WHAT IS BLENDED LEARNING?
Since 1999, the use of digital and online instructional approaches known generically as ‘blended learning” and “hybrid learning” have become increasingly popular as a way to convert the brick-and-mortar classroom to a model that combines online education with more traditional education approaches.
Generally speaking, blended learning combines classroom learning with online learning. Blended learning provides the opportunity for students to participate in the control of their individual learning time, pace and learning space. In a teacher-designed blended learning atmosphere, the classroom teacher makes the decision about which combination of classroom time and online time will work best for the class.
The value of student-controlled or student-centered blended classrooms is a frequent debate subject among educators. If students are to effectively participate in developing their own learning models, they must know how to communicate, collaborate and solve problems in groups and individually. Dissenters say the process is too messy, loud and disorganized. Supporters of the concept believe that, in the end, the learning achieved is substantially more meaningful, to both students and teachers.
CAN BLENDED LEARNING BE BETTER AND COST EFFECTIVE?
Researchers Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman and Eleanor Laurans of Fordham Institute co-authored a paper entitled “The Costs of Online Learning, Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning.” Their research revealed that the “average overall per-pupil costs of both models [classroom and online] are significantly lower than the $10,000 national average for traditional brick-and-mortar schools. K-12 virtual schools costs were $5,500 to $7,100 per student, while blended learning costs were from $7,600 – $10,200 per student.” (http://www.dreambox.com/blog/blended-learning-technology-save-money-accelerate-learning .) (NOTE: Specific dollar amounts relative to 2017-2018 costs may vary.)
Dr. Fiona Holland from the Center for Benefit-Cost-Studies of Education, Center for Technology and School Change, found that “significant cost savings are possible when learning is used to REPLACE [emphasis added] face-to-face instruction because of increasing student/teacher ratios, the elimination of non-instructional services and faster completion of content.”
A 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology entitled “Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity,” (https://tech.ed.gov/files/2013/10/implications-online-learning.pdf ) found that:
- Student outcomes can be improved without substantially increasing costs via utilization of cost-effective online instructional materials and resources that engage students in active learning;
- Students in remote locations or unusual challenging situations can be offered access to quality educational resources at substantially reduced costs as compared to having to finance traditional brick-and-mortar facilities.
- Teacher time can be better used to focus on more “high-value” activities such as discussion groups or one-on-one interaction with students ;
- School-based facilities costs can be reduced by using home and community spaces in addition to traditional school buildings; and
- Public school salary costs can be better managed by use of digital learning approaches that allow the increase of teacher-student ratios or via re-designed processes that create a more effective use of teachers’ time.
Blended learning is showing more promise as an accepted teaching model that is creating students who are increasingly excited about their education goals. Blended learning techniques assist in improving access to learning and improving students’ attitudes towards education using independent and collaborative learning experiences geared towards long-term success. Moreover, the use of blended learning techniques can change the economics of a school system, but may balance on a simple trade-off involving resource allocation and/or staff reductions. On the upside, Anthony Kim, the CEO of Pal-Alto, CA-based Education Elements, said he finds “that larger districts are able to repurpose existing funds, reorganize staff members and other resources, and use high-volume purchasing power to make blended learning programs work financially.” (https://www.edweek.org/ew/index.html?intc=main-topnav )
For more information about how to use blended learning in your school and/or classroom and to review seven separate curricula suitable for blended learning models, or to access over 2000 courses, including more than a hundred available elective courses, visit Global Student Network for schools at http://www.globalstudentnetworkschools.com/ .