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Lynne Downey, Head of Online Leaning, UCEM

Blended learning - the perfect blend

Blended learning is a technique that is being introduced more and more, says Lynne Downey, University College of Estate Management

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 14, 2016 | Technology

What is blended learning?

Blended learning can have different meanings in different contexts. Whilst generally referring to a teaching programme incorporating both face-to-face training and online education, blended learning is a fairly loose, and constantly evolving term. In-keeping with today’s dynamic, fast-paced society, blended learning is a technique that is being introduced more and more as increasing parts of our lives move online. 

How does it work? 

UCEM’s Level 3 apprenticeship programme combines three weeks of online learning per month with one week of face-to-face contact with tutors – but the weighting between online and offline time varies from institution to institution. Some will portion just a small amount of online activity compared to in-person tutor time, whilst others are almost completely online. 

How can we make the most of this evolving teaching and learning technique?

To make the most of the blended technique, teachers and lecturers need to carefully match activities with the most suitable platform – whether that be through face-to-face discussion, video, an online test or online chat, or tutorial group, for instance. The technique also allows students to work more collaboratively, as they can be sharing a project online even if they’re physically far apart.

How has blended learning evolved in recent years, and where can it go from here?

As learning technology has evolved, so have the opportunities for tailoring educational programmes to be more learner-centric, allowing the individual to have more input into their own learning and how they are taught. 

The digital revolution is happening right now, all around us, and it’s vital for education to keep up to date. As more and more of our lives move online, blended learning takes education in a digital direction – whilst providing the flexibility to adapt to our ever-changing lifestyles. 

I believe that blended learning programmes have the potential to move completely online. Whilst that sounds contradictory to the concept, video calling and live streaming platforms may take the place of the traditional face-to-face portion of blended learning. This would potentially allow the learner one-to-one time to discuss issues with a tutor, whilst providing them with the flexibility of being wherever in the world they need to be.

The digital revolution is happening right now, all around us, and it's vital for education to keep up to date 

Is blended learning more suited to universities rather than schools? 

Although blended learning can work well for students of any age, it does rely on the learner to be self-motivated in order to complete the online learning portion of the programme. Therefore, I would be inclined to say that it is a technique which may be more suited to universities rather than schools, as university students are likely to be more mature and independent in their learning style. 

How does it differ from the flipped learning technique?

Blended learning is a similar concept to flipped learning, in that it incorporates both face-to-face and online study. Where flipped learning takes the tutorial element online and leaves face-to-face time for discussion and activity relating to content that has been taught online, blended learning is a lot more flexible. Blended learning allows you to bring both tutorial and activity or discussion elements into the online learning world, and the boundaries between online and offline can be manipulated to best suit the learners.

What are the benefits to teachers, and to learners?

Delivering blended learning programmes saves teachers a lot of time repeating classes and lectures to multiple groups of students. By recording a lecture or discussion and saving it online, this allows teachers the opportunity to re-use the material, giving them valuable time back.  

To those studying a blended learning programme, one of the greatest benefits is the flexibility. You can choose the time, day and place to complete your online learning activities and can tailor your timetable to suit your lifestyle. This is sometimes a necessity, for example, for those who work full-time, or have a dependent family. Blended learning also provides the learner with a lot more variety. As we are becoming more well informed on individual differences in students’ learning styles and conditions, blended learning allows for a lot more variety in the way information is presented compared with traditional classroom classes or lectures. 

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