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For educators: how to create successful blended learning?

The 3 main components of blended learning

Blended learning is becoming increasingly popular. Today, however, we will not look at its positive aspects, but will focus on the challenges faced by teachers who choose this model of learning.

Approximate reading time: 2m 25s

By relying on modernity and relevance, they have to give up the control they used to have over time and content - and adopt an asynchronous, individualized and seemingly not so orderly process.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning means different things to different people. Knewton, an educational technology design and development company, suggests that this type of learning environment has 6 distinct models: face-to-face, alternating, flexible, online lab, self-paced blended learning, and online learning. The experts further add that "blended learning refers to any moment in which the learner is learning, whether in an online or offline environment, controlling the time, place, manner and pace."

These six models should serve as modeling clay. A blended learning experience should not be left to take a particular form - it should be able to respond to the environment in which it is used, to technological change and to the needs of learners.

If you want to familiarize yourself with blended learning but avoid the initial confusion that usually accompanies all change, divide your model into 3 main components: online learning, learner control, and traditional classroom learning.

Component No.1: Online learning

The communication of any blended learning is implemented through one of the online learning platforms available on the market. Their use greatly facilitates content delivery, process management and asynchronous learning. Whichever platform you choose, don't be afraid to experiment with it. On the contrary, do it - constantly change and update its form and content - this will undoubtedly ensure the necessary relevance.

Some educational institutions, including in Bulgaria, already use such learning management systems. If your school does not have such technology yet, you can turn to one of the blogging platforms for help. Most of them also have free versions. Of course, their functionalities are quite limited, but this is still a good start to creating an online connection between you and your students.
You can also use one of the online assessment tools, such as Juno or Google Forms, for example. They offer a number of ways to collect and analyse the information you collect.

Component No.2: Supervising learners

For your blended learning to be successful, you need to view your learners as democratic participants in their own development who, in advance, you need to make aware of the terms of the public contract and its expected outcomes. Only then, should you start working on the content of the project. But you must remember that control is a privilege, not a right. You should also keep in mind that your students will need time to get used to their new status quo and begin to take responsibility for their own learning.

Component No. 3: Teaching in a traditional classroom

The best option for teaching in a traditional classroom is by decentralizing it. Imagine students divided into 4 groups of 4-6. The first group works on a task, with the participants occasionally discussing something among themselves. The second group checks the homework. The third group is at the blackboard and draws a graph of the technological changes that occurred between the two world wars (for example). And the last group -sits at a table with the teacher, discussing the main points of the lesson and adding new ones. In this way, 100% engagement is achieved by all present in the classroom, who cannot 'escape' the flow of thought.

The nature of teaching in a traditional classroom needs to change. Teachers need to be more like mentors, guiding their students not towards 100% mastery of content but towards building a democratic society. Of course, the students themselves will also need training to accomplish this group task.

In conclusion, we'll give you one final tip: Always take photos or videos of what's happening in your classroom, and whenever possible, share your work online. People are, basically, suspicious of things they don't know - so show yourself and others what blended learning is really like and its benefits will reveal themselves.

Source: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/10/08/ctq_tolley_blended_learning.html.