Having just commenced an MA in Education at Greenwich University, here I provide a personal reflective account of our first tutorial for 21st Century Technologies and Education: Blended Learning. Furthermore, I will summarise a relevant article which illustrates what blended learning is and how the use of this may be integrated into practice to maximise learning.
I thought that I knew what blended learning was and had effectively been utilising this through making all course materials available on a VLE. However, through reflection, I learned there is a whole other dimension to blended learning, some of which I already practice but did not realise was blended learning, for example, encouraging students to research in preparation for the next session. This particular instruction is known as ‘flipping the classroom’ which is also a term that is new to me. As I have progressed my research, I have learned that the term ‘flipped classroom’ should not be confused with ‘flipped learning’. This is because in contrast to the flipped classroom whereby you are encouraging students to prepare outside of sessions, the term flipped learning is focused on how the sessions are orchestrated. This new found knowledge has a positive impact on my practice because I realise that how I plan for and deliver is being crafted in such a manner that blends to maximise learning but also, how this may be enhanced further.
The article which I have chosen to summarise is: Using Blended Learning to Accommodate Different Learning Styles written by Eddie Gulc (2006), Senior Adviser, Higher Education Academy. Please note, while I recognise that this article is rather dated, as the use of technology in education, in particular within HE, has been slow moving, coupled with the minimal research which has yet been developed, I feel, that it is still very relevant. Furthermore, this article illustrates the development of blended learning as it was, and from experience and my research, I feel, education in HE, has not developed much further.
The first point that this article identifies is the rapid nature in which the use of learning technologies are being embedded in to teaching and learning and how this has ‘benefited students who, for example, are remote from a traditional centre of learning, disabled or have some learning difficulty who are supported with assisted technology and those who are non-traditional learners’.
Various definitions to illustrate what blended learning means have been drawn upon, including those from Sharpe et al (2006), the University of Hertfordshire and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. Gulc (2006) established it is the presence of different variants, such as, people, institutions and or organisations which determine what the term means and will “combine the ‘any time/pace/place’ advantages of on-line facilities and materials…” different strategies and techniques should be utilised to maximise knowledge and skill development and this, collectively, will pave the way for effective learning. Ultimately, blended learning is centrally balanced, encompassing the whole educational environments, drawing upon both classroom and online based learning, not one or the other.
In addition to the above, Gulc (2006), states that for blended learning to work, the use of learning technologies need to be designed sufficiently through, evaluating your teaching and learning materials, your current practice and how you use blended learning. In order to consider how these can be improved, it is also important to ‘assess the level of the learner autonomy which you seek to build the programme’ around and to have regard for the different types of learners. Only through this practice, and finding your balance of teaching styles and methods can the value of blended learning and what works best be identified.
In the future, “our focus will be drawn to how we can add the use of social (Web2.0) tools and technologies into our blend”, (Gulc, 2006).
Gulc, E. (2006). Using Blended Learning to Accommodate Different Learning Styles [Online] HEA https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2917.pdf Accessed 26/01/2015
For further reading see;
Grosseck, G. and Holotescu, C. (2008). Can We Use Twitter For Educational Activities? [Online] http://www.cblt.soton.ac.uk/multimedia/PDFsMM09/Can%20we%20use%20twitter%20for%20educational%20activities.pdf Accessed 27/01/2015