What is blended learning?

What is blended learning?

By Dr Jeremy Koay

A limited view

Blended learning is often defined as the combination of traditional face-to-face learning and online learning experiences (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). Some critics of this model say that there are risks involved when contact hours between students and teachers are reduced. However, a question worth considering is whether having more contact hours necessarily results in an increase in the quality of teaching and learning.

Some sceptics propose that the main motivation behind introducing blended learning is financial gain for the teaching institution. Other say the model is driven by the use of technology simply for the sake of using it. Although these may be valid criticisms, there are benefits that we should take into account.

A holistic view

As continuing education becomes increasingly common in the work force, so does the need for education providers to offer not just part-time programmes but also blended ones. In this model, logistics issues can be alleviated because students do not have to travel to the learning centre as regularly as under a fully face-to-face arrangement. This makes continuing education more accessible.

Perhaps a significant benefit of integrating asynchronous internet communication tools is that they allow room for more objective and reflective thinking than a face-to-face classroom environment. This is because participants are not expected to respond to discussion questions immediately.

Theory and practice

While blended learning has its benefits, it is important to consider students’ learning experiences (Ginns & Ellis, 2007). Teachers can explore students’ perception of the online learning environment by using questionnaires or informal interviews (one-on-one or group). Although informal interviews lack anonymity, they allow teachers to understand individual learner’s experience of the virtual learning environment.

Teachers should also consider having a balance of social and independent activities in an online learning environment. Socially-oriented activities may involve learners discussing a particular topic and sharing useful links, for example. An independent activity may be a quiz that learners complete.

References

Garrison, D. R. & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105.

Ginns, P. & Ellis, R. (2007). Quality in blended learning: Exploring the relationships between on-line and face-to-face teaching and learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 53-64.


Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL.

Image source: shutterstock.com/Jacob Lund

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