What if….?

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According to researchers from Canada’s York University, the demand for blended learning is growing. A survey 2,121 students in 34 courses, revealed that 48 percent of their students wanted to take blended courses, while 40 percent wanted to take classes in person.

Getting to this point will not be easy. In addition to getting students move from the passive sit and get to the go and show of active learning, blended learning requires that organizational leaders will also need to address the following 5 key hurdles:

  1. Make sure that institutional, faculty and student goals match up.
  2. Provide policies, one-on-one training and technology infrastructure to support faculty.
  3. Bring key deans, provosts and other university leaders on board.
  4. Meet each type of faculty technology adopter where they are and tailor approaches accordingly.
  5. Evaluate blended learning’s effect on student outcomes in order to give the “early majority” faculty something concrete to factor into their decision.

While these factors are key there are two more fundamental issues that can stop blended learning in its tracks – time and space. Redesigning a course to use the blended learning model takes significant time and unless given release time to make these changes many faculty are not able to do this type of redesign “off the sides of their desk”. A lack of time is another factor for students. Blended learning involves significant amounts of active learning which requires a much higher time commitment from the learner. They must do more of the work. Not all students are aware of this time commitment and with families, full time jobs and the pressures of life there are just not enough hours in the day. This is often compounded by the fact that many instructors new to blended learning will add blended learning activities to already full schedules instead replacing activities.

These blended learning activities that make up the classroom component of the blend will often require collaboration or group activities and many organizations do not have enough flexible space that will allow for group work. Lecture halls and most classroom are configured for the passive reception of information. While these traditional settings can still be use to allow peer based instructions and other minimal forms of collaboration most blended learning activities will require flexible space.

While these two additional challenges are significant they are not insurmountable. With help from instructional design specialists the issues of time for student assignments can be addressed. The issues of release time for course development or redesign can also be address with proper curriculum planning. Educational institutions have begun exploring flexible learning spaces and the learning space literature is filled with examples of how to move forward so this challenge also be addressed.

Implementing blended learning across the entire institutions is challenging but it is worth the effort. It is our responsibility to ensure that we creating the best learning environment for our learners and blended learning is one of the ways we can do this.

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