Join our three BETT speakers for their thoughts on blended learning classrooms. They break down their experiences with the learning style, including deep dives into its techniques based on their unique perspectives. They also share helpful strategies to implement blended learning and overcome its unique challenges.
Follow our experts’ advice to create your own blended learning classroom.
Over the past few years, given the rapid advance of technology, the education industry has experienced a shift away from traditional learning environments.
Incorporating technology in the classroom, in the context of blended learning, has paved the way for a myriad of innovative methods and practices that are aimed at improving upon teaching structures of the past.
One of these practices is known as blended learning and the term that has been garnering some attention within the education industry as of late.
But, what is blended learning? If you’ve never heard the term before, this video offers a quality introduction.
To gain more insight into the blended learning methodology, we’ve asked 3 Bett show speakers the same question, as well as which challenges they faced and tips to leverage when implementing blended learning into your classroom.
Read on below to find out what they had to say about blended learning.
EdTech Consultant & Former Teacher
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning enables me to effectively bring technology into the classroom.
Rather than saying, “we’re using the computers today”, devices can be integrated into lessons. These devices can be used to enhance teaching and learning, rather than just being included because it’s available.
Interactive resources and video content can quickly be provided for pupils to use at an appropriate time in their learning. Content can also easily be revisited if required by pupils.
Having a blended learning environment available allows collaborative tools to also be incorporated into lessons. This means pupils are able to share thoughts and work together on projects, such as documents or presentations.
Pupils can continue their studies away from the classroom using the environment too.
What Are Some of the Challenges Faced with Blended Learning?
Transitions between technology and a traditional learning environment can take time.
Depending on the type and location of devices, there can be a significant amount of time wasted in lessons when transitioning from traditional activities to using technology.
Where feasible, devices should be located on pupils’ tables and be ready for use immediately.
This may mean work needs to be done prior to the lesson to ensure devices are charged, powered on and connected to the blended learning environment.
Routines should also be established within the classroom to ensure there is minimum disruption to learning.
Teacher may have to create additional resources.
When implementing blended learning within the classroom, teachers may have to produce additional materials for the pupils to use.
In order to reduce the amount of new content a teacher needs to make, YouTube videos, MOOCs, multiple-choice questions and web-based resources can be combined. These need to be carefully selected and modified to ensure they are appropriate for pupils.
Blended learning environments can incorporate content in a variety of formats, which can be incorporated into a single learning journey for pupils.
Children may not have access to technology and/or the internet.
If blended learning activities are to continue beyond the classroom, consideration needs to be given as to whether pupils are going to have access to technology at home.
Some schools address this issue by allowing pupils to borrow a device for a period of time. This could be done by loaning devices for the whole academic year or provide opportunities for children to use devices in school when not in lessons.
It may also be possible to allow children to connect their own devices to the school’s Wi-Fi network to undertake blended learning activities.
Screen time increases.
As children will be using technology to undertake tasks within the classroom, consideration needs to be given to the amount of time they will be spending in front of a screen.
It is therefore necessary to consider whether a proposed task is going to mean that children are using a device for a significant amount of time.
Consideration should also be given to when breaks can be scheduled in.
Tips to Use for Blended Learning
Ensure technology enhances learning.
There is a temptation that because a blended learning environment is available, that technology should be used for all tasks within the classroom.
However, care needs to be taken to ensure that just because technology is available, it is actually benefiting teaching and learning.
Teachers may therefore wish to consider the guidance within the SAMR model, which looks at how technology can be used to modify and redefine tasks, rather than just substituting traditional activities.
For example, simply using a keyboard to type up a document to enhance its presentation may not always be the most effective use of technology.
Make content engaging for pupils.
Blended learning technologies have a number of inbuilt tools to produce and share content.
This includes interactive technologies, such as quizzes and collaborative learning areas, which allow pupils to be active participants in lessons, rather than just absorbing content.
Additional resources such as ViewSonic’s myViewBoard, can be used to combine content into a single presentation, which can then be shared with children online.
Enable students to work at their own pace where feasible.
As a range of content can be provided within a blended learning environment, children can often work through a range of activities at their own pace.
They may also be able to access optional, additional activities, which can consolidate their learning and help address any misunderstandings.
Self-marked assessment activities, such as multiple choice quizzes, can be undertaken by children to gauge their progress and to determine if they are ready for more challenging tasks.
Provide opportunities for pupils to share their work.
Activities within a blended learning environment can easily be shared with both pupils and the teacher.
Collaborative tools, such as those provided within the previously mentioned myViewBoard software, allow children to work together and to subsequently share their work with others.
Additional content or feedback can then be added, which allows pupils to refine and enhance their work if required.
If you’re looking to incorporate blended learning into your classroom, make sure to take a look at what to consider when creating content for blended learning.
Dr. Neelam Parmar
Director of E-learning for Primary & Secondary Schools
What Is a Blended Learning Approach?
There is a great future for blended learning as part of an EdTech strategy. Schools and some universities or online virtual schools have come to realize that while online learning environments can be beneficial to those who are not able to commute to campus.
Incorporating blended learning into a traditional school environment can help ease the impact of absences due to sickness, travel, distance, and more.
For clarity sake, blended learning is an educational strategy in which instructors can combine online digital media with traditional classroom methods.
In this type of strategy, both participants are present in physical space, with an element of student flexibility and control over time, place, path and pace of study.
Many teachers have progressed from the integration of technology in school classrooms.
These teachers now find themselves in a space of blended learning in which they instruct with traditional methods but have created a fundamental change in the way students develop new learning experiences.
The very flipped learning approach stems from blended learning and has already made a name for itself within new pedagogical practices.
While EdTech has paved the way for the creation of online schools, there is still an argument that blended learning approaches are more sustainable and can help motivate a student to stay on the path of study.
It is defined as a hybrid teaching methodology, making technology and e-learning a more integral part of the classroom experience.
It is more than just working with a computer on self-assessed activities.
Blended learning is about combining online lessons, e-learning, traditional methods of instruction and online feedback and assessment. This helps to promote independent study and develops an entirely new learning environment for students.
Tools such as ViewBoard and myViewBoard have helped shape this experience in the classroom in which teachers and students can work together within collaborative online spaces to engage in creative content creation.
Supporters of this methodology advocate that blended learning is the future for our generation.
Although students study via an online environment, there are also segments of blended learning approaches in which students will come together in classes or mobile traveling classrooms. This will help them to deepen their learning and create collaborative hands-on experiences.
Some examples of leading online learning environments include Future Learn, The Khan Academy, EtonX, and K-12.
Despite some of the challenges for blended learning, there is a steady increase in online media and traditional teaching models taking place in classrooms.
Every day, new and more creative approaches are created to integrate technology into teaching and learning environments. While there is significant value to have face-to-face interaction in the class, there are also new opportunities for students to gain highly valuable digital skills whilst working in a blended setting.
To keep leveraging these benefits, it is essential that all participants involved, students, teachers, and parents work together to create the most effective environment for the learner.
Challenges Faced with a Blended Learning Approach
Blended learning is the new normal but it also needs to be implemented delicately.
While it is important to emphasize that students will gain the necessary digital literacy skills and digital fluency required for jobs of the future, there also needs to be recognition and support for the transition from traditional teaching models to blended learning approaches for teaching staff.
In order for blended learning approaches to succeed, there will have to be trained, experienced and knowledgeable colleagues who can lift the new way of teaching and learning model off the ground. Refer to the SAMR model for more information about this.
As if this is not enough, in come the parents who, although aspire to moving with the times, have some reservation about blended learning and the future of education for their children.
Parents often worry about their child’s self-regulation and motivation to study. While the focus is often on students and teachers who are undertaking the course, it is just as important to win over parents. They have real concerns over a relaxed structure of teaching (i.e. not having to attend classes).
More information can be found in this study aimed to investigate parent anxieties, understanding, and support for new and innovative teaching and learning styles taking place in schools.
Tips for Implementing a Blended Learning Approach
Get the teachers on board – offer continuous professional development
Offer an iGenius Troubleshooting slot for both teachers and students – even though your students have grown up with technology, they may not necessarily know how to use it in a teaching and learning environment. Don’t assume they know.
Use a consistent layout across the school – this will make it easy on the student when accessing their online resources and tasks.
Create videos – students are not looking for professionally made videos, they can get that on Netflix! They still want the teacher to instruct them as would normally take place in the classroom.
Decide what is suitable to offer online – and then how to best use your time in the classroom.
EdTech Consultant and Former Teacher
What Is Blended Learning in the Classroom?
The “new” normal?
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
― Maya Angelou
So, I have an issue with “blended learning”. I think it is just “learning” in a modern classroom and I will tell you why.
“Blended learning provides a combination of face-to-face learning and dynamic digital activities and content that facilitate anytime/anyplace learning.” – JISC on developing blended learning content
In my book, TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice To The Next Level In A Digital World, my co-author Dr. Julie M. Wood and I wrote about integrating technology into one’s teaching approaches and content. This means being able to have an informed understanding of the resources, being skilled in using them and having a positive and growth oriented mindset along the way. For some this is blended learning, for others it might be part of flipped learning.
For me it’s just normal – this is how you should teach and facilitate learning in 2018!
Back in 2016, it was cited as ‘sweeping the nation’ here in the UK as 40 colleges signed up the BLC (Blended Learning Consortium).
For me, I think integrating EdTech into the classroom is normal.
The pedagogical approach of ‘blended learning’ might not be – but I think it should be something that all teachers try at least once.
Challenges Encountered with a Blended Learning Classroom
The Impact of blended learning can be read in this blog by Keri Beckingham, with case studies illustrating both in-class and out-of-class interactive learning.
I know for some schools the lack of confidence of teachers, the tightening of budgets and the pressures of getting new curriculums right can mean that including new tools, ideas and approaches seems out of reach.
My suggestion is therefore to have a look at what the impact can be of blended learning. Do the benefits outweigh the issues?
If we are truly ensuring personalized teaching, offering a blend of approaches and styles is normal. For students who cannot work at home (due to domestic issues for example), we try to offer them more time in school. For those who prefer to learn outside of the traditional classroom, why aren’t we trying to support this too?
Blended Learning Tips for the Classroom
Blended learning in practice
Let’s take an example.
The modern classrooms are now identified with a large interactive whiteboard secured on a wall, facing the students.
So how do you make this flexible, and take the learning outside when the board is fixed inside your classroom?
Well, products like the ViewSonic ViewBoard interactive flat panel display with embedded apps allows you to blend a range of software choices with your hardware. Paired with their myViewBoard online whiteboarding platform, everything you display in the class can also be accessed via myViewBoard and shared to everyone online.
This allows you then to “blend” how you teach, where they learn and how you share your curriculum with your students, peers, parents, and caretakers.
The blended learning landscape in 2018
There is a wealth of ways (many of which are free for educators) that you can go with a blended learning approach. MOOC-style lessons, webinars and using open-access tools like Google’s G-Suite or Microsoft’s Learning Tools are all options.
Not only are you offering blended learning, but you are also offering a personalized learning experience for your students – which can improve inclusion for many.
If this is new to you, try things out before you commit or even better, get the students to have a play and feedback to you!
Which tech do they like – and why? Get them to “try out” different tech packages and platforms, different presentations and ways of approaching the content – and then see what suits your class.
Ultimately teaching is an extension of you and your personality.
If blended learning is already in your toolkit, I would suggest you see how others are doing it today and have a go at a webinar or look to how you can improve your tech for outcomes.
If it is not, I hope this article will help you see how “normal” is changing – and more importantly, get you to consider, in the words of 90’s indie band, Ned’s Atomic Dustbins, ‘Are You Normal?’ – and do you want to be, or do you want to be amazing?
About the Authors
Dr. Neelam Parmar