Whether or not your school or trust has or had a long-standing digital and edtech strategy, the current circumstances have called for educational establishments to double down and wholeheartedly embrace digital approaches to learning in ways they may not have done previously.
With many schools unsure about the way forward in terms of traditional classroom delivery for students, it’s very clear that a more agile and digitally-led approach needs to be adopted. Enter blended learning.
Pre or post COVID-19, there are proven benefits to a blended learning approach, which we can take forward into the new normal and continue to improve the delivery of teaching and learning and educational outcomes.
What is blended learning?
First of all, let’s have a refresher on what blended learning actually is. Blended learning is a pedagogical model that combines educational online materials with traditional classroom methods. A close relative of the blended learning model is the flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom you move away from the group learning space to the individual learning space. Instead of the traditional homework model, students engage with new material and discover concepts for themselves before bringing their learning to class with practical application or discussion. Classroom time can then be spent having more in-depth discussion around the topic, as well as some 1:1 time. Blended learning has certainly become more popular as digital technology has become more affordable and available to schools.
There are a number of benefits associated with the blended learning model. Here are 4 benefits of blended learning to consider for your school or trust.
Many studies have shown that blended and digitally-driven learning models have led to higher levels of engagement and attainment from primary school all the way up to higher education.
A study by the Institute of Education found that students who took part in both independent and mentored learning formed stronger mental connections, leading to higher levels of retention. The ability to tailor the learning experience to the individual (which we’ll come onto shortly), means that students are more likely to stay engaged and gain a deeper understanding of the topic or subject matter at hand.
Personalising the learning experience
When not in a large group traditional classroom-style learning environment, the teacher and the student have more opportunities to personalise their experience. Individuals learn in very different ways – it’s commonly accepted that there are seven main learning styles – and it’s not always possible to take this into account when delivering a traditional classroom-based lesson.
Time is a factor, and the teacher must use the time efficiently to ensure all students are engaged with the subject. But in doing this, some may get left behind if the exercise or content isn’t suited to their learning style. A blended learning approach utilising online tools and resources enables teachers and students to tailor the content and the way they consume it to them and their learning style. Students can go at their own pace, leading to better engagement in the topic and better understanding.
Preparation for the wider world
Outside of school, higher education has long been more driven by more blended learning models – encouraging students to guide their own learning, and prepare for classroom-based discussion sessions by pre-engaging with material. And in a society where the new normal may very well be an increased number of workers collaborating and contributing remotely, it’s great practice for students now to be responsible for their own learning and productivity, and be used to engaging and discussing virtually.
Aside from the cultural aspects, there is the added benefit of familiarising students with tech. In the workplace or working from home, we rely on tech. Digital literacy skills are vital for students to thrive in today’s society – and these can be cultivated in the classroom (or the virtual classroom).
Educational outcomes are obviously of paramount importance, but it’s hard to ignore the cost-saving benefits that come with a more blended approach to learning, particularly one where much of the learning is done from the student’s home. Reduced spending on classrooms and classroom-based resources – such as paper, books, stationary, classroom-based technology – can lead to significant savings.