In my Masters studies I have recently had the opportunity of melding my passions for both Education Psychology and the use of technology in the classroom. I recently responded (in an online course) to the notion of Blended Learning. What was particularly insightful about this exploration was that I was realising that there was an actual term that describes what I, along with nearly every other educator I know, have been doing with tech integration.
I have also read a lot recently on the ‘Flipped Classroom” (#flipped #flipclass and others) and I realised that flipping is just a form of blending; Using a variety of tools to meet your outcomes. Caitlin Tucker (@CTuckerEnglish) also blogged recently about the same concept.
I will include my response to Blended Learning, based primarily on readings from a workshop on Blended Learning in Edinburgh, 2007. (The link is here.)
Blended Learning is a term used to describe the implementation of e-learning tools into a traditional classroom setting. In practice, both methods are used as a means of primary instruction, with the teacher choosing the best method as appropriate to the task. I personally feel that this method is superior to the other two alternatives suggested by Alberts et al (2007); Traditional Lecturing and E-Learning. It seems quite obvious – why not take the best of both?
The literature I have chosen for this topic looks at Blended learning as a concept, moving towards defining the term as well as sound methodology for its use. Two of these stem from the publication ‘Blended Learning’ which was an offshoot from the 2007 Workshop on Blended Learning in Edinburgh.
In the first of these, Barker interestingly explores traditional and elearning styles as ‘channels’ available to the educator to create educational messages to be delivered and assimilated by an audience. The challenge is that each of these channels has numerous modes, which have numerous linguistic frameworks, which open up different genres of communication. Barker then goes on to describe blending algorithms that incorporate multiple channels / modes being used for a particular task. This bought back bad memories of High School Calculus and I was repelled from exploring these in depth. I did pick up though that individual learning styles were thrown into this already complex mix to create a model that is extremely dynamic.
My personal reflection on this idea is that this means ‘more work’ for the educator in terms of setting up systems and ensuring all students are well versed in them, so that the students can indeed assimilate the educational experiences delivered by these systems. Individual learning styles also need to be catered for. It is likely that multiple teaching methods, using a multiple of tools may be appropriate for teaching a class with multiple learning styles. This is what Blended Learning means to me.
Barker concludes with a call for a theory of blended learning that is buttressed by the domains of instructional design and cognitive science. That is, a theory that incorporates good things being taught with good tools in a good way.
Kim, in the same publication, discusses three dimensions to classify learning; physical class based or virtual class based; formal or informal and; scheduled or self paced. Similarly to Barker’s model, there are different combinations of learning that can occur (different blends). Kim’s definition of Bended Learning must include a class based element. The methodology for designing a Blended Learning Program (I would argue that this could be called a contemporary learning program) put forward by Kim takes the following major factors into account; Increased learning effectiveness, increased convenience, enhanced image, cost savings, classroom space savings, and reduced congestion.
Again, lots of considerations to take into account suggest that this could be defined as a more encompassing approach to educational design in general, rather than specifically catering for e-learning in traditional environments. It is useful to see these guidelines as helpful in adopting elearning tools but it is an encompassing approach to learning in general that is their greater value.