5 Steps for Designing Effective Blended Learning Courses

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blended learning

You’re probably using blended learning, whether you know it or not

Blended learning combines the best of an engaging classroom learning experience and an accessible online learning space. This approach has been a growing trend for some time yet its potential has not been fully harnessed. Many classrooms are even using a blended approach already, without formally calling it out.

For example, schools of the Los Altos School District in California are teaching students mathematics with the aid of Khan Academy videos. In these cases, students watch videos at home and teachers coach students to learn from the basics provided and expand on the presented concepts – a great example of blended learning.

In order to ensure blended learning reaches its maximum potential, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind when designing blended learning courses:

1. Focus on the individual context

One of the issues that come up in the application of blended learning is the lack of concrete definitions. The fact that eLearning complements classroom teaching is true but beyond that how much the two should mesh together, to what extent, in what pedagogy, all this varies from case to case. To be able to ensure that blended learning becomes a good tool for learners, it is necessary to understand the specific context for the learner.

A learner using eLearning aids for their music curriculum will not have the same requirements as that of a learner using it for their physics curriculum. The same blend of eLearning will not suffice for primary school and secondary school students. Their courses will vary in terms of pace, the time that a student can devote, and complexity of the concept at hand. Similarly, learners in developing regions will have different requirements than those in developed markets, which leads to the next point.

2. Understand the local challenges

Each group of learners will have their own set of challenges. These challenges can be technological, cultural or socio-economic. The amount of internet penetration is a major challenge in developing regions. This means that blended learning courses either have to be available offline or be not so demanding in bandwidth so that they reach areas with slower connections.

The delivery system is also not uniform across learners. Students may not have the same kind of tools to access eLearning. In many cases, students have access to just one computer for the entire class.

3. Map out short and long-term goals in the learner’s journey

Keep in mind what are the expected outcomes for the learner from the blended course. Break them up into smaller ones that can be used to design modules for learning as well as to keep track of the learner’s results on the course.

Both classroom and online learning need to have set milestones that have to be achieved. Deciding upon an assessment system for both classroom and online learning can make the process more efficient. Also, a strategy to supplement the technology is what is needed.

4. Make online learning complementary to classroom learning

The online portion of blended courses should serve to enhance the effectiveness of classroom learning. One example is teachers using flip learning. Much like how students in Los Altos schools were watching Khan Academy videos at home and expanding on those concepts in school, the typical lecture and homework components can be reversed.

Short lectures at home that lay the groundwork for more personal, focused learning in classrooms make time invested in classrooms more effective and fruitful. There are number of ways that the flipped model can be applied, whether it’s aided with discussions, demonstrations or group-based activity to enhance concepts.

5. Pay attention to user feedback

Inculcating feedback from learners into developing blended courses helps alter next iterations of the course to make it more attuned to a learner’s needs and expectations. Surveys are a good way to gather feedback and can be collected using Typeform or SurveyMonkey.

Another way to do this is by using zipBoard, where learners can annotate on specific screenshots from the course and share feedback. Learner feedback sheds light on course effectiveness as well as challenges in the classroom that instructional designers may not have taken into account.

With more immersive solutions being available for eLearning now, blended learning has more momentum to reach a wider audience. The growing trend is set to reach about half of all K-12 school by 2019. Blended learning makes the curriculum more student-centric and with by allowing the student to derive the best of both, online and offline learning, makes the time spent in classrooms more fruitful for learners.

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