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Blended Learning Explained: What it is and How it is Helpful

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Blended learning has exploded in popularity and adoption in the last few years, thanks in large part to the effects of the pandemic. More than a buzzword, it’s a powerful approach to delivering education. But what exactly is it, and how does it help students and instructors alike?

What Is Blended Learning?

Blended learning is an approach to education that uses a combination of in-person instruction and online virtual instruction. It typically involves both scheduled, instructor-led components as well as self-paced, learner-led components. Blended learning stands in contrast to all-online learning or fully in-person approaches to classroom instruction.

Blended learning strategies are increasingly common in K-12 education as well as higher ed, with a significant spike in adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic. The principles of blended learning can also show up in employee training, customer training, compliance training, and any other corporate or adult-oriented education setting.

Most blended learning environments mix and match strategies (We’ll cover these methods in detail later in this post).

The definition and boundaries of blended learning can sometimes be a bit fuzzy, though. Some institutions use the term to describe an all-online approach that mixes both synchronous (“in-person” virtual lectures, webinars, discussions, etc.) and asynchronous (completing assignments or listening to lectures alone and at your own pace). Essentially, these schools replace the face-to-face component with another virtual layer.

Here at Bryant & Stratton College, we use the term “blended learning” to mean a mix of in-person, face-to-face instruction and virtual learning, assignments, and assessments. It frequently looks like a blended schedule, with some days scheduled as face-to-face instruction and other “days” designated as self-paced virtual learning.

Our program is flexible and helps students know that they aren’t alone. The online components of the course can be completed based on the student’s schedule and instructors are always available for feedback, guidance, or even general support through the program. Make the most of your time in our blended learning program![1] 

Read more about Bryant & Stratton College’s approach to blended learning.

Benefits of Blended Learning

Using a blended learning approach in classrooms offers a number of benefits, for both students and educators.

For Students

Potential student benefits of blended learning include:

●      Setting their own schedule for hybrid learning tasks allows for more flexibility

●      Mixing up formats can increase engagement (classes won’t be endless lectures)

●      Hands-on learning experiences (such as labs or flipped classroom) can increase retention

●      Digital course components can be tracked from students’ own laptops

●      Research suggests that students achieve better understanding through blended learning

For Educators

Educators also gain several benefits when they move to a blended classroom model:

●      Educators must reevaluate their approach to well-established courses and content, creating freshness and innovation

●      Students collaborate more, taking some pressure off the educator

●      In-person instruction time becomes more valuable and often more purposeful

●      A mix of online and in-person student interactions enriches the teacher-student dynamic in a course

Of course, blended learning can also be an effective strategy at mitigating exposure risk or allowing for distancing procedures in a residential college or K-12 setting.

Challenges of Blended Learning

Blended learning can be a powerful educational tool, but there are challenges to successful implementation, as well.

1. Successfully Managing Diverse Course Content

One of the biggest challenges of effectively implementing blended learning is successful management. Blended learning programs are more complicated, and schools must rely on an effective technology platform (usually a learning management system, or LMS) to keep everything organized.

2. Increased Technology Burden

Blended learning, like online or hybrid learning, requires a greater degree of technology resources and support— both for the students and for the institution. Instructors who aren’t comfortable with digital tools may need additional training. The same goes for students, who may not come into the classroom already knowing how to navigate an LMS or another required digital tool.

Also, all students will need adequate hardware and sufficient internet connection to log on from home. This is less of a burden on the collegiate level, though, where most students already own a computer and have internet access where they live.

3. Increased Staffing Needs

Blended learning can sometimes increase staffing needs for an institution. Certainly, at the elementary level, students cannot be expected to independently navigate various stations, locations, and platforms. Schools may need more paraprofessionals to assist teachers than in a traditional system.

On the college level, the increased staffing needs tend to be administrative and tech oriented. Instructors need support and training in how to use new tools and platforms. Some paraprofessional assistance may be needed as well, especially with certain more instructor-intensive techniques.

Blended Learning Methods

Educators use a wide range of methods that fall under the umbrella of blended learning. These five are some of the most common, and you’ll find them all in use at Bryant & Stratton.

1. Station Rotation

Most frequently found in elementary school settings, Station Rotation is a blended or hybrid learning spin on the classic classroom centers/stations model. In the blended learning version, students rotate through various stations on a predefined schedule (often days of the week).

Here’s an illustration: On Monday, Group A meets in person for teacher-led instruction. Group B stays home and completes separate online instruction, while Group C completes collaborative activities. (You could even add a Group D and differentiate between online and in-person collaborative activities.)

Then on Tuesday, each group rotates to the next station, and so on.

Implementations on the collegiate level typically involve some self-paced work (or days/stations).

2. Lab Rotation

The Lab Rotation model is very similar to Station Rotation, but at least one of the rotations takes place in a learning lab or computer lab. It can be a great approach for residential education where students may not possess the needed technology on their own, or for K-12 programs that are trying to limit group sizes without expecting parents to manage as many regular at-home learning days.

3. Individual Rotation

Individual Rotation models are both higher-tech and more independent. In this model, students move from rotation to rotation, but as individuals rather than as cohesive groups. Each student progresses through the activities assigned to them, which may or may not include every available station.

This setup can be more challenging to manage since students are on their own individual learning plans (which the teacher may need to create). Tracking student progress (and even knowing who is where) can be more difficult.

4. Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students absorb lecture-style course materials online and at the time of their choosing (so long as they are prepared by classroom day). They also complete some coursework from home. Instructors then use in-person instruction days to facilitate teacher-guided practice, hands-on experiences, and collaborative projects.

It’s a powerful technique, giving students access to the teacher for critical Q&A during hands-on practice — flipping the traditional classroom entirely.

5. Flex

The Flex model is the most student-directed, giving students the ability to choose the learning activities that they need most. As such, Flex is much better suited for older learners (high school, college, adult/corporate) than for younger ones.

Typical Flex implementations rely heavily on online instruction, with teachers supporting students as needed. The downside, of course, is that students must remain motivated if they are to achieve success.

Bryant & Stratton Understands Blended Learning

At Bryant & Stratton College, we understand blended learning, and we offer many of our courses in this format. In fact, we embraced blended learning long before the pandemic forced many institutions to hurriedly figure it out.

If blended learning sounds like the right approach for your college education, check out the degree programs we offer today!

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