The advent of technology in the classrooms of higher education is shaping how learning can take place in modern and effective ways. Adopters of altered styles of educating stand to reap the benefits of an assortment of digital tools that can complement their lessons and recitations. In this piece, we seek to explore a term often seen in present educational articles and literature – “blended learning”.
Blended Learning Definition
As briefly discussed in our previous article, blended learning is a growing umbrella term encompassing various possible classroom organizational structures that give students an element of control of the learning process inside and outside the classroom. Student engagement may be encouraged through multiple avenues that may incorporate digital content or external material (games, online coursework, etc.) as a means of learning and reviewing course content, or practicing example problems at the pace and discretion of the student. The content harmoniously reinforces and enriches the content learned during traditional lectures without simply repeating the same information given during lecture. Some examples of blended learning may include small exemplary projects or additionally assigned reference material by the educator.
There is no set-in-stone method of employing an appropriate blended learning class structure or a golden ratio of lecture to recitation time that yields the maximum absorption of course material; the breakdown of class time, assigned work and offered reference material, and employed digital tools are all used with the ingenuity and at the discretion of the instructor. However, one blended learning variant, the “flipped classroom”, is gaining traction as a popular structure in which students typically watch and review lectures online, and come into class poised with questions and work on example problems and homework under the supervision of the teacher.
Findings: Engage and Support
The main takeaway is that to employ some version of blended learning teachers tend to occupy a role in which they act more to facilitate learning than to deliver rote lectures to students passively following along. They may pick or design the external, supplementary, or exemplary content themselves. Additionally, they may schedule and organize class time for individual and group exercises or reflection time that incites student conversation, debate, experimentation, collaboration, and inquiry.
Such lofty aspirations go beyond wishful aspirations as discussed by B. Guzer and H. Caner in their 2011 paper The Past, Present and Future of Blended Learning: An in Depth Analysis of Literature. Their work examines a variety of studies undertaken during the 2000s and early 2010s. Their paper finds blended learning mostly offers perceptive or qualitative benefits to students and educators alike such as greater satisfaction of class time, information retention, collaboration, and lower drop-out rate for at-risk students. Through their research Guzer & Caner admonish that while outside digital tools can help give students a greater appreciation for course material and flexibility for how they learn, the focus and explicit in-person guidance of the instructor is still a desired and necessary component.
Maxwell, Clifford. “What Blended Learning Is – And Isn’t.” Blended Learning Universe, 4 Mar. 2016, www.blendedlearning.org/what-blended-learning-is-and-isnt/.
TeachThought Staff. “The Definition Of Blended Learning.” TeachThought, Teach Thought, 2 Dec. 2018, www.teachthought.com/learning/the-definition-of-blended-learning/.
n.d. “What Is Blended Learning?” Mindflash, Mindflash Technologies, 27 Apr. 2012, www.mindflash.com/elearning/what-is-blended-learning.
Güzer, Bayram, and Hamit Caner. “The Past, Present and Future of Blended Learning: An in Depth Analysis of Literature.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 116, 2014, pp. 4596–4603., doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.992.