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What Is Blended Learning?

Katie Parr

February 10, 2021

Blended learning, hybrid learning, and flipped classroom are all terms used interchangeably and are becoming increasingly popular methods of teaching. But what are they? How can they help academic and corporate learning and development? In two parts, we explore blended learning. This is Part 1.

What Is Blended Learning?

A Cambridge Assessment research paper defines blended learning as:

“a mixture of online and face-to-face learning. In the literature, blended learning is also known as ‘hybrid learning’ or the ‘flipped classroom’.

Blended learning is a teaching style that amplifies learning experiences. It does so by incorporating eLearning tools and resources with in-person interactions, such as between students and the teacher, or amongst students themselves.

What Is the ‘Flipped Classroom’ model?

The ‘Flipped Classroom’ model describes a pragmatic and instructional approach to learning. Instead of trying to teach all the content within the classroom time, instruction for each class is given ahead of the class starting. This could also include a lecture that typically takes place within the class. Homework may still be issued after class, giving students an opportunity to use classroom time to interact with their peers and their teacher and better understand the topic.  Students arrive to class better prepared, and teachers are then able to optimize classroom time to focus on learning concepts and explore deeper aspects of the topic. This model is appropriate for both academic learning environments and working learning environments.

Examples of Online Learning

Mobile learning (mLearning) and online learning (eLearning ) can include:

  • Online learning environments, also called Learning Management Systems
  • Digital course materials
  • Online discussions via forums, email, and virtual meetings
  • Instant messages
  • Online organisational tools such as calendars and folders
  • Online sharing tools, such as file shares and collaboration enabled resources and platforms
  • Web conferences, lectures, and seminars
  • Online surveys and quizzes
  • Game-based learning
  • Online submission of work, such as essays, presentations, and portfolios
  • Online grading tool
  • Electronic portfolios

Examples of Face-to-face Learning

Face-to-face learning can include:

  • Group lessons, seminars, and tutorials of all sizes which can involve face-to-face group work
  • Conferences and lectures
  • Assignments that are taken in person and then physically marked by teachers
  • Learning takes place in physical learning environments, such as classrooms, learning centres, or in offices and dedicated training centres.
  • In-person presentations and lab demonstrations as part of learning or testing
  • In-person performing arts (drama, dance)

Why Is Blended Learning Adopted?

There is plenty of research that considers blended learning as a practice of “rigorously and thoughtfully combining the best features of face-to-face learning with the best features of online learning”. The most commonly cited results of this teaching style are three-fold; blended learning is flexible, cost-effective, and improves pedagogy.

Using Technology to Boost Learning

Technology enables peer and social learning, as well as flexible learning, all of which improve a learner’s ability to comprehend and retain knowledge. Technology also makes learning far more accessible in several different ways. On granular levels, technology enables students with micro-variations in learning styles to enjoy learning experiences better moulded to their needs. For students with physical or mental disabilities, technology can make these learning experiences far more inclusive, breaking down barriers that prevent students from accessing the same quality of learning experience as their peers. Finally, for students who cannot access schools, perhaps because they live in remote areas or in parts of the world where educational infrastructure is still undergoing development, technology can bring education to them. From students who cannot afford full-time education, to those who choose to upskill alongside their jobs, technology can offer opportunities for learning and growth.

Keeping the Human Connection in eLearning

With all that technology has to offer, it’s important that we don’t dismiss the benefits of including human interaction in education. Having human interaction in education helps build a collaborative environment that fosters creativity and growth.

Blended Learning Offers the Best of Two Different Learning Practices

Increasingly, trainers and teachers do not need to choose between virtual learning and face-to-face learning. Corporate employees can undergo training that is flexible in a sense of both time and individual needs. Teachers working with 30 children of varying abilities can issue digital content prior to their lesson and optimise student-teacher face-to-face time to best suit the students' needs.