In 2020, educational institutions were forced to embrace digital learning in a way they hadn’t before. This led to a lot of debates on whether digital learning is an effective way of learning, but many of the discussions failed to acknowledge a simple fact. Most of the online learning we experienced in 2020 was developed in a rush, without the time to consider the best way to present information or the ability to focus on maximising learner engagement.
As the world begins to grapple with the ongoing impact of Covid-19, many institutions are looking to evaluate how best they can provide remote learning while ensuring the learner experience is not impacted.
We think blended learning might be the solution.
What is blended learning?
Simply put, blended learning is a hybrid of traditional in-person and digital learning. While it can take on a few different forms, most blended courses will deliver self-paced online learning alongside instructor-led sessions. These can be delivered online via webinars or in person.
Benefits of blended learning
A blended learning approach has the potential to include the best parts of traditional and digital learning, so it’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of benefits for both individuals and organisations who embrace the style.
Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Blended learning is more efficient
The digital side of blended learning means that learners have access to all of the material at once, wherever they are and wherever they need them. This is obviously more convenient than requiring set attendance, but it can let learners engage with the course materials in a way and time that suits them. For organisations, it can also streamline the delivery of training requirements. Instead of worrying about the physical demands and costs of locations, time-zones and even a high printing budget, they can focus on developing engaging digital learning and still deliver the course en masse.
Students have higher levels of engagement
One of the ongoing criticisms of digital learning is that learners are generally less engaged with the content. While this is often unfair, there’s no doubt that blended learning makes it easier for learners to maintain their engagement.
This is mainly because it allows learners to control their own learning more than other methods. Learners can not only complete the learning at a time that suits them, but they can focus more on areas they are particularly interested in and less time on those they’re not. The learning also has something similar to natural checkpoints to keep people on track, when instructor-led sessions take place.
Collaboration is prioritised
Providing opportunities for learners to work together and reflect on their new knowledge is crucial to improving knowledge transfer and application. It allows learners to examine how their views have changed, offers new perspectives from other learners and gives them an opportunity for future learning via discussions.
However, the collaboration offered in traditional digital learning may not always meet their goal without significant effort from the learning designer. In contrast, blended learning often sets aside time with collaborative tasks being a driving focus of in-person time.
Educators receive more data
For traditional in-person learning, educators can only test the participants at set times during the course, often at the middle and end of the subjects. While they can ask questions more casually, this is likely to only test the knowledge of the individual students who answer the question, rather than the knowledge of learners as a whole.
In contrast, blended learning will often incorporate short quizzes, which allows them to check the understanding of the material both of individual learners and course participants as a whole. This more holistic look at how the class is performing and increased data points can help educators identify potential issues and then focus in-person time on addressing those gaps.
Student accessibility is increased
We all know that people learn in different ways, but it is actually harder to integrate this into in-person learning. As a result, your learning may support limited learning styles. It can even disadvantage some students, such as those with a disability or even just those who are more introverted.
This is one of the greatest benefits of blended learning. Educators can incorporate different mediums such as video, podcasts and images to cater to the different learning types. At the same time, it may be easier for other students to reach out directly online when they wouldn’t during an in-person session.
Flexibility and accountability is increased
It almost goes without saying that blended learning increases flexibility for learners. By requiring less in-person time and allowing learners to take classes at their own pace, these courses can be much easier to fit into a person’s daily life.
As a result of this flexibility, blended learning actually increases accountability. This is because it effectively removes any barriers to participation. For example, a full time worker who has a deadline at work can adjust when they study for the week, meaning there is less reason to not do the work than traditional classes.
Blended learning is often more cost effective
While there are costs involved in developing digital learning and setting up a blended learning structure, it may still be a more cost effective way of learning.
With a reduction in everything from space needed and textbook costs, the same course can also be repeated to further maximise cost effectiveness.
Students receive personalised learning
Instinctively, you might think that in-person learning allows for increased personalisation, but if you think about it for longer, the issue becomes a little blurrier.
In many ways, blended learning can actually make it easier for educators to provide personalisation in courses. In-person, this personalisation is dependent on the instructor’s time, but digital learning offers unique opportunities to do this en masse. Utilising adaptive learning, you can do things like use feedback to validate or guide individuals or allow learners to explore issues with branching options. Instructors can also use the data they receive from the digital courses to personalise the content during in-person sessions to match individuals and the group.