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Blended Learning (Hybrid Learning) – A New Pathway for Effective Learning

blended-learningIn the words of Marshal McLuhan, Educators drive forward with our eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror. We still educate our students based on an agricultural timetable, in an industrial setting, but tell students they live in a digital age. (US Department of Education, 2005, p. 22). It means the method of education remains unchanged for many years.

The profound impact of COVID -19 has forced educators all over the world to rethink many aspects of teaching and learning. Many of the educators commenced their online teaching journey during this pandemic period. Globally learners have also started exploring the MOOC (massive open online course). Coursera, a worldwide online learning platform seen an unprecedented demand from learners. Across the globe, enrolments from learners new to the platform were up 15X during April 2020 comparing the same period one year ago. They started rolling out several new tools like Live2Coursera to help instructors swiftly create and manage content on their platform.

When we say Online teaching, it refers to courses that are delivered completely online. Example, Coursera, Lynda & Udemy are online learning platforms. There are no physical or on-campus class sessions. But blended learning is much more than online learning. It is blending both the worlds of online and face to face classes. Instructors will decide the right activities to be included in face to face class sessions and the activities are best included in a virtual environment.

Blended [hybrid] learning inherently is about rethinking and redesigning the teaching and learning relationship. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, it is not enough to deliver old content in a new medium.

Teachers are indispensable for learning. Learning outcomes are influenced by what they do. But learners can be effective and ineffective too. Effective learners take an active role in shaping their learning experiences. Blended Learning has a bigger scope to create effective learning experiences than in face to face /traditional teaching. Post Covid 19, based on their online teaching experiences, teachers across the globe are considering transitioning the traditional lecture-based course to a hybrid course or interested in developing an entirely new course using the hybrid, or blended model. Hence a design thinking on blended teaching and learning is the new requirement of the new normal.

How blended Learning enables the effective learning is being reflected upon here by adopting Bigg’s 3P Model. The Model suggests three P’s (presage, process, and product) represent three different learning levels towards the learning outcomes.  The three P’s as arranged in sequence are 1. Presage (getting the stage ready for learning) 2) Process (learning activities) and 3) Product (the outcome).blended-learning

Presage being the first stage in the learning process, and it sets the learning environment characteristics. The student and teacher factors at the presage, will influence the learning experience in the subsequent stages. A few student and teacher factors can be quoted here. Prior knowledge, abilities, intelligence, personality, and home background of the students are few student factors. Teacher factors are instructional mode, subject area, course structure and learning tasks. Prior understanding & knowledge in the subject, their challenges, their interests/dream jobs will help in designing the engaging sessions.

To put it simply, it needs an effective rapport building activity of understanding the student characteristics and communicating the teachers’ expectations at this stage. These activities can be well designed using online tools. To quote an example quizzes/forms in Microsoft office Teams can be used. It is complimentary to the face to face activities included in the presage. And Research studies show that there is a high correlation of presage activities and effective learning outcomes of the students.

The Process factors house the approaches students adopt towards their learning. Use of active learning techniques helps to transform teacher directed lectures to student directed lectures. Active learners/Deep learners demonstrate positive engagement by actively participating in class discussions and disengaged students demonstrate disruptive behaviour. In Blended learning the scope to use online tools will increase the student engagement. Assignments of high order reflective thinking can be given to students. For example, they can be asked to collaborate using cloud-based collaboration tools like google docs/ Assignment of Microsoft office. These tools enable personalised monitoring also.

The third P of 3P model is a Product which factors strategies, students engage in their learning acquisition processes. These student learning outcomes may be quantifiable measures of academic achievement and/or the qualitative measures of how well the material is learned or experienced and may result in net grade or set of graduate attributes. In Blended learning, online tools like gradable assignments and Forms can be used to administer the formative assessments and formative feedbacks.

The challenges like time constraint faced in traditional or face to face lectures can be overcome in a blended learning with the help of a variety of online tools. Thus, helping the educators to effectively engage the students to interact with course content, construct knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving.

Globally, when the educators are eager to adopt Blended Learning methods, we must also reflect on how inclusive we the educators are for physically, emotionally technologically challenged students and other students who cannot afford online technology. Early adopters of blended Learning stressed the importance of training as well as technical and instructional support to teachers  and students for successful implementation.