Blended Learning — The Best of Both Worlds

As classroom-based learning and online learning have evolved, the optimal solution that has emerged to give students the best of both worlds is a combination of both.

E-learning concept
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Every learning modality has its limitations. Strictly classroom/in-person-based learning has come under increasing scrutiny over the last decade as the sophistication and availability of education technology (EdTech) has grown. This is scrutiny that, in most cases, is well warranted. By using technology, educational institutions can reach a broader audience, engage students where they are and support self-paced and skill-level-appropriate learning — the benefits are obvious.

However, we don't see much discussion of what students have to give up when they make the transition from in-person education to online learning. As with anything, there are tradeoffs.

There is value in real-time collaboration and interaction. Having the availability of an instructor to answer questions and engage students is something that technology can't completely accomplish. Having the accountability of showing up at a specific time prepared to learn requires commitment. These are likely just a few of the reasons why the rate of students who start online courses and do not complete them is exponentially higher than what we normally see in the classroom setting.

As classroom-based learning and online learning have evolved, the optimal solution that has emerged to give students the best of both worlds is a combination of both. This is referred to as blended or hybrid learning. According to a study by the Department of Education, strictly online education was more effective than strictly classroom-based education, but the most successful outcomes were tied to a blended approach. Study after study shows educators themselves agree — you simply get better learning outcomes from a blended approach.

Blended learning can take all types of forms depending on the audience and material being taught. Some blended courses leverage online training coupled with scheduled classroom sessions. Courses are built to be a combination of these types of events, frequently covering easier material online and saving classroom sessions for review activities or more complicated topics. This approach is called a "flipped classroom" because the bulk of the work is predeveloped and given to students to complete on their own time. Instructors can then focus on helping students apply what they have learned.

Although blended learning was traditionally a combination of online and in-person learning, that has evolved as well. Since COVID-19, many blended courses have now become a combination of online training with virtual instructor lead (VILT) sessions (via Zoom, WebEx, Teams, etc.). This has been a great way to keep everything remote and convenient while still providing a live and interactive component.

Along with the educational benefits, there is also a financial incentive in the corporate training space for blended learning. We increasingly see that training that includes a live component can be priced much higher than strictly on-demand training. This speaks to students' innate understanding that there is measurable value in having the ability to interact in real time with an instructor or expert.

In the long-term, blended learning is undeniably the future. As the current generation of tech-savvy children grows into being the next batch of higher learners, they will expect not just technology and not just in-class instruction; they will expect a mix of the learning modalities they have grown up with — and blended learning offers exactly that.

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