Academics answer: What is blended learning?
Education is constantly evolving, introducing teachers to new or different techniques to employ in class. Here, we invited the EF academic team to talk about one of these techniques: the concept of blended learning.
Blended learning is a concept used in education to describe a program of learning that combines face to face time with computer technology. The majority of the program is still delivered “live” with a teacher in a classroom (as with more traditional methods), but in addition, blended learning recognizes the benefits of delivering some aspects of an educational program through technology. This can enhance the learning experience and improve learning outcomes.
You can picture blended learning a little like making a smoothie! The fruits you add represent the individual items of a program (face-to-face classes, textbooks, media, online activities, apps, and more). Blended together, the result tastes better, and provides more nutrition, than one single fruit would have.
So, what does blended learning look like in a classroom?
Here are some example tasks you might see:
Teachers use online media such as Ted Talks or YouTube, along with educational activities (e.g. discussing opinions, writing summaries about the media)
Creating an online blog or a website (e.g. a tourist guide to the city)
Using online software to complete activities (e.g. matching vocabulary and definitions)
Using tablets or mobile devices in class to research a project (e.g. creating a presentation about the local culture)
Why blended learning?
Blended learning is beneficial in today’s modern classroom because it allows learning to be more personalized and more easily accessed. It means you can tailor the learning experience for each student while offering more flexibility in learning modes and times. Along with increased motivation, there are a number of other benefits:
Using technology in an educational program means you can tailor the content to match individual learning styles. Usually, learners have a personalized login and can select the specific activities they wish to focus on. For example, one student might select more listening activities because this is their weakest skill, whereas another learner might log in to the same program but mainly work on the vocabulary activities. This allows them to tailor the program to their needs.
There is also a wealth of global resources available for teachers to use as part of the face to face classroom experience. Using media or technology in the classroom means that teachers can also further personalize the learning experience by selecting which material to use, depending on students’ needs and preferences.
2. Increased autonomy
Being able to control what, when, and where you learn gives students more control of their learning. This can increase learner autonomy and make them more independent language users. Therefore, when they go out into the real world, they’re more confident and aware of how to use the language. This control also gives them a higher sense of responsibility and more self-drive as a learner, which can help them develop the ability to find the resources and support needed to reach their learning goals.
3. Increased access
Blended learning allows students to choose when, for how long, where, and on what device they study. Learners in the 21st century need more flexibility in their programs; a culture which has been driven by social, cultural, economic, and political changes. This flexibility is essential in today’s efficient world, especially for professional adults and university students who need to fit learning in around their busy lives.
4. Study at your own pace
Having access to online programs and apps means that a program can be accessed 24/7. Therefore, students can study at their own pace, allowing themselves the time needed in order to fully comprehend, complete, and review tasks. It also means they can study when it best suits them, which further enables optimal learning.
5. Increased feedback
The use of technology allows for improved ability to rapidly analyze and review a learners’ language, so feedback can be given on the work completed. This informs the teacher, who can then tailor their teaching methods and feedback for each student while improving time efficiency. This feedback informs students, draws their attention to their ability and struggles, and allows them to make more informed choices about their learning needs. In some blended learning activities, feedback is given instantaneously, making it very efficient.
6. Face to face input
Regardless of the advantages of technologies in an educational program, the value of a face to face class should not be underestimated. It’s important to recognize that the teacher-lead, classroom-based element to blended learning is still the main part of the program. Teachers and classmates provide valuable personalized input, as well as adding a social element and authenticity to the learning process. These classes largely focus on language production, giving learners opportunity to focus on communication and receive feedback from their peers and the teacher.
7. Improved learning outcomes
Learners have more control over the time, pace, path, and place of the program, which in turn increases their motivation to learn. They have more time to complete the tasks and complete them in the best conditions suited to them. All of these, in turn, allow for more focused learning; and therefore improved learning outcomes.
Everybody learns differently and educational methods should reflect this, designing programs that reach different learning styles. With more integration of technologies, combined with the face to face classroom experience, we are able to improve teaching, information, engagement, autonomy, and enjoyment. Blended learning allows us to continuously adapt to learners’ needs and preferences, embracing the needs of the 21st-century learner.