Blended learning to achieve success

Although blended learning isn't a new term, it has certainly become much more prevalent in 2020, as the sector’s response to Covid-19 forced education to swiftly adjust to using technology to support learning from home, in a way that was never envisaged before.

As we continue to adapt in the new academic year, blended learning remains imperative to ensure further disruptions to learning are minimised and to enhance the learning process for both learners and centres.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning refers to education that includes a combination of both face-to-face and online learning approaches.

Although this may seem daunting at first, due to the number of different technologies and platforms available, both learners and educators can reap the rewards if it’s implemented correctly.

The benefits of blended learning:

  • Greater flexibility – learning can take place anywhere, anytime – 24/7! This can be key to increasing learner engagement and outcomes. It also allows greater flexibility for those teaching, for example having the ability to use automation for marking assessments.
  • Cater to different learning types – by utilising content and creating different ways of interacting, different types of learners at different levels can feel better supported.
  • Create better engagement – similar to above, by creating different ways of learning, different learners will feel more confident to engage in different elements of the learning process.
  • Encourage independent learning – by allowing learners to study outside of the classroom, they are given more autonomy and freedom over how and when they learn and are encouraged to organise their time effectively.
  • Achieve better outcomes – there have been multiple studies conducted that show that those studying via blended learning perform better.
  • Create an agile learning experience – for example, putting assessments online allows for instant feedback and a truly agile learning process.
  • Create clear learner journeys – using technology that allows you to view the full learner journey means you‘re better equipped to recognise those underperforming and provide intervention if and when it’s needed.
  • Future-proof the learning experience – should learners need to study from home again, disruptions to learning will be minimised.

Developing blended learning approaches for your learners

It isn’t all about reinventing the wheel. Put simply, it’s finding the right processes, technology and resources that work for you and your learners, but there are some key things to remember.

  1. Firstly, utilise what you already have – most learning providers already have portals and virtual learning environments which can support a blended learning approach. These platforms can house virtual learning and resources and facilitate student interactions. If your existing platforms are restricting, look into how they can be improved.
  2. Consider what elements of learning can be taught online and which might be better suited to the classroom environment where it’s more structured. For example, consider recording short videos to introduce a new learning topic that can be watched at home ahead of a face-to-face class. This is simple to implement and allows learners to get an understanding of a topic, which some learners may prefer, so they can think about this before perhaps engaging in conversation in the classroom. You might also consider moving all assessments online, not only will this allow you to provide instant feedback to learners, it could also allow you to automate elements of marking and have a clear record of learner progression.
  3. Make technology accessible – this is the most important thing for your learners. Ensure no one feels disadvantaged due to lack of resources or knowledge to confidently use the programmes and tools at their disposal. Make sure every learner has access to any suitable devices and that they know how to use them; build this training into inductions and get learners involved in idea generation for making improvements. The more engaged they are with this, the more engaged they’ll be in the learning process in general.
  4. Train staff accordingly – this is the most important aspect for educators. Training builds confidence and it should be an ongoing process as things evolve. Just like learners, teachers should be involved in the process of selecting any platforms and tools and be given the freedom (to an extent) to use these how they see fit within their teaching. They’re the ones who need to be on board and confident to make blended learning truly work.
  5. Set clear goals – make sure learners understand from the get-go that a blended learning approach involves dedication and commitment. Highlight the value of self-directed study and setting time aside to do any virtual learning that’s required of them. Empower them, but also express the importance of them engaging in the process.
  6. Utilise innovative technology – consider how you might embed virtual reality or gamification into your teaching to make it engaging. As technology evolves, so does the expectations of young learners and adults. By embedding new technology into education, it keeps it stimulating ang engaging for the learner.
  7. Maintain a strong classroom culture – with so much technology at our fingertips, it’s hard not to get carried away, but maintaining and embracing a strong classroom culture – either physically inside the classroom or via online learning – is key! Classroom-based learning is certainly more structured, it allows for shared dialogue, student experiences and rules as well as social and emotional safety for learners. It’s important that these cultures are mirrored online, for example with learner forums. This will enable all learners to have a valuable and engaging learning experience, regardless of where their learning takes place.

Support from NCFE

At NCFE, we’re focused on the future of education, ensuring young people have the chance to succeed in education and in life, particularly following recent disruptions to learning.

We have a number of innovative technology-enhanced solutions, teaching support and third party approved resources for high quality learning.

We also support learning for the future with courses that can be delivered online.

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