Even before schools and universities were required to accelerate and expand the implementation of their online teaching, almost 60% of young adults in the UK were already using online learning tools to supplement their face to face lessons. Learning methods have been evolving for some time. Now schools and colleges around the world are preparing hybrid curricula for the next academic year, blending distance learning programs of education with physical classes on campus. Rather than compromise high standards of teaching however, this combination has been shown to enhance the learning experience of students. Blended learning offers the opportunity for effective personalized and self-directed study while still providing a valuable collaborative learning environment.
Collaborative Learning Environment
Research shows that social educational experiences lead to deeper learning. When information and ideas are shared, students are challenged by different perspectives and have to learn how to articulate and defend their own views to a class. Despite the current reduction in the number of face to face classes, students can still benefit from a collaborative study environment where they are able to discuss ideas or complete a project as a group online. The open source learning platform Moodle emphasizes student-centered learning, where all participants are able to contribute to the educational experience. Making use of interactive elements and sharing information in this way can empower both teaching and learning.
Self-Directed and Personalized Learning
The flexibility of blended learning requires students to become less reliant on teachers and more aware of their own actions in the educational environment. This self-directed learning leads to deeper understanding and more efficient ways of studying. This is because students can choose to complement their classroom experience by discovering new information online, extracurricular reading and planning learning paths and schedules for themselves.
All students learn differently and this self-directed method can be complemented by teachers who tailor their teaching to each individual with the use of online resources. Extra lessons and assignments can be personalized by asking students to read different articles or revise a particular topic, depending on their level of comprehension and attainment. In this way teachers can support all students, whether they are struggling or ahead of the class, to reach their full potential.
Increased Student Engagement
Through discussion and interactive activities, teachers can easily see when students are actively engaged with a subject in a physical classroom. The addition of online resources to a teaching program can also help students to engage more with a course, and consolidate their knowledge of the material presented in class. Online illustrations, quizzes and simulations can all help students to memorize facts, check their progress and practice new skills. In addition, checkpoints during video content or multiple choice questions at the end of a segment allow teachers to see that students are actively participating in a course and successfully understanding the content.
Although recently employed more through necessity, online teaching programs and materials are an invaluable way to enhance face to face learning. When combined with traditional classroom teaching they complement and improve the learning process. Blended learning helps to consolidate information, increase student engagement and encourage self-directed learning.