Why Blended Learning?

Blended learning means many things to many people and happens in a variety of ways. Blended learning comes in many shapes and sizes and serves the learning needs of students and even professionals in many ways.  It is exciting to spend time conversing with staff about how mixing up online and onground instruction creates learning conditions that blend the best of both worlds, face-to-face and virtual.  We are all learners and how we leverage technology to enable learning anytime, anywhere and any place is key to how we learn today.

Defining blended learning is challenging because it does require context.   I do position that blended learning proves to be emerging as the number one strategy that works towards valuing self-directed and personal learning in balance with how students still come together in the classroom for group learning.  Where does the teacher fit in?  The teacher is a guide, co-learner and facilitator and  there is an inquiry-based approach to the learning.  

Here are some definitions of blended learning that speak to me: 

…blended learning combines online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student to student across a diverse group of learners. iNacol:Blended Learning:The Convergence of Online & Face-to Face Education,2008
Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” Innosight Institute:  The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning, 2011

In Ontario, the Ministry of Education in has now opened up the robust Provincial Learning Management System (LMS) for blended learning.  Recently, a group of 45 HWDSB grade 7   – 12 teachers and administrators came together for a blended session with the 21st Century Fluencies Team.  Our focus was learning how to design rich learning tasks in the Provincial LMS (Desire 2 Learn).  Below is a screenshot of our learning day.  It involved all staff participating in a “course” on blended learning using the LMS platform.  This proved to be very engaging and meaningful because staff were learning the tool (LMS) while we were defining and discussing the benefits of creating blended learning conditions.

The beauty of blended learning is that there are many points of entry for staff as they grow in their understanding of how to design rich learning tasks leveraging the tools of the LMS and web 2.0.

Here are some staff comments from our recent learning session with staff:

I look forward to creating my own this afternoon. There is a lot to learn and it will be a gradual process. I believe this has the potential to better engage my students. This will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts taught in a variety of ways that suits their individual style of learning.

I learned a lot about different tools that would really help in the classroom. I had no idea there were so many different, wonderful resources out there. I feel that blended learning is a great tool and that is will help to reach and engage all students. 

I really liked the discussion aspect for my students so that they can have a chance to reflect on what they are learning as well as have their questions answered by one another. 

This is awesome! I am so excited to introduce the LMS in my classroom. I am always trying to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students where they take ownership for their learning. The LMS appears to be the organizational tool required to ensure a balance of observation, conversation and product. I believe the LMS is a tool I need to support the 21st century fluencies and facilitate student learning in my classroom.

Blended learning also facilitates creating the “flipped classroom” model. This I am exploring more and more especially as it relates to student learning and professional learning that challenges our traditional ways of delivering instruction.

Watch The Flipped Classroom video and while watching think about:

  • inquiry-based learning
  • teacher as tutor, guide and facilitator of learning
  • students owning their learning & having choice in how, when and where they learn
  • accessible content through asynchronous instruction = powerful
  • a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous = blended learning
  • 24/7 accessibility to learning, choice in when and where = sustained engagement

Blended learning is the combination of face-to-face and online learning.  This combination and how they intersect create the conditions for 21st century teaching and learning. It’s a hybrid of learning strategies that maximizes engagement, interactivity and leverages the use of technology to enable learning. Blended learning is the key strategy for differentiation impacting learning and working conditions in the 21st century and encourages creativity and innovation, problem-solving, communicating, sharing and critical thinking beyond the classroom and office walls, with access anywhere, anytime and any place. I usually always end with more questions than answers.  Here are a seven questions for your consideration and our ongoing reflection as we blend the learning for all, our students and ourselves.

  • What is blended learning “in action” and why is it important for staff to know how it is realized in the learning for all, some and few?
  • How can we move to a vision of increased blended learning in our schools and departments?
  • How does blended learning create the conditions for learning of today?  What does your staff do to currently blend the learning for students?
  • How does your staff currently blend how they learn and work together?
  • How does blended learning help engage students and support their academic success? Is there evidence?
  • How are online learning and face-to-face instruction being combined effectively?
  • Can blended learning meet unique students needs that neither fully online nor face-to-face models can achieve?

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