Education is no longer just about putting pen to paper and memorizing facts. Today, innovative educators in both higher education and corporate learning & development are improving learning through technology, as evidenced by the rapid adoption of technology-assisted teaching methods and blended learning models.
Blended Learning Defined
Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) is a method of teaching that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities, giving students more flexibility to customize their learning experiences.
Although there are 4 basic models of blended learning, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ways in which instructional technologies can be blended into a teacher’s pedagogical approach. The flipped classroom, for example, is one type of blended learning model in which students view lecture material prior to class, then spend class time engaging in exercises under the supervision of the teacher.
In general, blended learning refers to the following:
- Some learning happens online in a format where the student has control over the path and pace at which they engage with content
- Some learning happens in an instructor-led classroom
- Online and in-person learning is complementary, creating a truly integrated learning environment
The power of blended learning methods lies in their ability to improve the student experience. Studies have shown “blended learning” reduces failure rates, improves learning, and boosts engagement. Blended learning combines the best aspects of face-to-face teaching and online instruction in ways that enable students to learn at their own pace. For example, a student in a blended learning course who masters a concept earlier than his peers can move on without having to wait, and conversely, a student who needs more time is not forced to move forward before fully grasping the subject. It is proving to be a scalable learning model that simply works for diverse populations of students.
Blended Learning Is Not Simply Mixing Technology and Teaching
Blended courses include a mix of both face-to-face, instructor-led learning, and online or digital course components that give students some control over path and pace. Blended learning is not a completely online course or a lecture course that is broadcast online. It also does not include course changes that simply swap analog tools for digital ones. In blended learning, the in-person and online elements work together to create a richer learning experience and do not simply duplicate course content in varying formats.
Which Technologies Are Used in Blended Learning Courses?
Learning management systems, in-class response systems, adaptive learning platforms, tablets, smartphones, learning analytics and more — the landscape of blended learning tools and technologies is not only vast but also still evolving. The most common technology used in blended learning, however, has been and remains to be video.
Using Video in Blended Learning Environments
For many educators, video is the primary delivery vehicle for blended learning content.
For example, flipped classrooms require students to review lecture materials prior to class. Most often this involves teachers or trainers recording short video lectures that typically include a screen recording of slides, a webcam recording of the teacher, a video of a demonstration — or a combination of the three. The video is typically then shared with students through a learning management system (LMS) or video content management system (Video CMS).
In other blended learning courses, instructors record videos for use as supplemental course material, designed to help students with more challenging concepts, or for those that wish to deepen their understanding of the subject. Alternatively, instructors can record tutorials to introduce students to software or equipment that will be used in subsequent classes. In the below video from the University of Birmingham, a professor details how a new software tool will be used in an upcoming course assignment:
Teachers don’t have to be the only ones in front of the camera, either. Many schools have turned the tables on classroom recording by using their video platforms for student skills practice and performance assessment. At the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, Business Communications students are recording their presentations to elicit feedback from fellow students and professors. And at Butler University, Physician Assistant students record themselves interacting with standardized patients using iPads. The recordings are reviewed by professors, who then return critiques of their students’ performances.