As a teacher or administrator, you probably have realized that incorporating blended learning into your classroom or school is not as easy as it sounds. There is a lot of thought and deliberate design that goes into choosing how each teacher and/or school utilizes blended learning. In fact, recent studies have revealed that blended learning design has 4 major challenges to consider:
- Incorporating flexibility – Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits to blended learning, but it is also an area where a lot of decisions need to be made. Are students going to have flexibility in the pace they complete their work, or will they have weekly or monthly deadlines? Is the path students can take through the course flexible or is everyone moving through material in the same order? Most blended learning programs allow for time and location flexibility – students can access material 24/7 and from anywhere – but not every school may want complete flexibility in that regard, either. Maybe certain assignments have to be completed at school, rather than at home. All of these areas of flexibility are things that need to be planned out and considered when setting a blended learning program up.
- Stimulating interaction – Researchers have found that a common concern for students when starting a blended learning course or program is a lack of student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction during the online learning portions of the program. In most K-12 schools, students and teachers meet for class each day, so there is a guaranteed interaction on a daily basis. Not all schools or programs work this way, however, and it is definitely something to consider and plan for if your blended learning program will ultimately result in reduced class time.
- Facilitating students’ learning processes – Depending on how large the online learning part of your blended learning program is, the planning stages might include preparing students for the process of independent learning. Researchers have identified four types of regulative strategies that students may need assistance with to be successful in independent learning, particularly low-achieving students and/or younger students
- Orienting and planning, which helps students understand where the material fits in the bigger picture of the course
- Monitoring, which allows the teacher to closely assess progress toward learning goals
- Adjusting, which gives students additional instructions or assistance based on their areas of weakness
- Evaluating, where final learning objectives are assessed
It is recommended that teachers keep these four areas in mind for blended learning lesson plans and incorporate them as necessary to assist students in need.
- Fostering an effective learning climate – One of the biggest complaints students had regarding online learning activities was a feeling of isolation from their classmates and teachers. Again, in a typical K-12 blended learning program, students and teachers meet each day, so this may not be a concern for many schools, but if reduced class time is a goal, it is important to plan out how you will create a safe, warm, and inviting learning environment for students, even if they are not together in the same physical place.
With these four considerations as a jumping off point, your class or school will have a blended learning program that is better thought out and provides the best learning environment for your students.
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