Also known as hybrid learning and mixed-mode instruction, blended learning is a combination of online and face-to-face instruction. The amount of each type of instruction and interaction varies considerably from teacher to teacher, program to program, institution of learning to another. The online instruction may occur synchronously and/or asynchronously. Video and web conferencing and instant messaging programs may be used for synchronous sessions. Asynchronous online learning includes media-rich resources designed to meet various learning styles. Rapid e-learning programs are used by instructors to easily create tutorials by recording the instructor's screen (then adding audio) and to convert a traditional PowerPoint to a video.
Students may be directed to video, audio, and text files, and interactive and web 2.0 programs and sites. This provides students with a sense of control and requires students to take responsibility for their learning. Use of discussion boards and other social programs and sites encourage participation in interaction from some that may otherwise remain detached and silent in the traditional classroom setting. Face-to-face time is designed to engage students and provide support for learning and varies in scope and frequency.
A study at the University of Central Florida over seven semesters found that students in hybrid courses fared as well, if not better, than students in traditional, face-to-face classrooms. Over eighty percent of the instructors had a favorable opinion of the hybrid mode of learning. Blended learning has more than the aforementioned benefits. There can be a reduction in the costs related to classroom use or an allowance for expansion of course offerings. In schools that are overcrowded, blended learning serves to alleviate this problem by allowing students to learn from home part of the time. It also reduces on-campus traffic and parking needs, thus, producing a savings in infrastructure maintenance.
More students can be served with less space. It provides students and instructors with greater flexibility in scheduling their work. Additionally, blended offerings and online learning in general provides education to those inhibited by distance. Blended learning allows allows for more individualization as instructors respond online to each student. The needs of students of all ability levels can be served from those with special needs to the gifted. An unintentional benefit is the increased computer literacy experienced by students. Blended learning not only provides a solution to some problems (such as over-crowding), but it comes with many advantages that cannot be ignored.
From graduate school down to primary school, blended learning is becoming increasing available. For example, the online curriculum provider K12 lists schools in thirty states that they have partnered with to create blended learning schools. Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS) is one such blended learning option offered by the Chicago public school system. CVCS is a comprehensive program spanning kindergarten to twelfth grade in which students work online four days a week and attend school one. Those face-to-face sessions are supplemented with other opportunities to interact including field trips and social activities. Textbooks are sent to students in grades kindergarten to eighth.
Although parents are mandated to have basic computer skills, computer ownership is not, as a computer is provided. High school students are loaned laptops. CVCS also provides troubleshooting and technical support. All students living within the city limits (with the exception of those that have been expelled from another school) are eligible for enrollment; because of the individualized nature of the instruction and pacing, both gifted and special populations are served. Students are assessed using the standard state assessment (Illinois Standards Achievement Test) and have met the annual yearly progress as mandated by No Child Left Behind (the prevailing federal education policy of the United States) since its beginning in 2007.
Curtis Bonk talks about Blended Learning's Future
A Multi-modal Model of Blended Learning
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