With everything happening as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, you may feel like learning and teaching plans are out the window. Students undoubtedly have anxieties as to whether they can still attend university, with there being no exact confirmation when they will open again. However, as we look towards recovery planning and a phased return in the coming weeks and months, there are a variety of digital solutions for blended teaching modes that can support learning and teaching.
The most effective blended learning and digital solutions tap into the highest value opportunities offered by the different modes of learning and teaching. Most importantly, blended learning is part of a process, not just an event. Its biggest advantage is that it leverages the benefits of tutor-led, classroom and online learning, i.e., it offers the best of both worlds.
To create meaningful blended learning, it is essential to have an informed understanding of the range of tools available and their pedagogical applications. Finding the right approach that meets the needs of learners is challenging at a time when practitioners are increasingly being asked to do more with less. So, what steps can we take to implement a blended approach?
Validate your learning objectives/outcomes
The first step is to ensure that you have clear learning objectives/learning outcomes. This will provide clarity and direction, as well as inform what technologies would be best to use alongside leaning and teaching pedagogy.
Clarify Appropriate Delivery
Before considering the delivery, there are some questions that you might need to consider:
- What synchronous/asynchronous delivery methods could be employed?
- Will the participants travel through the learning journey in groups or individually?
- Where will discussions, feedback and lessons be hosted?
- Who will manage the programme’s progress and updates?
Delivery methods could include a combination of the following:
Blended Rotation: Learners rotate through different modes of learning, supported by resources to achieve the learning outcome. This may include incorporating flipped learning.
Project-Based: Teams of participants can meet in person and/or virtually to complete their assigned project.
Enriched Virtual: Students receive one-on-one (or one with few) sessions with their tutor. They are then free to complete parts of the curriculum online independently. The sessions are held in real-time but can be recorded for future use.
Determine Learning Modalities
Considering a variety of methods to bring the blend to life is the next step when considering the best delivery method. Be creative to encourage engagement and ensure chosen modalities help move learning lessons forward. Some examples include:
Knowledge Sharing Tools: Wiki builders, project management tools (Microsoft Project etc)
Collaboration Tools: Areas to have continuous conversations and share information (i.e. Teams, OneNote)
Polling or Survey Tools: Use for projects to gather information, create challenge games or quick knowledge checks.
Assessment Tools: Develop formative assessment knowledge checks and self-study tools.
Document Collaboration Tools: Allow project teams, or facilitator/participant collaboration (i.e. Office 365, Teams etc.)
Live Streaming and Recording Tools: Allow participants to communicate in groups, or to host virtual online sessions (Teams, ReView/Panopto)
Many blended training initiatives are focused on “delivering the course” to its learners, as opposed to engaging them during their learning journey. Learners do not always proactively review online study materials until they meet with the tutor or group. Boredom can lead to doing the minimum requirement, resulting in disengagement. Therefore, it is vital that the process is facilitated effectively and reviewed regularly to ensure that the blended approach is working. You can also:
Plan pre-session engagement: You can include exercises and polls to help learners prepare for the content to follow.
Involve participants from the beginning: Involve the participants early and often by using the chat feature, break-out rooms, polls and challenge games.