Best Practices in Blended Learning Models

Instructor: Catherine Rose

Catherine taught middle and high school English and has a master's degree in Education.

In this lesson we will explore the factors to consider in creating blended learning models. We will investigate best practices in design, needs analysis and rigor, appropriate people in these models, and challenges and constraints presented by the blended learning approach.

Buzzwords in Education

Buzzwords come and go in the world of education. '21st century skills,' 'project-based learning,' 'sage on the stage,' 'digital citizenship,' and many others have had teachers reevaluating their teaching craft for decades. One of the latest phrases to emerge on the scene is blended learning. This new form of educating students has many teachers and administrators scratching their heads about how to plan and effectively implement this new model.

Let's explore this idea of blended learning.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning combines the traditional classroom instruction style with technological innovations to individualize learning for all students. Students are able to review basic material in a self-paced fashion and return to the classroom ready to take their knowledge to the next level.

When creating a blended learning model certain factors must be considered, such as design ideas, needs analysis and rigor, using the appropriate people in the right places, and the challenges presented by this model.

Let's look at each one of these factors.

Design Factors

When thinking about the design of a blended learning model, teachers and administrators should consider flexibility, scheduling, and learning methods that are appropriate for their school community.

When considering flexibility, schools should allow students to use one-to-one devices, such as laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, or even phones to complete assignments. Time allowances should be in place for students who must visit libraries or other sites to gain Internet access to complete assignments. Each teacher should have a plan in place for alternative assignments when Internet access is not available as well. Finally, teachers should group students in individual classes by mastery of concepts, meaning that teachers should be flexible and willing to change groups as necessary.

There are several models when considering how to schedule students in a blended learning environment. Some schools may choose to offer a traditional classroom setting with some online components woven into the structure. Others may choose a flexible format, which allows for individual online work with teachers providing small group instruction or tutoring. Another model is rotation, in which students move between online and traditional classes frequently. Finally, schools may choose to go totally online, with teachers only providing support if needed.

Teachers need to consider learning methods when looking at models as well. Knowing students' needs and offering self-paced learning options, such as videos and interactive lessons, can help some students, but it may frustrate others. Teachers should consider adding an in-class activity based on an e-learning lesson to allow students to review or enrich their online learning experiences.

Needs Analysis and Rigor

When assessing student needs, teachers must use pretest and post-test data to determine where students are in their development. Once learning goals have been identified, teachers must create clear and purposeful objectives that students understand. Every objective must have a mastery component that is clearly stated to the student and can be measured and analyzed by the teacher.

Data analysis and monitoring is important in blended learning. Teachers must be aware of student development so they can offer extra assistance or enrichment where needed. They should be able to tailor the lessons to individual students based on their growth.

Lessons need to have appropriate rigor as well. While learning games can be beneficial, the games and activities must have a challenging component as well. Teachers should also add critical thinking and problem-solving activities to blended learning activities.

Assignment of People

Placing the right people together can make or break blended learning efforts. Administrators should try to assign team members based on strengths they can offer. Teams should consist of those strong in technology skills, classroom management, data analysis, and lesson creation for example.

Administrators must also be aware of this need when hiring new staff. Ensuring that the school has a staff with a variety of strengths will enhance any blended learning effort.

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