Blended Learning: What is it and how do I improve at it?
Blended learning is a combination of both online study and traditional face to face teaching. While it can be carried out in a number of different styles, a simple way to imagine blended learning is spending only a half of a course in the classroom, lab or lecture hall. The other 50% is spent studying remotely via video lessons or lectures, downloadable reading materials, discussion forums, group video calls, online quizzes, tests and assignments.
Blended learning has been on the rise for a number of years, but now with the Coronavirus pandemic changing the way we interact with others, it looks like it’s here to stay.
While the concept of blended learning can be intimidating for some students, it’s important to remember that in many ways, it’s not that different from traditional learning. Think about it, a traditional university course consists of direct contact lectures, tutorials and lab sessions. But this is only a fraction of the work. You’re expected to complete assignments, carry out extended reading and study, and work on projects in your own time.
Now that blended learning looks set to become something of a mainstay in university education, we shouldn’t see it as a compromise. Rather, we can choose to look at it as a potentially more effective way of learning. We’ll go into some detail on the benefits in this article.
As well as that, while the internet is filled with resources on effective blended learning for teachers, there’s not much in the way of advice for students. With this in mind, we’ve taken some time to come up with tips for you, the learner, to get the most out of it.
What are the benefits of Blended Learning?
Blended learning allows you to work at your own pace
Attending lectures and listening to our professors doesn’t suit all of us perfectly. If you’re like us, you’ve probably found yourself missing a key point at some stage of a class, and found yourself staring longingly at your classmates' perfectly taken notes.
Some of us take a little extra time to understand certain concepts and allow information to settle. To that end, blended learning suits both fast and slower learners perfectly. By using offline and online resources, videos and notes in particular, we can work through courses and assignments at our own pace, and reduce our stress in the process.
It’s more accessible
Learning isn’t limited to the classroom or lecture hall with blended learning. Sure, you’ve always had your textbooks to study relevant course material outside of the class, but that’s pretty much all you had. Thanks to the technological aspects of blended learning, you can access most of it from anywhere, and engage with a whole range of alternative learning material through apps, videos and downloadable course content.
Blended learning is more varied, interesting and fun
Sitting in a crowded lecture hall, constantly taking notes, trying to stay awake and not get distracted by your class crush are just some of the challenges that come with a normal day in academia. But with blended learning, you’re more empowered as a student to study things yourself, search for information, take time to question your own knowledge, and engage with novel ways of learning through technology.
Fun should not be underestimated when it comes to education. Most of us fondly remember at least one teacher who made their lessons interesting, engaging and even entertaining. Well, by using blended learning, we can have these kinds of lessons all the time. And if you enjoy what you’re learning and how you’re learning it, you’re sure to get even more from it.
How do I get the most out of blended learning as a student?
To really get the most out of your own blended learning experience, it’s important that you take more responsibility for your own learning. Remember, university is a time to explore and discover things, not to simply be spoon fed information.
To improve your own blended learning skills, keep these few things in mind:
View it as an opportunity to develop
Rather than worrying about what you might be missing out on by spending less time in the classroom, try to look at blended learning as a way for you to work on your own responsibility to yourself. By learning in this way, you’ll develop your resourcefulness, initiative, and critical thinking.
When university is all said and done, you’ll be looking for a job, and few things impress potential employers more than these skills.
Stick to a schedule where possible, and don’t “overwork” yourself
Ask almost anyone who works professionally from outside an office, and chances are they’ll praise the positive impact of sticking to a schedule. Just because you’re not in the classroom, it doesn’t mean you should lose all sense of timing. We’d highly recommend setting blocks of time in your day for completing your work. Otherwise, you might find that you never get started, or perhaps never get finished!
As important as it is to set blocks of time when you’re “on”, it’s equally as important to make sure that you have times when you’re “off”. Rest and reflection are important parts of learning and growing too.
Oh and by the way, setting a schedule doesn’t necessarily mean working from 9am to 5pm. No, this is up to you. That’s the beauty of blended learning! But do make sure to keep some discipline in your study hours. We get that not everyone is an early bird, or a night owl, but find the times of day (or night) when you can do your best work, and try to stick to these.
Stay in touch with your teachers and classmates
Just because you’re not together, it doesn’t mean you're alone. The best thing about technology is that help is only ever a quick video call or message away. Just as you should work together and bounce ideas off your classmates and teachers in the traditional, physical classroom, you should do this when working outside of the classroom too. Something as simple as a Facebook or WhatsApp group for support could go a long way to students being able to help each other out.
Your teachers will also be able to help you if you’re struggling, perhaps even more so than when in the classroom. This is simply because there won’t be the same time restraints on them, and they may have more time to deal with your questions and queries in a more considered way.
Look to the future and enjoy it!
If blended learning is here to stay, think of how the work environment is also set to change in the next few years. The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a great deal of professional environments shift to a “working from home” model, and many companies have commented that they may well keep things like this in the future.
There’s a strong chance then, that when you graduate and enter the working world, you’ll be spending less time in an office than you think. You may as well get started now!
Finally, we mentioned above that having fun shouldn’t be underestimated. The advent and rise of blended learning ultimately gives you more freedom to get your work done in your own way. Enjoy this freedom, use it to empower you. You’ll be more independent, more self sufficient, and more skilled as a result.
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Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.