[Category: In Class]
Incorporating Blended Learning in the Classroom
by Ross Anderson
Blended Learning, in its modern context has come to be recognised as the mix of traditional face to face teaching and online learning opportunities. More and more these lines are being blurred and some spectators often refer to this as just learning! Whatever the opinion it has become clear, that in a more social and media connected world, students, are accessing a wealth of information online when, where and how they choose. Why is this a problem? Well, its not! In fact, it’s a great opportunity for education to grasp this, harness the power and shape how students or learners interpret and utilise this information.
In many general FE colleges in the UK ‘Blended Learning’ has become a more integrated and staple delivery method for vocational education. This offers educational institutions a better range of delivery options and greater flexibility in delivering focussed and more relevant learning. Working in Further Education for the best part of 15 years I have been involved in the planning, preparation, design, creation and delivery of blended learning. More recently I have managed this at an institutional level, by ensuring staff and students are appropriately supported to deliver high quality, effective online learning.
Throughout this time I have seen some of the very best (and some of the worst) Blended Learning! What separates them is the attention to detail on planning learning. There are many, many technologies available and these can be deployed in also many, many ways. However, it is critical to not lose sight that you are planning learning! You are creating a story, a journey, a quest, an experience where a student will develop and apply new understandings.
So how can you make Blended Learning more effective?
- In my experience it is essential to have clear aims for what you want the student to achieve. Make this clear and this will guide you student on their path. It will also provide a baseline for students to help measure their success and be challenging enough to want to thrive for more.
- Create a range of different tasks or activities that challenge learners at different levels. Just watching a YouTube clip is not effective, but requiring the student to analyse and discuss it has more impact. Ask them to create their own video or use a range of online tools to present their findings in more than just words.
- Create room for social discourse. Students already do it, online and in social networks. Why not create this in your Blended delivery either by forums, chat rooms or online webinars? Facilitate and empower students to become engaged in their own learning.
- Practical and effective assessment is also a must. Students need feedback, don’t we all! But simple Yes/No questions wont expand learners thinking. Create peer and self-assessment activities that can be dissected in more face to face opportunities.
- Offer Flipped Learning. A relatively new concept where students undertake the knowledge building outside the classroom and then apply it to situations in the classroom. This allows the students to practically apply their learning and promotes a greater understanding by directly applying the theory, in-action.
Good planning and understanding of how your students learn will allow you to plan effective Blended Learning. Remembering that the ‘Face to Face’ and ‘Online’ elements are one and the same will reap benefits. Creating a continuous learning path where learners can step off occasionally and still reach their destination will
help promote effective Blended Learning.
Finally, if you require some further insight then there is some great support out there with organisations like Jisc who are supporting institutions with excellent tools and feedback on using technology effectively. Also, smaller regional networks such as the Digital Technologies Network, who take a multi institution, regional approach to supporting technology and Blended Learning.
Ross Anderson is currently the Elearning Ambassador for North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe and is responsible for overseeing the use of technology for teaching, learning and assessment as well as developing staff skills with a range of technologies. He has worked in Further Education for over 12 years with over 5 years specialising in E-learning with particular interests in Blended and Flipped learning, Gamification and Mobile Technologies.