Is Blended Learning Better?

I was recently asked the question as a teacher with experience in both a traditional and 100% online setting, “Which do you like better?

I struggled with my response, as I can identify strengths and weaknesses in each. This question led me to share a bit about blended learning and how this might be the best solution. Blended learning is a combination of both online and face-to-face learning. I investigated blended learning more in depth after this conversation and found an interesting article, Blended Learning: The Convergence of Online and Face-to-Face Education, written by John Watson for the North American Council of Online Learning (NACOL).

Watson (2008) identifies blended learning as a system that has been slow to implement, but holds great promise. Watson (2008) states: “It is likely to emerge as the predominant model of the future – and to become far more common than either one alone” (pg. 3).

Several models are described in the paper, with varying amounts of online and face-to-face combinations. These models include:

  • A traditional setting where students access all curriculum online with teachers present, 5 days a week
  • Required on-campus setting with individual mentoring, 1 day a week
  • Optional drop-in location
  • Small and large group face-to-face requirements, 50% of the instruction

Watson (2008) also outlines important lessons learned from these models:

  • Blended learning encompasses a wide variety of models
  • Instruction, curriculum, and professional development are different from an exclusively traditional and online setting
  • Teachers must utilize interactive online tools and methods for instruction
  • The organization of the learning management system must include both the online and face-to-face components

After reflecting on this article and others that present a strong case for blended learning, I have the following questions:

  • What are your perceptions of blended learning? How do you see it impacting our educational system?
  • If blended learning is truly the “best” model, then why does it seem so slow to emerge? What do you think might be some of the specific reasons for this?
  • Do you have any experience with a blended model? If yes, what were the strengths and weaknesses? If no, what pitfalls do you see in a blended model that may be overlooked in research?
  • What professional skills do you think teachers in a blended environment will need in comparison to a traditional or online environment?
  • What do you think would be the ideal blended learning environment and expectations for students?
  • Any other thoughts or reflections after reviewing this article?

Source:

Watson, J. (2008). Blended learning: The convergence of online and face-to-face learning. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509636.pdf

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Is Blended Learning Better?

  1. Hanna, it is worth noting that to date there is no reliable and valid research into the effectiveness. There is an implicit (even explicit) view that blended learning is better, but there is no research – particularly at the K-12 level to support its increased use.

    • Interesting, thanks for the feedback. Many of the models that I have read about involve having an open campus where students can come to work on their online curriculum with teacher support as needed. I do not see this as a “blended” model of both worlds, but more of a study hall. I would think that a successful model would have face-to-face instruction and collaboration in a classroom, along with the online curriculum.

  2. Great post! What motivated you to write about blended learning?
    I tutor students who are taking a single online math course, informal blended learning, and have found a 96% improvement rate over the last 10 years. Blended can offer students the best of all worlds, in my opinion!

    • Hi Kim,
      My focus of my blog is on online learning curriculum and instructional design. This topic came to my thoughts recently when I was talking to someone about which is better – online or traditional.

    • Wow. 96% improvement rate? That’s amazing. Have you brought that to the attention of a school district. These days, school districts respond and make changes due to ‘data’ (or at least mine does).

  3. Great article Hanna you really did your research here. I think blended learning can be a great tool used when appropriate. I’m not sure its totally ready to replace the traditional model we use and I work at a school where we have a grade 10 class that is entirely blended and students are required to work at their own pace.

    The biggest problem I see with this model is not schools not being ready but students. Even our grade 10 students need deadlines, reminders and constant supervision from teachers. I can’t really imagine this working better with younger grades especially elementary.

    Where blended learning does work well is with providing students opportunities to work outside of school and connect with what they are doing at school.

    I don’t believe it can be a new learning model but rather a great supplementation to what is currently being practiced because I don’t think students are ready.

    • Hi Bryan, Thank you for the comment. I am interested in hearing more about your grade 10 blended class. Do students have a traditional class time during the week or do they work independently on the course work? How long has this class been in place? What learning management system are you using and how do you organize the blended model?

      • Hi Heather: it’s actually not my class but the grade ten history class that all students are required to take. Yes it is a regularly scheduled 80 minute block every other day that students come to. Projects have deadlines. The course began before I arrived three years ago. We use Moodle from grade 6 through 12 so all students are familiar with the platform. The units are organized thematically.

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