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What Is It and How It Can It Be Used
If you’re familiar with the concept of e-learning, you’ll know that this is now a huge global marketplace that’s projected to be worth up to $325 billion by the year 2025.
You may also have heard of blended learning, which has become increasingly popular (and prevalent) in recent times. This is a concept that offers numerous advantages to students, organisations and corporations alike, despite the fact that many people remain oblivious to its meanings and core applications.
In this post, we’ll explore the concept of blended learning in further detail, while asking how it can be used successfully in the real world
What Is Blended Learning and What Are Its Benefits?
In simple terms, blended learning is an approach to education that combines online (and more accessible) teaching materials and increased opportunities for interaction with more traditional classroom-based methods.
This typically includes remote and home learning in conjunction with traditional schoolwork, while it requires the physical participation of both teacher and student and affords the latter some elements of control over time, path or place.
The most common application of blended learning takes the form of remote education at home, with this seeing place-based classroom and teaching methods replaced by virtual courses, webinars and (in some cases) even gamification experiences.
The core purpose of blended learning is to make learning more accessible and convenient, and it has undoubtedly come of age thanks to a unique combination of both opportunity and need.
More specifically, students of all ages have been forced to remain at home during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in the UK (and indeed, across the globe), compelling educational facilities to invest in blended learning models that empower students to learn effectively from home.
The same principle has also applied to the workforce in the UK, and in April 2020, an estimated 46.6% of people in employment did at least some work from home. Of this number, an estimated 86% did so as a result of the pandemic, with employees also required to undergo ongoing training and workplace courses while at home.
One of the main advantages of blended learning is that it contributes to a personalised and more efficient learning experience, primarily by combining the very best aspects of in-person teaching with technology-based e-learning methods.
In this respect, it’s similar to the similarly fast-growing concept of gamification, which creates a more immersive and engaging environment that actively encourages learning and optimises the quality of overall participation.
It also broadens the learner experience by supporting more flexible learning, laying the foundation for a re-imagined educational system in the UK and making it easier for students to access information in real-time regardless of their own unique circumstances.
Key Blended Learning Trends and Applications - An Overview
In order to understand the key applications of blended learning and its core models, we need to comprehend the primary trends that shape this concept.
One of the most prominent and influential blended learning trends is the rising prevalence of video, which is playing an increasingly seminal role in learning and education.
More specifically, a recent study by Forrester Research confirmed that today’s employees are approximately 75% more likely to watch a video than read emails, documents or web articles, suggesting that this offers a more engaging channel through which to impart blended learning courses.
Such instructor led videos combine the very best of e-learning and teacher-driven classes, while they can be tailored to suit specific subjects and age ranges.
Given this, we’re also seeing a rise in the number of shorter and more focused blended learning modules, which tend to focus on increased engagement and the use of micro challenges to optimise student participation.
We’re also seeing blended lessons increasingly being delivered through mobile channels, with this part of a wider trend as mobile penetration rates continue to rise at an exponential rate.
Make no mistake; this represents the next frontier for blended learning, through the creation of virtual courses and modules that can be accessed by students whilst they’re on the move.
The key to this is the successful implementation of learning management systems and e-learning tools on viable smartphones and tablets, while responsive design principles are also integral to ensuring that mobile content is completely accessible.
This means that there need no longer be any restrictions placed on learning, making education a viable possibility for people who are affected by a wider range of circumstances.
In terms of applying blended learning principles in the workplace, there’s a growing focus on the use of both gamification and business simulations.
In the case of the latter, the so-called 70:20:10 model for learning has gained tremendous traction in recent times, with organisations nationwide flocking to integrate this into their company.
In simple terms, business simulations are now widely recognised as a way to emulate the 70% of learning that occurs on-the-job in the UK, by creating a risk-free and interactive environment for learners to practice key concepts and adopt positive new behaviours in recent times.
Where applicable, designers are also integrating simulations into corporate learning and development initiatives with greater frequency, while also utilising gamification to achieve far greater levels of engagement and effective learning.
The Last Word in Blended Learning
On a fundamental level, blended learning refers to a structured educational approach that combines both classroom and flexible home learning.
As we can see, however, this concept has evolved to incorporate a huge range of potential benefits and applications, the majority of which will vary depending on the type of organisation involved, their objectives and the nature of the students at the heart of the endeavour.
Clearly, the growing range of blended learning applications and trends will continue to pose challenges to organisations in the coming months, particularly in terms of adaptation and developing the most effective learning modules. These issues have been compounded by Covid-19, which have created a pressing need to accelerate this process and make blended learning models more accessible in double-quick time.
However, such developments have also created huge opportunities across the board, from the perspective of businesses, educational facilities and students who want to develop new and effective skillsets in the digital age.
About the Author
Diana Calderhead delivers blended experiential learning programs for Fortune 500 companies at StratX ExL, helping companies to innovate, improve their business strategy and develop the next generation of leaders.