as early as 1999, educators only sought to clarify its meaning starting in 2006. Since that time, “blended learning" has essentially described any method of delivery that combines the physical co-presence of teachers and students that occurs in traditional classrooms with the use of digital technology. Because the descriptions of the term vary, professor and author Norm Friesen offers two lists of commonly used phrases that may describe each part of the concept.
- Face-to-face (F2F)
- Oral communication
- In-class instruction
- A supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home
- Written communication
- Online delivery of content and instruction
Because blended learning is so flexible in definition, a number of models have subsequently developed, each designed to meet the unique needs of schools and their students.
Blended Learning Models
Blended learning is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, educators have found multiple ways to incorporate the concept into their classrooms, allowing for greater flexibility and personalization in the ways they teach. Here are six of the most commonly used models, as described by DreamBox Learning.
Face-to-Face Driver Model
The face-to-face model most closely resembles the traditional education structure. Here, students gather in a normal classroom, and certain individuals are singled out to use technology based on their particular needs. This is an effective strategy when students need extra attention, either because they are falling behind or are working above their grade level. It can be a useful model for students learning English.
In the rotation model, students work in a traditional classroom but rotate between online stations and face-to-face work with their instructor. This model is largely popular in standard classrooms, particularly those in elementary school. This model is beneficial for providing a consistent structure for students to explore and learn in an environment that is both interactive and digital.
Flex models are most beneficial in classrooms made up largely of non-traditional and at-risk students. Here, learning is largely self-guided. Students engage with materials primarily online, but have teachers in the room to provide them with support in the form of tutoring or working in small groups.
Online Lab Model
The online lab model offers academic courses entirely online. However, students take these courses at a brick-and-mortar location, with an adult in the room to supervise. This adult is usually not a teacher. Instead, students interact with instructors entirely through online forums.
Benefits are most seen from this model in school districts with very little money or resources. School districts can still offer educational opportunities without hiring teachers, and students are able to work at their own pace.
This model is popular in traditional brick-and-mortar high schools and generally serves students who want to take courses the institution does not otherwise offer. The self-blend model works best when taken by highly motivated students.
Online Driver Model
In this model, work is done almost entirely online. While teachers are physically available for check-ins as needed, most correspondence between them and their students occurs online as well. This model is often used for students who require a significant amount of flexibility in their studies or who cannot otherwise physically attend a brick-and-mortar school building.
In addition to providing a convenient and enriching experience, blended learning offers significant cognitive and psychological value to students.
Student Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning is an effective method for retaining information, improving student confidence and increasing engagement, TeachThought explains. Benefits include:
Increased student interest. Integrating technology into the classroom can be exciting for students and break up the monotony of certain subjects.
Increased and sustained focus. Using computers for research is not only faster than using traditional paper resources, it has the potential to keep students engaged for longer periods of time.
Increased student autonomy. Blended learning gives students the opportunity to learn goal setting and self-awareness.
Instilling a sense of self-advocacy. Blended learning promotes self-drive, responsibility and tracking individual achievements.
Promoting students' feeling of ownership over their own education.
Allowing instant diagnostic information and student feedback. The ability to receive rapid responses to their work means students have more time to learn and excel in their work.
Self-pacing. Students can work at a rate that's right for them, ensuring that they both master subjects and stay at their appropriate level of difficulty.
Skill preparation. Blended learning offers practical skills to students, including research, decision making, computer literacy, self-engagement and more.
Substantial benefits also extend to teachers. Blended learning can:
- Allow more effective and personalized interactions between teachers and their students.
- Offer significant schedule flexibility.
- Give teachers the opportunity to connect global resources to their classrooms.
- Provide better student data.
- Offer more opportunities to focus on deeper learning.
- Help teachers reach more students, particularly if those students are physically isolated.
- Increase earning power because of technological fluency.
Ultimately, blended learning is an exciting and beneficial marriage of learning systems. When these systems remain flexible, students of all ages, abilities and skill levels can succeed in their education.
Advanced Learning for Educators
Teaching professionals are constantly seeking new ways to make a difference in their students' lives. For those who want to learn more about advanced methods of student engagement, the online Master of Arts in Education from the University of Findlay can help. The program offers four distinct areas of emphasis, ensuring that graduates leave with a degree tailored to their personal career path.