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4 easy solutions for a successful blended learning transition


The blended learning classroom is different to the traditional classroom, and the strategies of the past need to be modified

blended-learningThe world changes, and when it does the old ways of doing things may no longer work. The answers that used to be correct in the past may now lead to incorrect answers.

This should be a mantra for education in the 21st century; it should be a mantra for the move to blended learning.

In the past an experienced teacher could modify a traditional lesson, and even a traditional course “on the fly.” However, the “rules” of the past no longer apply in this area; it is very difficult to build a blended learning course “on the fly.”

Some explanation of this statement follows, with a course delivered in a “traditional” manner compared to a course delivered using a blended learning model.

Watch: Blended learning explained in 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

(Next page: Four steps for a successful blended learning course)

What needs to be done?

The following steps are vital to the success of a blended learning course.

1. Clear model of delivery

The blended learning model should be chosen before designing the course.

2. Clear structure of course 

Once the blended learning model has been chosen, the structure of the course (learning materials to be provided, sequence of the learning materials, activities, feedback options – quizzes, tasks, discussions, etc.) must be designed. This structure/design must be detailed and specific.

3. Construction of course 

Once the blended learning model has been chosen and the structure has been designed, the course has to be populated with resources. This should be completed well ahead of delivery time.

In practice, it may be useful to create the online learning materials while teaching a course in the traditional manner. This allows the teacher to work with resources appropriate to the teaching and learning while it is being delivered. The online materials are then ready for the next iteration of the course, so that the teacher can focus on the blended learning delivery model rather that attempting to build online materials while also grappling with the changes involved in blended learning.

This may appear to be a slower option, and the temptation may be to rush by doing both at the same time, but experience has shown that it is much more effective in both the short and long term to create resources first.

4. Make course available to students 

It is also in this stage that the course can be fine-tuned. (There is usually something that needs to be adjusted.)

(Next page: Other points worth considering)

There are a few other points worth noting.

  • Expect students to push the boundaries

Experience over many years has shown that there will usually be at least one student (and sometimes many students) who will “push the boundaries.” These are students who will work through the learning materials at a rapid pace.

These are the students who are eager to learn and who already have significant background knowledge. They expect materials to be ready when they are and will, just by their pace of learning, place pressure on a teacher whose course is not complete.

  • Expect to be very busy in class

A blended learning class may raise the engagement and learning levels of students, but it does not diminish the role of the teacher; the teacher is still a key player in the learning process. However, the part played by the teacher may change.

  • Clearly articulate the model and reasons for moving to blended learning to the students

This is vital, and should be done before embarking on a blended learning journey. Students need to know why the change is being made and how the course is now structured. The shift to blended learning can be daunting, as the student is now expected to learn in a different fashion, and to be much more involved.

A student who is used to having information provided by the teacher, and who is used to a more passive learning role, may suffer “withdrawal” and may need time to adjust. This should be planned for, and strategies should be put in place to support students through this transition phase.

  • Clearly articulate the model and reasons for moving to blended learning to the parents

This is also vital. The information provided to students should also be provided to parents. Parents should also be aware that blended learning isn’t just about academics. It is also about their child developing more resilience, self-motivation, autonomy and personal responsibility.

These life skills are vital and they complement academic success. The journey to achieving these skills and attitudes may have some “painful” moments, and a child may need to be supported through this.

Conclusion

The blended learning classroom is different to the traditional classroom, and the strategies of the past need to be modified. Teachers need to be aware of this, and need to plan accordingly.

Peter West is Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has over 15 years’ experience leading K12 schools in technology enhanced education, particularly blended learning using online learning environments. He can be contacted at pwest@ssc.qld.edu.au.

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