What is it?
Blended teaching combines face-to-face and online teaching methods. It is possible to implement blended teaching in various proportions, with more online or more offline teaching.
While hybrid teaching is completely synchronous, blended teaching can have synchronous and asynchronous aspects. The more passive activities and/or the ones that can be executed at one’s own pace take place in an individual online setting (asynchronous). The teacher and students all come together at the same time, in class or online, to spend time on more interactive activities, such as discussions, simulations, and feedback (synchronous). For example, students watch knowledge clips online and prepare a case study in their own time, to later discuss their findings in an interactive online or on-campus seminar.
When face-to-face and when online?
Choosing which components of your course can be taught face-to-face and which components online, depends on your goals, contexts, and learner characteristics. It's not about putting your whole course online, but rather about redesigning your education to create the best possible learning opportunities for your students. It's important that the face-to-face and online components complement each other. In other words, you need to find the best fit between teaching goals, teaching methods/activities, and assessment (more information regarding 'the best fit’ can be found in the article about constructive alignment).
Why use it?
Blended teaching is a convenient way to react and adapt to the changing landscape of education, fulfil the needs of students, and flexibly react to your own and your students’ needs. By integrating activating strategies and creating independence in terms of time, place, and pace, blended teaching enriches the learning experience and makes education more flexible.
Various tools in an online environment open new paths to design your course. Technologies can be used to develop the most effective and flexible learning (and teaching) experience. However, the aim shouldn’t be to use digital tools just for the sake of using them. The aim should be to use them to your own, your students, and the course’s advantage.
How to use it?
There are various ways to implement blended teaching in your course. Here are two suggestions:
- Flipped classroom: The typical lecture content takes place in an individual setting, so the group session can be used for applying and engaging with that content. So before coming to class, your students can prepare your lesson online. For example, by watching a knowledge clip, reading an article and answering questions about it, or making an assignment. Tools such as Brightspace or FeedbackFruits can make these online assignments more interactive. Mentioned tools can be used to boost interaction by asking students to participate in a discussion or do a peer review. Moreover, FeedbackFruits can be used to make interactive videos, documents, or presentations, which gives an opportunity to ask questions in the middle of the learning process. In this way, you can stimulate knowledge acquisition and make students more engaged and attentive. It will also foster deeper engagement with the learning materials, which helps to better understand main or more complex information. After the online preparation, a face-to-face class can be organised for discussion and the most urgent or less understood questions. Teaching blended in this way takes the best from both approaches – it allows students to organise their learning and resolve complex misunderstandings.
- Digging deeper: After the students have learned new things during the face-to-face class, they can explore them further online. Knowledge acquired online and during face-to-face meetings should provide clarification. This way students won’t get stuck with more complex material and can move forward and deepen their knowledge and skills.
- Designing a cyclical course: The examples mentioned above encompass applications of blended learning on a quite specific – teaching-activities related – level. It is also possible to implement blended learning on a larger scale, for example, by designing your course in a cyclical nature. The basic idea is to divide the course into cycles and adjust teaching methods accordingly. For instance, the first couple of weeks can be used to learn relevant information, theory, or material in general. This can be organised completely online with the help of already mentioned, or other, tools. In the next couple of weeks, face-to-face workgroups can be organised to answer all the questions or other concerns from students. Later on, students can be assigned to solve problems, make presentations, do peer feedback assignments, discuss their work, or apply acquired knowledge in other ways. This can be done in various ways, both online and offline.
In this article, we provided only a couple of examples of how blended teaching can be organised. There are other ways of organising this type of teaching where your own creativity can be valuable. As a person who knows the course and students well, you can use both online and offline worlds to make education more innovative, and interactive, and use blended learning to improve the learning experience.