Guest author, Mike Broderick, CEO of Turning Technologies
Blended learning is already a reality for millions of students. According to education surveys, about 70% of US school districts now offer blended learning programs. A Center for Digital Education study found that 73% of surveyed educators who use a blend of traditional techniques and learning technology during instruction noticed marked improvements in student engagement. The key to achieving engagement is to find the right mix of technology and traditional teaching techniques to ensure that technology is enhancing the learning process and not distracting from the primary focus, which is education.
Finding the right mix means developing a blended learning plan that incorporates the most appropriate technology tools for the students and curricula. Blended learning gives educators an opportunity to work with each student individually as well as to engage whole classrooms in teamwork exercises, but the technology solution must be flexible enough to allow teachers to customize their approach. With a flexible platform, teachers can design a holistic, all-inclusive blended learning strategy. Otherwise, students will access fragmented resources to augment their learning experience, making it harder for educators to control the process.
Despite the fact that the majority of districts offer some form of blended learning, in too many systems, educators present students with a choice of taking classes in a traditional format featuring face-to-face instruction and top-down lectures or a pure eLearning experience. However, non-blended course delivery strategies ignore the fact that students have unique learning styles, and a technique that works well for one student may be less effective with a classmate. A blended approach delivers the best of both worlds. It also prepares students for life after school by enabling them to develop skills that will be important in the workplace.
Familiarity with Collaboration and Productivity Technology
It’s increasingly important for students to come out of the school system with an ability to work with productivity apps and a familiarity with collaboration technology. Parents and teachers who have watched a generation grow up playing video games online and incessantly interacting with peers via social media platforms may believe that this app-obsessed group doesn’t need any help on that score. But students who immerse themselves in video games and peer-to-peer chat apps are accessing a fundamentally different experience than students who use technology in a classroom setting to solve problems.
In an eLearning environment, students have an opportunity to demonstrate how they can use technology on their own to arrive at correct answers and interact with instructors on an individual basis. Traditional classroom settings offer an opportunity to collaborate face-to-face. A blended learning environment lets students practice both types of collaboration and use technology to produce solutions together. In a classroom in which an instructor embeds open-ended questions into a presentation, students can work together to solve problems, using a peer instruction approach that is highly effective.
Ability to Communicate More Effectively
Many teachers have noted with alarm the deterioration of student communication skills. Used to conveying thoughts in acronyms and emoticons online, some students arrive at school without the basic communication skills they need, which could prove a major disadvantage in the job market. Others, accustomed to communicating exclusively online, display deficits in face-to-face communication skills. Traditional classroom settings and eLearning courses can address both of these issues with varying degrees of success, but a blended approach can be the ideal solution to developing both skillsets.
A classroom that features a blended learning approach can effectively deliver the written communication skills students need to succeed in today’s workplace, enabling teachers to gauge baseline knowledge of proper communication forms using polling software and allowing instructors to instantly assess which topics require additional coverage and which subjects are fully understood. With a blended approach, teachers can use eLearning technology to manage individual writing assignments and classroom technology to facilitate discussion among students, helping them build individual and face-to-face communication capabilities.
Teamwork and Individual Focus
For academic and career success, students need teamwork skills as well as the ability to complete tasks on an independent basis. Since classrooms bring students together, many educators focus on traditional learning settings to help their students acquire the teamwork skills they’ll need during their academic and professional careers. And eLearning platforms afford students an opportunity to complete tasks as individuals, finding the motivation within themselves to finish assignments without in-person prompting, also a valuable skill in the academic and professional settings.
Since both teamwork and individual focus are needed, a blended learning approach that combines the two is best. Traditional classroom settings can provide an ideal venue for students to hone their collaborative skills. With in-classroom technology that facilitates group learning, students can work together to solve problems, benefiting from their collective knowledge. They can also complete eLearning assignments separately and discuss the results with their peers, gaining valuable experience with self-motivation while benefiting from group activities.
The Bottom Line on Blended Learning
Many school districts and educational institutions at all levels have eagerly embraced the benefits of eLearning, and it’s easy to see why: Advanced eLearning platforms streamline core tasks like assignment management and grading. An eLearning platform typically enables more students to benefit from instruction with a lower commitment of non-technology resources, such as brick-and-mortar classroom space. These efficiencies and expanded capabilities are vitally important in an evolving educational environment.
But the traditional classroom setting has much to offer as well. It’s often easier for instructors to gauge student knowledge gaps and facilitate broad-based teamwork when working within the same physical space. It’s also important not to overlook the inspiration factor in education – the spark of excitement about learning that a skilled teacher can nurture in an engaged classroom of students.
Engagement is the key to success, both in traditional classroom settings and in eLearning environments. Traditional classroom instruction can enable students to develop the face-to-face collaboration and communication skills they’ll need throughout their careers, particularly when paired with in-class technology that facilitates engagement. And eLearning technologies can empower students to discover new concepts and achieve learning goals at their own pace. Since students have different learning styles and career paths require a variety of skillsets, a blended learning approach can provide the best of both worlds.
Please share your blended learning strategies and blended learning models with us!
About the author: Mike Broderick, CEO
Mike is co-founder of Turning Technologies and serves as Chief Executive Officer. Mike began developing applications for the first radio frequency wireless group response hardware soon after its introduction as a partner and president of one of the earliest group response software companies. Throughout his 20 years in the industry, Mike has been one of the leading innovators in the group response industry working and leading efforts in sales, marketing, research and development, as well as product delivery and fulfillment. He has led Turning through remarkable growth and to their current position of dominance in their industry and markets. In addition to his contribution to Turning’s remarkable success and multiple product and company awards, Mike is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award and was inducted into the Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame as the first winner of the “Entrepreneurial Spirit Award”.