The term blended learning became popular at the beginning of 2000. At first, the term typically defined the difference between eLearning and classroom learning and how the two were used together to combine both formats. Over time, blended learning now encompasses all types of instruction and media.
Typically, the ‘classroom’ describes both the physical and the virtual classroom. The eLearning or online portion is any combination of media including online documents, videos, bite-sized learning or eLearning modules, group discussions, and more.
Blended learning is now the de facto methods used in most learning organizations and broadly defines the technology used, the learning strategies used, and the different content delivery choices.
There are numerous benefits when using blended learning:
For the learner:
- Better learning outcomes: Students are more engaged when completing courses in a blended format. When students are more engaged, they complete the course and are motivated to complete the associated assignments. A recent study conducted by The University of Iowa even found that blended learning can help boost grades.
- More effective learning: Instructors who offer a blended course curriculum have more varied content over the course of the instruction. Since learning occurs over a longer period of time, students are offered more variety. For example, larger curricula typically include many different types of media. An eLearning course typically is a single course or event. By including multiple types of media content, students’ learning styles are addressed. A positive learning experience equals better retention and students sharing their positive learning experiences with others.
- Higher completion rates: It is more difficult to keep learners engaged during eLearning courses. By incorporating the blended model into the learning process, there is more variety in the learning modalities and interactions thus keeping the learner motivated to complete the course. Blended learning also provides a rich learning experience because of the addition of content such as discussions, quizzes, assignments, labs, group projects, and video. Learners feel ‘peer pressure’ to complete the instruction, contribute to group discussions, and contribute knowledge during group projects.
For the business:
- Greater perception of value: Research shows that learners thrive when they have ample opportunity to collaborate with experts in the field in addition to the instructor. In fact, learners give high-value marks to this type of instruction and are apt to pay more for the experience.
- Higher development cost savings: An eLearning course, depending on the design, may cost more to produce to include all the content required for instruction. When the course is split between the classroom and a varied media library, it is possible to drastically decrease the cost of course development. Many blended courses have knowledge that is more static and will not change often be in eLearning or an online format. The content taught in the classroom, physical or virtual, is easier to change. Instructors can also add one-on-one or group coaching sessions to make the experience more interesting.
- Membership subscriptions increase revenue: Since blended learning is typically designed for longer courses, it is well suited for the subscription-based model. In many situations, the learners may perceive higher value and be willing to pay a higher fee for a blended course as opposed to an equivalent self-paced eLearning course.
- Increased access to potential students: Webinars or virtual classrooms caters to the remote learner. By recording the event, those who were not available during the original timeslot can take the course when they are able. By incorporating virtual classrooms, an online course can be more accessible to a wider audience.
Types of Blended Learning
A self-paced eLearning course may be enhanced by using collaborative learning activities. Collaborative learning works well with social networking and learning communities. Integrate a mobile learning app with your learning solution, and the content becomes available to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
Discussion forums become even more important because the learners share their thoughts, comments, videos such as YouTube which might discuss the topic, and allow for the easy sharing of ideas. Online assessments are great for both scorings and for feedback to the student that they are grasping the content.
If you are not already using blended learning, perhaps it is time to consider it. The blended learning is a flexible approach to curriculum design. It allows you to combine older, more traditional tools (formal tools) with newer methods (informal tools).
A few types of blended learning you could try to include in your offerings:
1. Flipped Classroom
The flipped classroom is often used in higher education but still resonates strongly in corporate education. This model actually ‘flips’ the learning experience where learners are given content to review online before the class.
The face-to-face can be either virtual classroom or a traditional classroom. The instructor then works with the learners to discuss the content, answer any questions, or conduct collaborative activities such as workgroups, labs, or projects. Ensure the self-paced materials are resources or job aids that the learner can reference after the event.
2. Virtual or Physical Classrooms Centric with Online Support Materials
This model places the emphasis on the virtual or physical classroom but depends heavily on online support materials. The instructor may reference these materials as part of the classroom instruction. The online support material maybe videos, documents, eLearning modules, quizzes/assessments, and surveys.
3. Self-Paced Online Centric with Virtual or Physical Classroom Support
This model places the emphasis on a self-paced eLearning course followed by virtual or physical support. Notice ‘support’ here. The bulk of the instructor is in the self-paced version. The instructor answers questions adds information to the online content already completed and ensures the students feel comfortable with the content they just completed.
Virtual classrooms may be interspersed with the self-paced eLearning modules and learners can view webinar recordings if they miss any virtual classroom session.
4. Learning Community Centric with Self-Paced and Collaborative Sessions
In this model, the learning community is the central model in which the instruction can be from an expert to participants, but more importantly from participants to other participants. Everyone is encouraged to share knowledge.
The community may build a knowledge library that can include microlearning, virtual classroom on a specific calendar, videos, assessments, discussion forums, chat with experts and members, and user-generated content.
There are additional styles of blended learning available, but these are a few of the popular options. The great thing about blended learning is that the models and tools can all be adjusted to fit your needs.