Blended Learning: How to support students in the hybrid classroom – Open Access Government | Team Cansler

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The hybrid classroom has become the new normal in post-pandemic education, but is this blended learning accessible and can it be improved?

In 2020, educators had no choice but to abruptly move lectures online, leaving many students upset, and academics have been plunged into a technological conundrum to deliver their classes. In two short years, the term “blended learning” has become the new normal, offering an alternative educational platform in the hybrid classroom, but how effective is it and does it need further thought?

According to the National Education Policy 2020 published by the Government of India, blended learning should be experiential and activity based. They expanded on this by saying, “It is not a mere hybrid of online and face-to-face modes, but refers to a well-planned combination of meaningful activities in both, aided by the use of intentional technology.”

Blended learning allows academics to rethink traditional classroom practices and consider how to make the learning experience more accessible to all students. But as the policy notes, to successfully expand and improve pre-pandemic practices, digital approaches must be mixed with experiential and activity-based learning. Let’s look at the potential benefits and key attributes of blended learning effectiveness.

The benefits of blended learning

A blended learning model offers ultimate flexibility in many ways. It can be applied to any program that adheres to traditional educational values ​​and incorporates digital media offerings:

• Increased Flexibility – Technology gives educators more channels to use to meet student needs. Students can take control of their own learning, allowing them to adapt their education to busy lifestyles while breaking down traditional barriers of time and place to learn.
• Enhanced Interaction – Blended learning provides a fantastic opportunity for remote collaboration, allowing individual students from around the world to collaborate virtually in intellectual endeavors.
• Content Diversity – A wide and rich range of course content delivered in a hybrid classroom environment can enhance engagement and add authenticity to the learning experience to help students achieve their long-term goals.

Lessons in a hybrid classroom
Photo 203887174 / © Ekaterina Goncharova

What are the key qualities of a well-executed blended learning program?

Successful blended learning makes the most effective use of face-to-face time between students and academics by using it for high-touch activities when students are on campus combined with technology. Success models in higher education are characterized by the following reasons:

1. They use technology intentionally. Technology that is familiar and well integrated into daily life can be used to develop highly innovative practices for teaching and learning. Effective blended programs focus primarily on the learning experience and outcomes.

2. They focus on encouraging student engagement. Students are surrounded by technology in their daily lives and will engage with the material more easily when technology is incorporated into the classroom. Enriching blended learning content with appropriate images, audio, and video can add variety and impact. There are also benefits for disabled students who may have had difficulty attending face-to-face events or engaging with course content prior to the pandemic.

3. They provide adequate training for educators. It cannot be assumed that a good teacher in a traditional classroom will automatically be a good teacher in an online classroom. Aside from changes in pedagogy, online assessments also require a different approach. There are numerous challenges in conducting large-scale online exams, including limiting the types of questions that can be asked in an online environment, dealing with network and power disruptions, and preventing unethical practices. However, numerous bite-sized training resources can be found online to meet “just-in-time” needs.

There are also professional training programs such as Anthology’s certified digital teaching and learning series to create more professional development paths for educational practitioners and encourage excellence, quality and consistency in the student experience.

Best practices in the hybrid classroom

Northampton University’s blended learning pedagogy combines meaningful activities with purposeful student interactions (with content, peers and tutors) in appropriate learning environments – inside and outside the classroom. Students discuss ideas, experiment, work in teams and receive feedback from tutors. Community, collaboration, flexibility and accessibility are valued on campus or remotely, as Rob Howe (Head of Learning Technology, The University of Northampton) explains:

“As part of the University of Northampton’s drive for continuous academic improvement, Active Blended Learning (ABL) was discussed prior to 2014. This influenced the design of the new Waterside campus, which opened in 2018. Northampton has evolved the discussion around ABL and many of the concepts are embraced in the new Center for Active Digital Education (CADE), which is taking a forward-thinking approach to new pedagogies operated both on-site and off-site. Anthology’s suite of products helps Northampton enable successful learning and teaching. Our symbiotic relationship with them ensures we continue to bring product improvements that benefit not only ourselves but the entire sector.”

While digital approaches can successfully complement, enhance, and even replace some traditional approaches, unless online education is blended with experiential and activity-based learning, it tends to become screen-based education with a limited focus on the social, affective, and psychomotor dimensions. But when implemented and used properly, blended learning becomes a transformative opportunity for staff and students.

This piece is by Louise Thorpe.

Louise has over 25 years of higher education experience. Previously Head of Academic Innovation at Sheffield Hallam University and Head of Learning and Teaching Strategy and Enhancement at the University of Sheffield. Louise is Vice President and Head of Client Experience, EMEA at Anthology.

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