How have we Redefined Blended Learning?
The world is experiencing difficult and unprecedented times and I don’t know how many times I have heard the inescapable phrase “It’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”. Well I think, sadly, it is finally that time: when.
Many schools in Asia embarked on their distance learning journey eight to nine weeks ago and through many trials and tribulations arrived at a much-needed place where learning is meaningful, enhanced, motivating and engaging for their students. This is the ARRIVE stage in the stages of eLearning adoption as illustrated in Figure 1. There are many lessons to be learned from these schools who have gone through the early stages of eLearning adoption and it is encouraging to see that there is a natural and normal process we will all go through to end up at the ARRIVE stage. As teachers, we are lifelong learners and constantly yearn and enjoy evolving as practitioners so don’t be surprised to learn that we cycle from the stages ARRIVE to STRIVE and THRIVE continuously.
If you want to learn valuable lessons about online learning, I invite you to sign up to Twitter and join our wonderful global community of educators who constantly share their time, resources and energy to pay forward to other educators. Twitter is my source of inspiration, my community and my place of safety in these unparalleled times.
What does the Arrive stage look like?
The ARRIVE stage is a total transformation of pedagogy which in turn leads to a total transformation of learning for students. Departments and grade levels have complete units of inquiry that incorporate blending learning opportunities where connection, collaboration, clarification and conceptual and critical thinking are fostered (see Figure 2). There are synchronous touchpoints for students to support the overall well-being of the student and to promote the essential and necessary sense of belonging to the class and the school community. In a primary context, touchpoints may be necessary every day.
There are many different types of blended learning models and with school closures, the definition of blended learning has evolved. In fact, learning in the online environment has been completely redefined. Previous to school closures blended learning was defined by Oxford Dictionary as:
" A style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching"
I don't think this definition can apply to the current situation we are now facing with school closures so we need to redefine learning in the online environment just as we need to redefine education in our current circumstances.
Here is a revised definition that encompasses the important features of blending both necessary elements of synchronous and asynchronous learning:
"Blended learning incorporates both face to face synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities to engage and motivate learners.
The face to face synchronous element of blended learning could be facilitated in a brick and mortar physical building or the online environment through a video conferencing tool.
The main purpose of blended learning is to maintain the connection between learners while promoting collaboration, critical and conceptual thinking.
A blended learning approach provides learners with an integrated, connected and coherent pathway to learn, that utilizes the affordances of the eLearning ecology and is more effective than utilizing synchronous or asynchronous alone." (Wathall, 2020)
Dr Jennifer Chang Wathall is a part-time instructor for the University of Hong Kong and an independent educational consultant. With school closures, she is utilizing her expertise in Educational Technology, to conduct a virtual practicum with her MEd students. She is also currently supporting schools with professional development in effective eLearning practices.