What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is an education methodology in which students learn via a combination of in-person, face-to-face teaching and independent study via electronic or online media.
Not to be confused with hybrid learning, which also heavily relies on technology, blended learning's popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, especially within the corporate learning and training sector. This education approach can bring considerable value and efficiency to existing professional training scenarios.
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Blended Learning Definition
The driving principle behind blended learning is the removal of independent study activities from in-person classroom sessions. The reason for this is two-fold. First, moving reading, assessments, and media consumption outside the classroom allows students to complete those activities in the way that works best for them. Every student learns differently—and at their own speed; some may need to spend more time on a given topic than their peers.
Second, with independent study happening at home or elsewhere, instructors can better take advantage of engagement-based teaching methods. These activities include discussions, polls, role playing, and group work. Studies show that instructor led training combined with these hands-on learning methods are still far and away one of the most effective teaching tools when it comes to ensuring participants retain new knowledge and skills.
What Does Blended Learning Look Like?
Though an electronic or online component is a key ingredient in a blended learning scenario, its presence doesn't necessarily mean that a given program is actually adhering to blended learning methodology. Let's look take a look at a specific example:
An instructor posts their course's class materials online so that students can access them from home and in the classroom. These resources include slide deck presentations, readings excerpts, class notes, assignments, and assessments. Each student has their own laptop in order to access content. During the group reading of a training scenario, the instructor asks each student to individually respond to the text excerpt via an online survey form.
The training scenario detailed above is not an example of blended learning.
Though this particular class is utilizing an online, independent activity, students are all still engaged in the same activity, at the same time, in the same space. They have no control over the time, place, path, or pace of their learning. Had students been given several days to complete this exact activity on their own time before the next classroom session, this would be an example of blended learning.
Benefits of Blended Learning
The blended modality provides significant benefits for learners, instructors, and the organizations hosting training sessions.
- Content can be consumed at the learner’s own pace
- Less time in class allows for better scheduling flexibility
- Less individual work in person means higher quality peer-to-peer interaction
- Greater flexibility in course scheduling
- More time spent engaging with students
- Less class sessions allows for more flexible scheduling
- Better student engagement with an interactive teaching environment
- Reduces training costs due to less in-person classroom sessions needed
- Better learning outcomes due to more effective in-classroom experiences
- Decreased cancellations and scheduling conflicts
- Decreased travel and transportation costs for students, instructors, and resources
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