Learning 8 MIN READ

Blended Learning: What It Is, Why It Matters & How to Apply

Blended learning is an educational approach that combines both traditional ways of teaching (e.g., inside the classroom) and online ways of teaching, through a series of online educational materials and interactive activities.

If you are an educator interested in getting to know more about blended learning, you have come to the right place.

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This article presents a complete guide that takes you through the following:

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

What is Blended Learning in the Classroom?

A formal definition of blended learning that was introduced by Garrison and Kanuka (2004), explains that:

Blended learning is ‘the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences’.

In informal language, blended learning is an education program that combines two learning approaches – the traditional classroom learning and the elearning approach.

This ‘blend’ in the way learning is provided, is currently taking place in the classroom, mostly in high schools, colleges and universities.

The emergence of digital technology in the 21st century and the customary use of smartphones, laptops and tablets in every aspect of everyday life, has slowly introduced this type of learning within the core structure of Higher Education.

The aim for its use is to make learning easier and more effective delivering an integrated learning experience that offers real value to learners and matches their needs.

What Are the Characteristics of Blended Learning?

When talking about blended learning, an important distinction that needs to be made is that blended learning is not simply a tech-rich instruction or a standalone online course.

In ‘Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools’ (2015), Michael Horn and Heather Staker explain that a blended learning program is delivered:

a) Part online – online learning with some element of student control and flexibility over the way they learn including the time, place, pace and the path they take.

b) Part away from home – in part or in combination of a brick and mortar location away from home (instruction at a physical classroom/school or on-campus).

c) Through a learning path – a personalized learning path that offers students the opportunity to learn through activities that capitalize on different learning modalities.

According to BlendedLearning.org, the key thing to remember here is ‘student control’:

‘The technology used for the online learning must shift content and instruction to the control of the student in at least some way for it to qualify as blended learning from the student’s perspective, rather than just the use of digital tools from the classroom teacher’s perspective.’

In essence it doesn’t define the type of technology learners use but how they are using it and the degree of control they have over it.

This gives learners the ability to pause, go back, or skip forward through online content but also the opportunity to choose the time, the path and the location at which they can learn a new concept, complete coursework or assessments e.g. assignment or exam.

What Are the Benefits of Blended Learning?

When properly implemented, blended courses can come with a range of advantages for both teachers (or instructors) and learners:

Benefit #1: Flexibility

For teachers, there is more flexibility in terms of how they can deliver synchronous or asynchronous online instruction and present learning resources. At the same time, learners can learn at their own pace, and choose which learning styles suits them the most.

Benefit #2: Effectiveness

Research shows that blended learning has the proven potential to enhance both the effectiveness and the efficiency of meaningful learning experiences. Interaction capabilities between instructors and learners using email, discussion boards or chat rooms can enhance student engagement and allow space for collaborative learning.

Benefit #3: Personalization

In a blended learning environment, instructors have greater insights into a learner’s progress and can easily identify learning gaps with the help of online learning tools. This leads to creating learning experiences and adopting learning methods that respond better to their personal needs and interests.

Benefit #4: Greater reach

Face to face instruction is significantly decreased when following a blended learning approach. Usually 30 to 70 percent of the learning is administered online which gives teachers the opportunity to expand their reach and the amount of students they can take under their wing.

Benefit #5: Reduced cost

What’s great about blended learning is that most of the associated costs that educational institutions or organizations are faced with are reduced. From traveling costs, to renting big venues for events, and printing out learning materials, there is lots of money educational organizations and schools can save with digital learning.

What Are the Four Models of Blended Learning?

Blending learning comes in many forms as it can be personalized to each individual. If you are interested in blended learning, these are the most popular blended learning models you need to become familiar with:

A diagram that shows the four models of blened learning.
Image title: blended-learning-models
Image Source: Christensen Institute

Let’s discuss each one in more detail:

Model #1: Rotation

In the rotation model, students rotate on a fixed schedule or as the teacher advises, between learning modalities of which at least one of them is online learning. Other modalities include face-to-face instruction – working in a small group or full-class, through group work/projects, 1:1 tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. Students mostly learn attending the brick and mortar school.

As the graph above shows, the rotation model has four different subcategories that are worth exploring further.

Station Rotation:

Most commonly used in elementary schools, the station rotation model allows students to rotate through stations within a classroom as members of a group.

Lab Rotation:

This model requires students to rotate to a computer lab for the online-learning station. It offers flexible scheduling arrangements with teachers and paraprofessionals.

Individual Rotation:

It allows students to rotate through stations but only on the stations that are set by the teacher or software algorithm. Students don’t need to rotate to every station but only to the individual activities that are scheduled on their playlists.

Flipped Classroom:

This model ‘flips’ the traditional role of each learning space. Students get to learn from home through online coursework and watching lectures and they engage in group exercise, projects and discussions with the guided support of the teacher.

The flipped classroom is favourite amongst teachers and students and it looks like it’s going to be the future of education. This is because it makes use of the two ends of the spectrum – online and offline learning, effectively.

Model #2: Flex

The flex model allows students to have more control over their learning. Most learning happens online but there are instances where additional face-to-face support and class time instruction is needed. Students learn as part of a fluid schedule that is customized to each individual.

Model #3: A La Carte

The A La Carte model – most popular in high schools, offers students the flexibility to take an online course with an online teacher of record, that complements learning experiences of face-to-face courses at a brick-and-mortar school.

Model #4: Enriched Virtual

The enriched virtual model allows students to complete the majority of their coursework online but also attend school for face-to-face learning sessions. This model doesn’t require daily school attendance like the flipped classroom but it’s not a fully online course either because some kind of attendance e.g. twice a week, is required.

All of these blending learning models have a common goal. That is to move from a teacher-centered to a more learner-centered approach, improving student success.

Edutopia explains how this is possible through blended learning:

How Can You Offer Blended Learning?

Perhaps the biggest consideration when it comes to using blended learning is that it is hugely based on technology. For teachers and students who aren’t tech-savvy, this can be a challenge because it forces them to learn how to use it.

This means that your learning center, school or organization needs to use digital tools that are:

Choosing the right technology that checks all of these three points is critical to any successful education program.

Any technical issues occurring from a learning software that is not accustomed to the elearning standards, won’t bring the results you expect either.

To be able to offer blended learning, you will need an LMS – a Learning Management System or a learning platform that offers an impactful solution.

Our very own platform at LearnWorlds, comes with a powerful set of features that can help you deliver blended learning effectively.

Make use of the Interactive Video

Interactivity is important when talking about digital learning since it helps to improve student retention and motivation.

With LearnWorlds you can deliver unique learning experiences using the interactive video. The Interactive Video allows you to add questions in the flow of the video, giving learners the opportunity to click on it to answer questions.

A screenshot of the interactive video in LearnWorlds

Apart from that, it also comes with interactive subtitles and transcripts which aims to make it easier for teachers to teach students of any level.

With the Interactive Video Transcripts you can do all the following:

For more information on the Interactive Video visit our relevant article.

Learn through a customizable Course Player

Use LearnWorlds’ course player to deliver your online course and simplify the learning process for your students.
The course player offers the possibility to create a learning path for each learner or group of learners. As a teacher, you can select whether they will navigate freely, sequentially or even set your own restrictions.

With drip feeding, you can also control which content or learning materials your students can have access to and when.

Last but not least, it offers the ability for learners to take notes or highlight key terms and ideas while they read through the text.

Create learning activities to test knowledge

In terms of learning, you can create a variety of tests and quizzes to assess the knowledge of your students.

From informal quizzes that evaluate self improvement to formal tests, questionnaires and assignments relating to critical thinking and the attainment of skills, the choices are endless.

Upon the completion of the education program or online course, you can also offer a certificate as evidence of participation and success.

an example/template of a

Build a thriving online community

With the LearnWorlds platform you get to build an inclusive learning environment where learners can easily interact with and learn from each other.

This is possible through the community page that you can find in your school’s dashboard as a LearnWorlds user.

a screenshot of the social community inside LearnWorlds

As part of the community, learners can create their own profiles, comment, like or follow other classmates.

screenshot of 'create a group' message in a LearnWorlds school

They can also reach out to others individually or a part of a group through course discussion groups. For more information on the community page, visit our Community and Groups support article.

Looking for an LMS to Apply Blended Learning?

Traditional face to face learning is very different from elearning but when these two approaches are combined, they are super powerful. Blended learning is here to stay, and as we move forward into the digital age, more schools will be investing in it.

If you are an educator who wants to build an online school that complements classroom instruction, you will need a reliable LMS or an online learning platform like LearnWorlds.

LearnWorlds comes with all the features you can find in any LMS (and many more) and can help you create unique and unforgettable learning experiences.

Start your free 30-day trial with LearnWorlds today and see for yourself!

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

Start free trial

References:

Blended Learning

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 95–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.02.001.

Christensen Institute

“Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools,” by Michael Horn and Heather Staker

Raise Your Hand Texas

ASCD

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Kyriaki is a Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team writing about marketing and e-learning, helping course creators on their journey to create, market, and sell their online courses. Equipped with a degree in Career Guidance, she has a strong background in education management and career success. In her free time, she gets crafty and musical.