Get started with blended learning: how it works in practice, where and how learning takes place
- Reading time: 7 minutes
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Blended learning is not a new approach in school education, but it gained attention and was introduced during the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure learning continuity and keep students engaged and motivated. In this article, we will give a short introduction to blended learning, hoping to inspire teachers to test and find a blend that suits their learners.
What is blended learning?
According to the European Commission, blended learning is a teaching and learning process integrating various factors:
- learning environments (home, online, school, other);
- competence development process (lifelong learning and professional);
- affective domain (motivation, satisfaction, discouragement, frustration); and
- people (learners, teachers, parents, other staff).
As Michael Hallissy elaborates in this video, blended learning can be likened to a cocktail, in which educators have to think of their ingredients and botanicals, and depending on how they mix those together, they get another blend.
How does blended learning work in practice?
The first step is to understand our audience. Teachers must consider students’ learning maturity, their technological skills, their readiness for blended learning with its demands for independent learning, as well as their home environments, which will impact any learning at a distance.
It is also important to ensure that the time students spend at a distance supports and leads into their attainments in school, and vice versa. Blended learning is not about giving more homework or providing an online repository of materials. Learning in the two environments should be integrated, complementary and overlapping, and learners should have some control over time, place and pace (Maxwell, 2016; Staker & Horn, 2012).
Which model to choose?
Let’s explore different blended learning models that can help you elaborate your own version of blending in-school and distance learning.
One of the best-known and simplest blended learning models is the flipped classroom model. A flipped classroom requires students to learn at home via online activities and lectures and allows teachers to use class time for practice or projects. The model offers more opportunities for personalised learning but also has some challenging aspects. This video shows some tips for overcoming possible hurdles that teachers face when they flip their classrooms, and suggestions for successful implementation.
In the individual rotation model, students rotate among different stations and learning opportunities in a personalised way, as portrayed in the image below. You can find more practical information in this article.
In the flex model, content and instruction are delivered mainly online, as in the flipped classroom model, with a teacher providing support on site on an “as-needed basis through activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring” (Watson et. al., 2014). The picture below shows an example of the flex model.
One more blend worth highlighting is the self-blend model, in which students supplement their typical school classes with an additional online course chosen by themselves or recommended by the teacher according to the students’ interests or needs.
For a recap of the above, see this video, which offers a thorough analysis and highlights the benefits of each model. But remember that these are only some of the possible “blends” – the combinations are limitless!
How learning takes place
When the choice of the blend has been made, we need to consider how learning takes place. In the following video, Diana Laurillard introduces us to the six learning types based on the ABC Conversational Framework.
Based on these, as teachers, we should then question what we want learners to achieve and which activities can be used. In the same way, we also need to consider whether these activities will take place in a synchronous or an asynchronous learning environment.
By now, you have hopefully gained a better understanding of the blended learning approach, and it is time for you to turn this knowledge into action. If anything remains unclear, that is the point where creativity starts!