Over the past year, higher education organizations have had to adapt and change their way of teaching to suit the needs of students who are unable to be on campus. Initially, this involved moving learning to platforms entirely online with elearning or online teaching, which is a huge alteration from the traditional classroom environment. However, as everything begins to change again, many higher education organizations are looking to implement a blended learning experience, rather than simply just an online approach to offer a higher quality approach to learning.

But what is blended learning? It’s important to fully understand the blended learning definition and how it works in order to get the best from it. In this article, we will seek to explore the definition of blended learning, investigate some blended learning models and why it’s growing in popularity.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a form of hybrid learning that might seem like a fairly straightforward concept but, much of how it is carried out depends on individual organizations. It is not simply a mix of technology and teaching, although this is an element of blended learning.

The simplest definition of blended learning is that it is a combination of physical and online education materials (hybrid learning approach). It is not just “online learning”, as much of blended learning requires an interaction between a teacher and a learner. However, materials can be available outside of these interactions, and the learner has some control over the pace at which they access them, and how they progress with their learning. This gives students more autonomy over their education and teaching they receive, than they would find in a traditional classroom environment.

Courses can be carried out online through:

  • Live webinars
  • Pre-recorded material

In some cases, students and teachers will need to be online at the same time as part of their course (for live lectures/webinars). These instructor-led segments may be carried out online but, some may be in person.

A successful blended learning approach is highly dependent on the availability of appropriate technology to higher education organizations, and how they can adapt their traditional practices each course. Some may be very quick to apply a blended learning or hybrid learning approach while, for others, it can present more of a challenge.

With Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies now common across a wide range of organizations, implementing a blended learning or online learning approach should be easier to implement than ever.

Blended learning models

There are several types of blended learning model that a higher education organisation can apply:

  • Face to face – this is when some instruction may be carried out in person, with able to work through materials online at their own pace. This allows for a more hands-on approach, which is particularly useful for those studying courses in medical or science facilities. It also provides live feedback and a more involved type of mentoring, while still supplementing with online learning and materials.
  • Rotation – This model allows students to move between learning activities in a setting that may be either teacher directed or self-led. This may be useful for labs and different stations to allow practice prior to the face-to-face model.
  • Online lab – An online lab provides students with the opportunity to access materials in an entirely digital format, which is used to consolidate the learning achieved in one of the other models, such as rotation or face to face learning. It gives students to space to solidify and familiarize themselves with the ideas introduced to them.
  • Self-blend – The self-blend model gives learners the opportunity to look at a subject in more depth, in a self-directed manner. This is useful for students who want to deepen their understanding of a topic, and it also offers a wide range of content for students to explore deeply, improving their knowledge.
  • Online driver – An online driver allows students to navigate their learning in a self-directed manner though an entirely online environment. They are still able to communicate with an instructor through a chat function, but their learning is self-regulated and they benefit frorm a more flexible approach. However, the face-to-face element is removed entirely, which can lead to lower student engagement for some.

Why is blended learning rising in popularity?

Over the last year, blended learning has risen in popularity and only looks set to become a more relevant and useful way to provide university courses. It has many benefits which have caused this increase.

Improved accessibility and inclusion

This means that students who may not be able to access a campus environment (due to physical or geographical challenges, can have the same education as students who could attend in-person classes more easily.

Even if students need to be away from campus for some of the time, they can still be included and not fall behind in their students. This will encourage greater participation and could even provide higher education settings with a more diverse range of students.

Improve student outcomes

Along these same lines, this can improve learning outcomes, as their will be no gaps in education, and they can study at their own pace and in the environment that best suits them, whether it’s online or in a classroom. The student experience is enhanced overall, giving them greater access to materials and the ability to study when and where they want. They can reflect back and run over materials when needed, as well as rewatch lectures to get a better grasp of the material.

What impact will blended learning have on the future of higher education?

The landscape of higher education is irrevocably changing , and a blended learning environment is playing a large part in this movement. As we have seen over the last few months, the use of digital tech is fundamental to the continuity of education, allowing students to not miss out on vital information when it’s not possible for them to be in the classroom.

However, simply moving content online is not enough. It is essential that students have a way to “touch base” with both educators and each other, and can still enjoy the social and personal growth associated with traditional higher education environments. Not all students will adapt well to learning under their own steam, and so a blended approach is invaluable to allow them to reach their full potential.

In an increasingly online world, blended learning is a fantastic way to bring higher education organisations into the future, without losing the core of what makes them so attractive and effective for students.

Solutions such as AppsAnywhere can help organizations to implement a blended learning approach and allow students to access the resources they need, when they need them. Please contact our expert team today to find out more .