What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a learning method that combines distance and face-to-face activities .The English term blended learning – translated as mixed learning – describes well the proposal of this methodology, which takes advantage of technological resources without abandoning the richness of human interactions . In this article we will provide you the advantages of blended learning.
According to the authors of the study “Classifying K-12 blended learning”, Staker and Horn, the method can be defined as:
“A formal education program that mixes moments in which the student studies the contents and instructions using online resources, and others in which teaching takes place in a classroom, being able to interact with other students and with the teacher.”
When Did Blended Learning Emerge?
Also called blended learning , blended learning was born in the context of e-learning as an innovative methodology option in the late 1990s.
The first models of blended learning (or BL) capabilities were structured and implemented by North American institutions , such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
This higher education institution even developed an incentive program for its professors to be motivated to build hybrid courses.
From the beginning, his idea was to oppose the conventional model of classes , in which the teacher is a transmitter of information and the student, a mere listener who must learn by absorbing the contents taught through a monologue.
BL is the result of the transformations triggered by the insertion of digital information and communication technologies (DICT) in all fields of human life, including education, which culminated in the formation of a network society .
Along with the questions about the traditional teaching method, forged at the beginning of the industrial era, there were answers that recognize that not all people learn in the same way.
In other words, not everyone makes good use of lectures in expository format, which calls for a flexibilization of the dominant model so that more students benefit.
How Was The Process Of Popularization Of Blended Learning?
The blended learning proposal quickly spread across a number of nations, gaining popularity in the 2000s.
In the United States, the method surpassed the barriers of higher education to gain a prominent place in early childhood and elementary education.
In European countries, New Zealand and Canada, the modality has become common for high school students .
But the expansion of blended learning also took place from incentives provided by the State in countries such as Mexico, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey.
In addition to its adoption by educational institutions, it is worth noting the relevance of BL for corporate universities , continuing education and other learning formats used by different companies.
One example is McDonald’s University projects, which use blended learning to make distance learning more attractive .
For Luciano Maffia, consultant responsible for implementing BL at McDonald’s University, the methodology :
“It ‘s a way to democratize because you have lower costs. The teacher‘s hour/class starts to be shared by more people, because there is no limitation of the physical room, which restricts the number of vacancies. Thus, the price of access may also be more popular. And there is also the issue of travel, accommodation, indirect costs that really weigh.”
How Does Blended Learning Work In Practice?
Blended learning works on the basis of a flexible teaching program , however, guided to cover all the steps defined in the lesson plan.
Its objective is to extract the best of the face-to-face and distance modalities, using the resources of both to create models that can be customized by the students.
This means that students take a proactive stance in BL, contrary to what happens in traditional teaching.
However, they will have teachers and tutors available so that their journey is guided, in order to better fix the contents covered.
As an active learning methodology, blended learning prioritizes the acquisition of skills rather than simply following a previously designed timetable, placing the student at the center of the learning process .
According to the work of researchers Bransford, Brown and Cocking (cited in this article ), to develop competence in an area of investigation, it is necessary to:
- Have a deep base of factual knowledge
- Understanding facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework
- Organize knowledge in order to facilitate its retrieval and application.
This is the proposal of blended learning, which mixes face-to-face and distance learning to provide rich experiences , as detailed below.
In-Person Or In Times Of Covid19, Through Synchronous Distance Learning
The face-to-face approach serves, mainly, to exchange information and promote debates on the topics studied.
Instead of spending time in lectures, groups are invited to raise questions, add comments, and discuss differing opinions .
In this sense, it is common for BL to be used together with other active teaching methodologies, such as the flipped classroom, so that students arrive at face-to-face or synchronous (live) meetings prepared.
Bearing in mind that the flipped classroom is a model in which the student has the first contact with the topics studied at a distance, through readings, audios, videos and interactive materials, to then talk about it in a face-to-face meeting.
Other activities carried out in person are tests, labs, group tasks and presentation of practical examples to solve a problem.
Most activities are concentrated in the remote modality, focusing on its flexibility for the times , days, place and company of studies.
With the support of contextualized materials and a series of tools, students can find their own pace of learning , enhancing their use according to available times and when they feel better.
Among other components, the blended learning distance approach can use:
- Quiz : dynamic activity formed, in general, by multiple choice questions
- Virtual reality (virtual reality or VR): methodology that uses VR glasses or other instruments to provide immersion in a specific environment
- Augmented reality (AR) : similar to virtual reality, but part of the real environment, adding points of interaction
- Gamification : employs the playful concept of games to facilitate the understanding of a topic
- Educational games : uses one or more games built specifically for the teaching-learning process
- Interactive materials : infographics, adapted texts and other content that changes and requires student participation to make sense of the sequence
- Multimedia material : images, links, videos and audios
- Virtual classrooms , which allow real-time interactions
- Doubts with tutors
- Collaborative tools , which allow the construction of texts, spreadsheets, videos and other items together. Once published on platforms such as virtual learning environments (VLE), they can be edited by all group members.
How Can Classes Be Taught In Blended Learning?
As we explained above, classes in hybrid format are usually taught at a distance, in order to maximize their use and allow students to retrieve the content whenever they want.
Thus, when they arrive at the face-to-face meetings, they are able to discuss the issues addressed, since they have already had contact with them.
Conducted through information and communication technologies (ICT) , virtual classes can follow two models, being classified as synchronous or asynchronous.
They are those that require scheduling, as they are transmitted in real time to one or more students.
The synchronous format has as its main advantage the instantaneous participation of all those involved, who can send questions and comments through chats or make audio statements, participating in the meetings in an active way.
In this way, the class itself contributes to the construction of classes, which can adopt different methodologies such as live reviews , interviews, competitions, comments from experts or several teachers in the same meeting, etc.
These are recorded classes , the most common in distance education and which can be watched at any time and place.
Introduction classes to a topic, expository modeling and expression of basic concepts are among the main formats for this type of content, which is usually enriched with interactive tools .
After all, they allow a detailed study, breaks when necessary, consultation with tutors and colleagues remotely and consultation with teachers.
Blended Learning vs Distance Education
Blended learning was created from the same tools used in distance education , however, both express different ideas.
While blended learning refers to mixed formats, distance education focuses only on remote teaching options , and was born long before BL.
With the invention of technologies that allowed mass communication, such as radio and television, these tools were also used as facilitators for teaching, still in the traditional model – starting from one to many.
In other words, it was not possible (or, at least, it was difficult) to interact with teachers and knowledge holders.
When the internet became popular in the country, around the 1990s, distance learning gained a strong ally, following the tradition of using communication vehicles to reinforce the teaching-learning process.
It was only then, with the birth of e-learning , that the concept of blended learning emerged.
B-Learning vs E-Learning?
Although it has been translated as synonymous with distance education, the real concept of e-learning goes beyond remote teaching , incorporating the entire learning process mediated by the virtual environment.
Thus, online entrance exams, access to internet systems to check the bulletin or even research for school support, carried out by search engines such as Google, can be classified as e-learning.
But one can imagine the confusion of using the term e-learning to describe processes that, despite having online stages, include or even prioritize face-to-face teaching .
This is how the term b-learning was spread , which refers to the origin of blended learning (which comes from e-learning), but specifies the hybrid format .
What Are The Advantages Of The Blended Learning Method?
Blended learning brings together a number of advantages, and we have commented on some of them throughout this text.
Now, we bring you a list with details about the advantages of blended learning, explaining in more depth why they make a difference when it comes to learning .
1. Diversification Of Forms Of Learning
Not all people learn in the same way.
Some do well with the conventional method , receiving and assimilating content without much participation, while others need experiences to consolidate learning.
There are also those who prefer a different methodology , depending on the content and their mood that day.
By choosing the mixed model , each student has access to tools and options that can be adapted according to their preferences.
Thus, they can choose, for example, between a movie, a game or a manual activity to facilitate learning .
2. More Flexible Study Schedules
Especially in adulthood, commitments tend to be a barrier to studying in courses restricted to face-to-face meetings, resulting in the loss of classes and knowledge.
However, differences in the biological clock are real since the first years of schooling, when some children feel in a good mood in the morning , while others complain to get out of bed and go to school.
B-learning proposes an intelligent solution to this issue, enabling the use of available times and/or those when the student feels more motivated to learn.
3. Student Autonomy
In the industrial teaching model , the student is seen as a mere spectator, who must follow the classes and obey what is requested by the teacher.
But this approach is becoming outdated as new generations arrive at educational institutions, valuing flexibility and adaptation to formats that are interesting for them.
This is because, in the current job market , acquiring a skill is worth much more than a diploma, which has led students to value tasks and useful information for their daily lives.
With BL, they are empowered, having autonomy to decide on the moments, study pace and even assessment modalities .
4. Stimulates The Improvement Of The Relationship Between Teachers And Students
Autonomy gives the student the freedom to be sincere and build a close relationship with the educator .
After all, the role of teachers changes in blended learning, shifting from holders of knowledge and responsible for carrying out activities to tutors who facilitate the teaching-learning process .
Instead of simply talking to the educator in the classroom, the student can get in touch via chat and other apps offered by blended learning, improving the trajectory of studies with the opinion of a qualified professional.
5. Qualifies Interactions Between Colleagues
BL solves the lack of face-to-face contact between colleagues, allowing them to meet during classes and face-to-face debates.
The advantage is that, when they meet, everyone has already studied about the topic proposed for the day, feeling more comfortable to debate , share and defend their point of view.
6. Reduces Costs For Students
Blended learning optimizes costs for students , reducing expenses with constant commuting, meals, etc.
However, schools, colleges, education centers or companies end up investing much more in platforms, technology and systems to provide a quality that guarantees a good experience for students. A digital course needs to be as good as a face-to-face class. In some situations, even better.
Simultaneously, it maintains human interactions, so important for building solid knowledge, overcoming prejudices and developing empathy .
How Important Is The Blended Learning Method In The Digital Age?
The digital age is taking over all spheres of human life, which calls for an affinity with technological tools .
Traditional models go against this need, requiring silence and full attention on the part of the class so that knowledge is transmitted.
A typical example is preventing students from looking at their cell phones during classes.
Blended learning, on the other hand, inserts technological tools into the classroom and into the learning process as a whole, providing their use for the benefit of teaching.
This factor contributes to the digital education of students of all ages, who not only have contact, but also employ these mechanisms daily in their learning routine.
We hope that you have grasped the advantages of blended learning.