With the introduction of technology to the classroom, teachers now have the ability to use online and blending learning in their instruction. Online learning is conducted entirely on the computer while blended learning integrates technology into a classroom setting.
Most teachers face the following challenges in a typical classroom of 32 students:
- 4 or 5 students are “gifted” and have a hard time focusing on lessons
- 4 or 5 students have IEPs which require differentiated approaches that the teacher doesn’t have time to implement
- 2 or 3 students will be ADHD and not pay attention to anything the teacher says
- 1 or more students will need paperwork filled out to meet the requirements of an out-of-classroom program (sports grade check, probation report, etc.)
In the typical classroom, the teacher will teach to the “average” two-thirds of the class – not able to reach those students who don’t fall into the median.
Online and blended learning can help teachers reach all students, whatever their learning style or challenges.
Online and Blended Learning Explained
Online learning typically refers to coursework that is presented in its entirety on a computer. Online learning is becoming more common in primary and secondary education. The best estimates are that 2.7 million K12 students (mostly high schoolers) took an online course in the 2016-2017 school year. 80 percent of these students were enrolled in a brick and mortar school rather than in a “virtual” school or homeschool.
Online learning tends to target students at the upper and lower ends of the educational spectrum. High-achieving students, for instance, often turn to online learning to take honors and AP courses not offered by their schools. Students who have failed classes often take online classes as part of a credit recovery plan.
But the future of online learning is not limited to non-typical students. Five states — Michigan, Florida, Virginia, Arkansas, and Alabama — now require an online class in order to graduate from high school.
Blended learning, on the other hand, uses some online components and some live teacher instruction. One such method is a “flipped classroom” where students watch lectures online as part of their homework and then come to class to practice problems where a teacher can assist when the student gets stuck.
Blended learning implies some level of one-to-one instruction. Merely hosting some materials on the internet and having students go through them as a group qualifies as technology-enhanced education, not blended learning.
Blended learning requires that students actually do some of their work online. A typical scenario might involve a teacher delivering a lesson, students reading a textbook, and then students completing an interactive quiz online.
Teachers wanting to integrate blended learning resources into their classrooms can start by searching the internet. For instance, Khan Academy has an expanding library of interactive worksheets, YouTube Education has numerous educational videos, and Project Gutenberg has hundreds of free books.
Online and Blended Learning for Student Success
Online and blended learning platforms can form the basis for successful student outcomes if certain procedures are followed. A study from the Vanderbilt School of Education suggested the following best practices:
Student Support – Not all K12 students are self-directed learners. The online or blended learning program must support, monitor, and assess what students are doing online.
A Teacher Present – Whether it is an online teacher or a classroom educator, K12 students need feedback and guidance from a real person.
Supported Collaboration – When students have shared goals, they are more likely to engage in their learning. 1-to-1 education is uniquely poised to allow for collaborative learning.
Active Learning – Education, like life, is not a spectator sport. Online teaching modules should take advantage of interactivity to promote active learning. This should not be an excuse to replace a classroom lecturer with a video lecture.
Multiple Media – Educational designers are advised to incorporate many types of presentations to meet different learning styles. This can include video, audio, reading, and interaction.
Technical Support – Computer problems will inevitably arise when students are presented with online learning. These challenges must be addressed by a technically competent instructor or a dedicated technical support team.
Respect for Copyright – Educators cannot violate copyright laws just because they are designing an online program.
Online and blended learning formats are here to stay. A forward-looking teacher will explore options to integrate computers into the classroom by providing the teacher-directed instruction that supports students. Students who learn this way are better prepared for the highly collaborative work environment they will encounter in the future.