As administrators look for more creative ways to reach a generation of digital natives, it's no surprise that many are turning to a blended learning education.
Blended learning generally combines typical in-class instruction with more interactive elements, such as videos, games or even music! This interactivity is one of the biggest benefits of a blended learning education. Such content is more engaging and familiar for today's students, who are accustomed to having a constant array of entertaining activities at their fingertips on their smart phones or tablets.
Research has also shown that incorporating games, videos and music into a student's curriculum can actually help those students retain the information better. These technology supports are an attractive feature of blended learning models because they prepare students for careers in the 21st century, where an applicant's experience with online tools is becoming increasingly important.
Another benefit of blended learning is the built-in support that many learning management systems provide. Most LMS providers give teachers an easy way to monitor and report on an individual student's progress through the coursework, and some even allow educators to tailor course contest based on a student's performance.
A truly blended education also allows students more flexibility than a traditional classroom setting. For students who are unable to attend classes on campus, completing a blended learning program online may be exactly what they need. They can work from home, the library or wherever it's convenient for them, all while staying on track to graduate with the rest of their classmates.
Blended or online learning can also be a great option for students who need a specific course to graduate but aren't able to fit that class into their daily schedules. Unlike a physical high school, an online course is never "closed," so students can go about their normal days on campus and still work on their blended course after they've gone home.
On the other hand, blended learning's critics tend to cite its somewhat impersonal nature as one of its biggest shortcomings. After all, can an online-based program really replace the one-on-one interaction a teacher can give a student? While this is certainly a valid concern, many blended learning companies are working to combat this issue by building communication methods directly into their LMS platforms themselves. Some teachers have even reported that using an LMS platform to communicate with students actually allows them to reach the shier students in their class better, as these students might be more hesitant to raise their hands in front of their peers to ask a question. Blended learning tends to be most effective when teachers remain highly involved in the process, rather than seeing the online program as a "replacement" for traditional classroom instruction.
Shifting to a blended learning model isn't easy, and it certainly isn't for everybody. That said, it has the potential to make a difference for many students, so district administrators should research the options available to them before writing it off as the "latest fad" in the industry.