Thumbs Up for Blended Learning

Originally posted by Rochelle Diogenes on Acrobatiq.

Blended or hybrid learning has come a long way from its original concept of brick (classroom) and click (e-learning) in 1999. Just using some media with students doesn’t make it a blended approach anymore.

Now, blended learning is usually described as the integration of adaptive courseware yielding learning analytics and face-to-face learning situations such as class lecture, tutoring, or discussion groups to advance learning. Penn State professor Ike Shibley advocates for blended learning:

“When you see how well blended learning fits with established pedagogical paradigms, creating a synergistic blend of what works best in face-to-face and online, the question becomes why wouldn’t you want to at least try it?”

Maybe because we still have to dispel some myths about blended learning:

Myth#1 Blended learning isn’t as good as traditional approaches.

On the contrary, research confirms that blended learning is more effective than on-line learning alone or class learning without technology. A 2010 US Department of Education meta-analysis of 84 studies  (79 with higher education or adult learners) concluded that blended learning is much more effective in achieving learning outcomes than face-to-face instruction alone.

Myth #2 Blended learning requires less faculty.

Not true. The 2010 study cited above found that students using courseware received more “learning time and instructional elements” than those who didn’t use courseware.

When instructors use courseware learning analytics on individual and group progress to inform teaching, they spend less time in front of the classroom, but they spend more time in targeted communication with students.

This aspect of quality blended learning became clear in a recent pilot program with courseware in math at New Jersey’s Essex Community College.

In the one-year pilot, less students passed in the blended course than in the traditional course. Lack of legitimate faculty involvement was cited as one of the major contributing factors to the pilot’s shortcomings. Essex CC thought they could just use graduate students to teach segments of the blended course. According to Douglas Walcerz, a  program consultant, “We underestimated the skill that you would need as a teacher to deliver that content.”

Myth #3 Blended learning creates more ongoing work for instructors.

As happens with most changes, startup takes time. Once instructors take the plunge, however, teaching a blended course is no more time-consuming than teaching a traditional course.

How much time it takes to make the transformation also depends on which approach you take. Instructors who create all of their online materials will do the most work.

That’s why in her insightful post, Blended Learning on the Ground: Advice from College Educators, Jennifer Spohrer advises against starting from scratch. She suggests instructors new to blended learning “stand on the shoulders of giants” and use pretested online products from education technology companies as the foundation for their courses.

Finally, there are added benefits to blended learning (see previous blog, What’s a Seventeen-Year-Old to Do?) including those articulated by learning and development professionals in a 2013 survey:

 …it’s critical to foster lasting learning. It helps ideas stick and creates an air of accountability that is critical to learner success.” “Blended solutions deliver customization and focus on individual needs which traditional methods just can’t match.