The drastic shift from in-person to remote learning this past spring saw instructors scrambling to convert traditional classes to online environments. As everyone looks ahead, with the uncertainty surrounding whether or not in-person classes and trainings will be possible, many are looking to blended learning as a nimble solution that could be adjusted to meet student needs no matter what.
Proponents of blended learning often say that it is the best of both worlds, with the benefits of in-person instruction and online, student-directed learning combined to form a cohesive whole. There are many different ways to implement this pedagogy in the classroom, ranging from almost fully in-person learning with only a dash of online instruction, to almost fully online with in-person touchpoints here and there. Should a class need to move online on short notice, this mix makes it more feasible to adjust as needed since online tools and strategies are already in place.
Even without the uncertainty of the past few months, however, blended learning offers advantages for students and instructors alike.
An instructor could craft an amazing lesson, with relevant information and effective assessments, but it is worthless if students are not paying attention. That is why engagement in the material is critical to student success.
The key with blended learning is that students get to drive their own learning to at least some degree, while still having the expert guidance of an instructor to lead them down a path to understanding. By carefully planning lessons, monitoring student progress and leveraging the appropriate technology, instructors can engage students in the material while also building critical thinking skills and the nurturing intrinsic motivation that is vital to building a lifelong learner.
There are many ways to incorporate blended learning strategies into your curriculum. Below are a few popular methods. Keep in mind that these can be used by themselves or in combination as appropriate.
- Rotation model
- Flipped classroom
- Flex model
- Enriched virtual model
- Project-based learning
With this blended learning method, the instructor sets a fixed schedule for when students engage with face-to-face learning and when they work online. This can involve rotation among stations ranging from traditional instruction to individual tutoring and lessons; set times for students to work individually on projects that focus on different types and methods of learning; or even physically moving from a classroom to a computer lab in order to engage in online learning. This method is designed for in-person learning, and is most often employed in K12 environments.
The flipped classroom reverses the traditional way of learning by delivering instructional content outside of the classroom and reviewing material in class. Some consider this under the umbrella of the rotation model, since in-person and online/outside-of-class activities are clearly defined by the instructor.
There are four key elements to running a flipped classroom:
- Expose students to material prior to class.
- Incentivize students to come to class prepared.
- Assess student understanding of the material.
- Focus in-class time on higher-level cognitive activities.
The flex model offers students more freedom, since they do classwork completely online and in their own time. Instructors are available at scheduled times, like office hours, to meet when needed for counseling and guidance.
Students have the most independence with this model, with the focus here on self-directed learning. Instructors are available, as in the flex model, but only when a student reaches out for assistance. This is ideal for adult learners and training, although it can also develop important skills for more advanced students.
Project-based learning asks students to complete a final project rather than an exam or other type of written assessment. This strategy works particularly well in a blended classroom since students have to synthesize everything they have learned though online and in-person methods, and demonstrate the higher-level thinking and learning that they have gained through greater independence in the classroom.
The TurningPoint interactive learning platform is an ideal tool to support blended learning, on both the in-person and online sides of the equation.
Real-time interaction is key to ensuring the more traditional parts of the blended classroom run smoothly. When giving a lecture, interspersing interactive TurningPoint questions throughout keeps students’ attention, pulls them further into the material, and allows instructors to quickly assess their level of understanding. Asking questions at the beginning of a lesson also helps to make sure that students have completed out-of-class work.
In situations where virtual interactions need to replace in-class sessions, students can still respond from any location using their own cell phones, tablets and computers. The ability for instructors to show all slides also means that, in a remote environment, there is no need for another video conferencing software, with only a conference bridge necessary to connect everybody to the lesson.
Online learning, a fundamental part of the blended classroom, is another function that TurningPoint can fulfill. The tool’s web-based platform allows for not only live polling, but also asynchronous interaction that students can complete in their own time from their own devices. This feature is ideal for both full-scale lessons and pre- or post-class assessments of student understanding.
Instructors can upload entire PowerPoint presentations to TurningPoint’s online platform and insert interactive questions throughout. This works for both real-time and asynchronous classes. In a blended learning environment, this works well to enhance online lessons in particular since students aren’t merely scrolling through a PowerPoint, but instead testing their knowledge and staying engaged with the material in the process.
TurningPoint includes an HTML editor that lets instructors add video and more to their web polling sessions. These are perfect for blended learning as instructors often need to share videos, text explanations and links to other sources throughout an online lesson. This feature is available in both live and scheduled polling environments.
Because blended learning gives students more independence than traditional classrooms, reporting is essential for instructors to track progress and quickly know when someone may need some additional assistance. TurningPoint web reports collect data from all lessons – in or outside of class, live or asynchronous – into one easy-to-navigate place. Instructors are able to review responses by question or participant, and run attendance reports with the click of a button.