Does Blended Learning Really Work?
If you have never heard of “blended learning,” it might surprise you that this fancy-sounding name is little more than another way to refer to online or computer-based education programs. The past 15 years have shown more and more reliance on computers and technology as a supplement to classroom education. Over the course of less than a decade (from 2000 to 2009), the number of K-12 students who took an all-online course skyrocketed from several thousand to 3 million.
In fact, many students at the high school level now earn their secondary degrees by working mostly from home, attending virtual school. Rather than using technology to supplement classroom work, these students attend actual physical classrooms as a supplement to their online educations.
Research has shown that the blend of technological and face-to-face instruction has actually done a lot for students. It is only natural, after all, for this generation to be using technology as a part of education. An article from the Johns Hopkins School of Education asserts that blended learning could even mean things like educators using Smart Boards as a tool for demonstration or text messaging with other teachers or parents as a way to keep tabs on student behavior.
All this talk of technology in the classroom begs a simple question: Does blended learning work?
Blended learning assumes a seamless integration of face-to-face instruction with online learning. Most critics of blended learning believe that online learning can be an extremely valuable experience for young people, providing a level of individualized interactivity that is rarely available in whole classrooms. Many online curricula and programs are tailored to respond to student data, so that kids can fly through the subject matter they already know and get to the more challenging work.
However, because this approach relies so heavily on student testing data, online learning can sometimes place students at a lower level than the one at which they are actually able to perform, thereby not challenging them sufficiently. As such, online learning can sometimes work similarly to standardized testing, creating a learning experience that is based on a student’s ability to take a test rather than actually assessing his or her grasp of the material.
Research shows that blended learning works best when the technological aspect is a supplement to face-to-face instruction, rather than the other way around. Teachers who use technology as a tool to engage and instruct tend to be very successful. Many online programs can be customized to reflect what students are learning in their classrooms, which also works well as a supplement to their teachers’ instruction.
There is no escaping the “digital age.” As more and more kids grow up with computers and the Internet, it makes perfect sense to allow them the opportunity to use these kinds of learning in their own schools and classrooms.