blended learning

A Guide to Blended Learning

How to implement blended learning strategies using trusted teaching approaches and digital learning tools

Do you have some students who are falling behind in class? Or on the other hand, do you have some students who are accelerating far ahead of the rest? Do you end your day exhausted from presenting long lessons that seem to have lost the class halfway through? If you said yes to any of these questions, blended learning may be the answer you are looking for.

What is Blended Learning?

blended learningJust as the name implies, blended learning is a blend of multiple teaching practices. Specifically, it is a blend of traditional classroom instruction and online, or digital, learning. The amount of time spent in each setting varies depending on the blended learning framework, or the technology that is available. Regardless, this is a hot topic in education and it is sweeping schools from the K-12 level to college.

What makes blended learning so appealing is the fact that students have control over both the pacing and content of the digital component. This creates individualized learning opportunities that meet the needs of each student. Not only that, but the time spent online rather than in a lecture frees up the teacher to work with students one-on-one to provide support.

Blended learning can take many forms, but the basic formula always includes both a traditional and digital piece. On the lowest digital level, the teacher may embed some online interactives or games into their traditional lesson. On the other end, the student may stay home most of the week and complete courses virtually, only to come to the school for teacher support. Yet in many blended learning schools, implementation looks very similar to a flipped classroom.

Advantages of Blended Learning

blended learningThere are many advantages to using blended learning in your classroom. Below are a few highlights:

– Increased student engagement and motivation
– Reduced overall cost with the use of digital textbooks and online materials
– Instantaneous data collection, for both teacher use and student feedback
– Time for the teacher to work with individual students

Challenges of Blended Learning

Just as with any new teaching model, blended learning has its challenges as well. These challenges include:

– Students and schools need the necessary technology tools and Internet access
– It can be difficult to manage students in an online setting, including their time management and ensuring they get the work done
– It can initially be very time consuming for the teacher to establish

How to Bring Blended Learning into Your Classroom

Do you like the way blended learning sounds? Take some small steps to get your feet wet and try it out with your students. If successful, you can continue adding more digital components to your lessons until you find the best balance for your classroom. You may even be using some of these strategies already!

Start Small

blended learning– Have students complete a webinar or webquest
– Add time for students to play an interactive game or complete an online lab
– Use more Web 2.0 tools – like user-generated content and social media – for collaboration
Take a virtual field trip
– Allow students to watch an instructional video on their own device

Next Steps

– Have your students participate in an online discussion board
– Utilize an online textbook
– Create a wiki for your classroom
– Record your lectures for students to watch at home
– Extend lessons with virtual simulations
Flip your classroom!

Remember, blended learning is all about integrating more digital learning opportunities for your students. This doesn’t mean you need to dive right in and create a fully virtual course. Take small steps and see how your students do. If you have a classroom that is one-to-one, try adding new digital opportunities and devote class time for students to explore. Regardless of how digital your classroom becomes, you will quickly see the benefits of the blended learning movement!

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Alexandra D. Owens

Alexandra Owens is a STEM Education consultant based in Charleston, SC. She taught middle school science for many years and is now completing her doctorate in STEM Education at Texas Tech University.

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