Blended learning – what is it?

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Dan McGuire Dan McGuire 10 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #699
    Avatar of Norm Vaughan
    Norm Vaughan
    Key Master

    Hi Everyone,

    Please take a moment to share your initial thoughts and insights regarding the following 3 questions:

    1. What is your definition of blended learning?

    2. What do you think are the opportunities of a blended approach to learning?

    3. What are some of the challenges with blended learning?

    4. How do you think you could apply a blended approach in your school, workplace, and/or institution? Looking forward to reading your responses!!

    Take care, Norm

    1. #737
      Avatar of Marc Be
      Marc Be

      My definition for Blended Learning is based on teaching practice: Blended learning is an amalgam of traditional classroom instruction blended with computer software, hardware, internet, and web-based programmes.

      Because the computer and the internet are de facto tools in education, the challenge for teachers is developing a process for leveraging the technology to empower student learning. Technology should never drive student learning; in fact, effective education is putting the student in charge of his own learning. In addition, the computer and the internet provide incisive and innovative ways to teach to the multiple intelligences that students have.

      Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences reveals that today’s students have different strengths and learn in different  ways. Blended learning facilitates the use of a child’s multiple intelligences: for example, a student whose strength is intrapersonal communication can learn on his own through programmes such as MOODLE or Nicenet. He does not have to be restricted to the traditional classroom setting; he can learn at his own pace and engage in reflective thinking as he works on his assignments. He is not one hundred percent dependent on classroom interaction or teacher feedback; rather, he can learn on his own–depending on the subject material and the age of the student, of course–taking advantage of the available technology.

      Blended learning also facilitates Project-based learning and Project-oriented learning. The technology tools, or mind tools as David Jonassen, empower student creativity. Apps, software, the internet and devices such as tablets are tools that students can use to answer driving and complex questions which form the platform for Project-based learning. Students can investigate problems on a broader and deeper level; a community of learners can be developed from around the world through Skype or Facetime; and the software allows students to publish and present their work in a dynamic and creative manner.

      Blended learning provides for differentiated instruction. A students IEP (individualized educational plan) can be developed with the purpose of using technology to empower students to learn. Through or webpages, a teacher can use the technology to provide additional guidance or learning activities for students who struggle academically.

      Nevertheless, Blended learning has several challenges. If siblings are in a school which expects students to use computers, smartphones, iPads, or tablets for learning, is a family expected to purchase thousands of dollars of computers? Not all families have the economic means to purchase the electronic devices that are necessary for learning.

      A second challenge for Blended Learning is its very purpose. In Alberta, grade 12 diploma exams have excessive heft; therefore, the main purpose of classroom instruction for diploma core courses is to prepare students to do well on the diploma exam, an exam which is worth fifty percent of the final grade. Therefore, Blended Learning–and its associated benefits, such as Project-based learning–is sacrificed for curriculum content coverage. Consequently, teachers may choose not to incorporate Blended Learning; teachers may choose to rely on traditional classroom instruction.

      A third challenge for Blended Learning is velocity. With technology, software, and programmes evolving so quickly, teachers have to work hard to understand how the latest technology works and how it can be used in the classroom. By introducing podcasts into classroom instruction, the teacher must now serve as the de facto expert and troubleshooter when students are working on their podcasts.

      Teachers must be experts in both their content area and in the technology they are using; consequently, their workload increases substantially.

      In my classroom, my instructional practice has utilized blended learning. I use Knovio,, the internet, Bookbuilder, and other programmes to teach. My goal is not to restrict students’ learning to forty-two minutes (junior high class length) or eighty-four minutes (senior high class length); rather, I want to expand the time students spend working on their assignments and I want the schedule to be flexible so students can learn when they choose. The webpages and software that I use provides me the opportunity to expand the time students work on English and it allows them to have the flexibility and responsibility they need to be successful. Traditional classroom instruction, with its face-to-face format places the teacher at the centre of learning.

      Blended learning shifts the locus from teacher to student: the student now has the tools and the empowerment to learn on his own and with his own multiple intelligences.

      As it should be.



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    2. #741
      Avatar of Elaine K
      Elaine K

      Hello everyone!

      It was good to hear all of your voices last week; I am looking forward to learning with you this semester.

      I believe blended learning is a combination of face-to-face interaction and remote computer-mediated activities.  I have the sense that there are a myriad of different combinations in this approach to learning.  I suspect that the design of a blended model of learning would  come down to resources and learner objectives.

      Blended learning could  provide a very personalized and self-directed learning environment.  Essentially, it could change the role of the student and the teacher, in the sense that each would have control over the learning process.  Students could become adept at meta-cognitive abilities, using the tools of E-learning to help them understand what they know now and what they need to do next.  Teachers would be there to facilitate this process, and would probably be learning alongside their students much of the time.

      The challenges of blended learning are rethinking course designs, adopting a new approach to teaching, managing two learning environments, and preparing students (and parents)  for the blended learning experience.

      Upon completing my MED, I  hope to find work in the area of professional development for teachers.  Recently, I have become aware of several start-up companies that are using learning analytics to assess professional development needs and then develop customized programs of study.  I believe using this technology, along with a mentoring/coaching/facilitating face-to-face component, could deliver a very rich result for individual teachers.  This is something that I would like to be involved in.




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    3. #744
      Avatar of Lui De Somma
      Lui De Somma

      1.      What is your definition of blended learning?
      As the name suggests, to me blended learning entails online learning and face-to-face learning; a combination, as it were, of the two modes of delivery.
      2.      What do you think are the opportunities of a blended approach to learning?
      As the name suggests, and if my definition of blended learning as alluded to above is valid, then the opportunities that a blended approach to learning offers is primarily one of flexibility and choice. One would have the flexibility and choice to use the best approach or combination of approaches which best address specific situations and circumstances.
      3.      What are some of the challenges with blended learning?
      Availability and accessibility of technology?
      Choosing which way to lean on the “blended” spectrum?
      Using inline when face-to-face would have been preferable and vice versa?
      4.      How do you think you could apply a blended approach in your school, workplace, and/or institution? Looking forward to reading your responses!!
      I think this question would probably be best answered at the end of this course.

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    4. #745
      Avatar of Ellen Mo
      Ellen Mo

      1) Blended learning, as far as I am concerned, is a form of learning in which the instruction uses the best resources available to the best ends. This, in the context of e-learning (and arguably in the whole of education, but that is most certainly an argument for another day), involves tailoring a mixture of ‘in-class’ work with an ‘online’ experience that serves the specific needs of the learners. There is no clear image of what this looks like: the instructor, topic, and learners all dictate what this combination looks like. I read with interest the comments here not being sure what it would look like in specific contexts — Joanne, yours in particular stood out to me — and I can’t help but wonder at that myself. I look forward to hearing more as we progress here.

      2) The specific opportunities afforded by blended learning will vary depending on the group being instructed. Overall though, the idea of flexibility reigns supreme. When one can set their own general pace, and can work on their own time, the chances are good you will see better work. I know specifically that I work best first thing in the morning. As such, with these courses I’m taking online, I do whatever work needs attention first thing in the morning as often as I can. This is simply one specific within a greater concept, though. Ask any of my high school students this same question, and I imagine you would be able to track all their answers back to flexibility.

      3) Access to technology is the major problem. While smart phones and the like are nearly ubiquitous, not everyone can take part in this. I speak particularly of out-of-the-way or remote areas, such as the one I live in. The school I work at only recently started taking advantage of Connected Classroom as a resource for our science department. We just started employing distance learning program for our Planning 10 class. We are just now getting computers with up-to-date operating systems. These are steps in the right direction towards the effective implementation of technology within our classrooms, and in turn will allow us to perform those alchemical experiments in which we work towards getting the mixture I referenced in my answer to the first question right for our students.

      4) Despite everything that I’ve learned throughout my previous courses, and the tiny bits and pieces of my learning that I’ve been able to use thus far, I believe this answer is an evolving one. I stand with Luigi here: let’s get to the end of this course, then ask me for my ideas.

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    5. #785
      Avatar of Donna We
      Donna We

      My definition of blended learning:
      When I look at the types of blended learning that we use in my school division, Aspen View Public Schools, it is apparent to me that blended learning can take on many forms.  Although blended learning can be simply explained as being an educational program where a student learns partly in a traditional face-to-face, brick-and-mortar environment and partly through online instruction, it can take on different forms.  In a search to help me identify what these different forms can take, I found a great site online at which summarizes very well these different forms, those being:

      a.  Face-to-face: teachers deliver the curriculum in a traditional manner supplemented by online learning within the same physical space, such as using a computer lab or using laptops within the physical classroom;
      b.  Rotation:  students rotate between self-paced online learning to traditional face-to-face learning on a fixed schedule;
      c.  Flex:  students learn most of the curriculum online.  Supports are provided face-to-face by a teacher when needed either through tutoring or in small groups;
      d.  Online Lab:  students take their online courses while in a traditional school setting, and usually take traditional courses, too;
      e.  Self-Blend:  students take online courses from remote locations to supplement their school’s traditional courses;
      f.  Online Driver:  students take all of their courses online with a teacher delivering the material; however, students are able to have face-to-face check-ins with their teacher.

      What I think some of the opportunities of a blended learning approach are:
      Students are able to have more flexibility in their schedules – in regards to both time and subjects studied, hence providing a more student centered learning experience.  In a well-designed blended learning environment, students should be able to find a higher level of engagement in their courses as theory can be learned online during their own time, allowing for students to dig deeper into the content by having greater conversation and discovery in the face-to-face classroom.

      As often seen in rural school divisions, my school division has found that there are many courses that students want to study which would not be available without the use of a blended program.  Many of our schools have low enrollment and do not have the luxury to be able to hire teachers to teacher the courses that are students want to enroll in.  By running a Virtual School in our division, we are able to provide much more option for our students,  This is an opportunity that can be realized by all school divisions.
      One of the greatest opportunities is for students to be able to learn at any time, any place, any pace.  We are finding at Aspen View Public Schools that some of our students spend time not only at school working during their Virtual School scheduled time, but they are also working on their online courses in the evening allowing them to “experiment” with their learning.

      What I believe are some of the challenges with a blended learning environment:
      One of the challenges I see is that teachers and students do not have the skills necessary to teach and learn in an online environment.  I see teachers who are amazing traditional teachers finding it difficult to connect with their students online—pedagogy has to change and not all teachers have had the proper training on how to best teach in the online environment, but because of their teaching assignments, they must.  Some teachers who are placed in the situation where they need to run a blended program find the task too complex and feel a  lot of pressure to create content without understanding how to use the multitudes of mediums that are available for them to use.  I see students who do well in a traditional environment struggling in a blended environment.  The bottom line is, that in order for blended learning to be successful, time and instruction must be given for teachers and students to learn how to adjust to the blended format.

      How I apply a blended approach in my school division:
      I am currently applying an example of a rotational blended approach in my school division.  In Aspen View Public School division, we are working at providing a greater selection of quality CTS courses.  In doing so, we are also providing amazing Dual Credit options to our students.

      We have hired a journeyman hairstylist (who has bridged to get her education degree) to run Cosmetology courses across the division.  Because she is a journeyman, she is able to teach the 3400 level Cosmetology CTS courses, which means students who successfully complete her courses have the opportunity to challenge the Apprenticeship test.  This teacher has been given an assignment which has her working in six high schools in the division.

      This dynamic teacher is scheduled to be at each school teaching face-to-face, and providing practical opportunities once a week.  To support her program, she has created online Moodle modules.  The first term of this year was spent working out the logistics of how to provide technology supports for this teacher and then having her create the online courses, determining how to approach the face-to-face components of the course and figuring out how to have a staff member in each of the schools available to support students working on the Moodle courses throughout the week on the days when then teacher was not in their schools.  We also had challenges in determining how the scheduling was going to work across the division, and having community meetings to answer parental questions about how blended learning can benefit their children.

      We are currently one week into the term…I will keep you updated with our “blended evolution” as I am sure that there are a lot of lessons that will be learned and changes made as the term progresses.

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