Education and training have shifted in the last 10-20 years. Gone are the days of memorizing facts and putting pens or pencils to paper. The rapid surge of technological advances has required educators and corporate trainers to adjust to modern needs in education. Instructors now must blend their face-to-face lessons with integrated technology and digital media.
In 2010, 4 million higher education learners were enrolled in at least one online course.. The year 2020 gave cultures across the globe a massive shift in the need to develop and harness the power of blended learning. Alternative technological approaches to learning came with challenges, but also with vast innovation. It is an exciting time for the blended learning approach to grow and expand.
Read along to learn more about the blended learning approach.
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What is Blended Learning? 4 Models
Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) is a way of teaching that mixes traditional instructor-led learning with technology. The approach increases flexibility for students by enabling access to online content, which can be utilized at a personal pace. It also frees instructors up to offer one-on-one interaction with students in new ways. Fresh technologies have expanded possibilities for distributed communication and interaction.
Hybrid learning allows students to pace themselves with the online content while continuing to interact face-to-face with their instructors. This type of learning requires self-regulation. With that, it reduces failure rates. When technology is integrated effectively, it allows for technology to complement the instruction rather than requiring bodies in learning seats for an extended percentage of the time.
There is a wide array of blended learning models, as many technology companies are offering solutions for training and learning across the globe. The Handbook for Blended Learning describes its definition of models with respect to levels where the learning blend is initiated.
Hybrid learning allows students to pace themselves with the online content while continuing to interact face-to-face with their instructors.
Activity Level Blending
This occurs when activities contain both face-to-face and tech-driven elements.
Course Level Blending
This is the most common blending model. It occurs when a combination of distinct face-to-face activities and online content activities is utilized. The activities overlap.
The following are a few of the well-known models of blended learning.
1. Flipped Classroom or Rotation Model
Rather than utilizing traditional teacher-led lectures, students learn in a content-rich online setting. The available face-to-face time is spent on teacher-supervised practice activities. Students can watch and learn from pre-recorded lectures at their own pace.
2. Flex Model
This model gives a high amount of control to the students. It allows flexibility and timing of learning leaning heavily on digital content. Less face-to-face learning is relied upon, and instructors are available to help, as needed.
3. A La Carte
This approach is very helpful for student schedules. Some courses may be utilized face-to-face, while others are completed online with an instructor of record. Higher education uses this model frequently to allow access to various types of learning for various types of learners.
4. Enriched Virtual Model
This approach is an alternative to full-time school. It allows participants to complete a majority of coursework online with limited face-to-face contact with the instructor.
Blended Approach: Methods & Theories
The development of blended learning methods and theories is essential for the knowledge creation process. With the rapid expansion of technology globally serving learning communities, a common language can be established with method and theory development. There have been limited efforts in theory development in this domain. Though with the current needs to shift to technology-driven learning, more methods and theories are certain to follow.
The broadest theoretical construct for blended learning is called Technical Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). This framework combines 3 types of knowledge (technical, pedagogical, and content) to be integrated into the blended learning by the instructor.
TPACK is frequently compared to the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. SAMR stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. This model is utilized as a planning tool to assist in creating tasks for students to complete.
- Substitution – Technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change.
- Augmentation – Technology acts as a direct substitute, with functional change.
- Modification – Technology allows for significant task redesign.
- Redefinition – Technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable.
Transactional Distance Theory is one that posits that communication gaps between instructor and student can unintentionally develop through design flaws. In order to avoid this gap, instructors are encouraged to design distance learning in a way that misinterpretations of behaviors of both instructors and students are mitigated. Opportunities for stressing student autonomy are outlined in this theory.
Community Of Inquiry Theory focuses on the process of creating deep and meaningful learning experiences. This framework highlights presence as a key element to forming collaborative-constructivist learning environments. Successful distance education experiences are created with social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. These areas of presence overlap to create effective learning experiences.
4 Examples of Online Blended Training
People are busy! With the expanded need for online blended training, it is a challenge to create the best learning experience, while respecting learners’ time. Course creation and lesson planning are
PositivePsychology.com has created Masterclasses that leave users with an enriched understanding of content. The rich online content allows users to learn at their own pace, and students are tested to ensure content retention.
Online assistance is readily available should any questions need to be answered.
The Flourishing Center has created rich and impactful online learning experiences for a variety of its programs. Founder and change agent maker, Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, MAPP creates deeply connective and collaborative opportunities for the change agents. Students are offered a powerful blend of live instruction with evidence based online learning content.
The Positive Educator Certification is one example of The Flourishing Center’s blended learning approach. PEC is a 64 hour online program that pulls teachers, parents, and other members of the education ecosystem together. This powerful program helps adults who serve children learn the fundamentals of positive psychology in an effort to deploy them within an educational setting.
Quenza’s lesson planning capabilities are very helpful. While interacting with clients, coaches using Quenza can send lessons to be completed through the platform quickly and easily.
Quenza’s lesson on Spending Time in Nature, shown below, is another example of an Expansion Activity’s capabilities.
This Expansion Activity approach blends the science of positive psychology with the ease of technology to enhance wellbeing. Anchoring technology with service to clients is a powerful way to blend learning.
Blended Learning in the Workplace
Using blended learning in the workplace has been a new and relevant area of growth for many businesses. Blended learning is dominating the news in higher education, the corporate world, and even government agencies. As many workplaces now connect workers in varying geographical areas, this approach lays a foundation for connection and belonging in the workplace more easily than in the past.
A Gallup report in 2016 showed that 51% of workers were disengaged in their workplace, which results in low morale and losses in productivity. Blended learning opportunities in the workplace must boost morale and connect workers in a fun way. Helping the workplace remain in a growth mindset by offering opportunities to advance their knowledge base boosts worker engagement, creating higher productivity.
Seminars, mentoring, and on-the-job training can all enhance workplaces with effective blended learning strategies while saving time and money for any company.
9 Advantages & Disadvantages
The advantages and benefits of using blended learning are plentiful. Any workplace will thrive by offering opportunities for learning in its workforce. Growth for employees equals growth for companies.
- Productivity increases with increased learning flexibility. By providing autonomy to online learners, their time is spent by choosing the timing and execution of their learning. Providing learning, particularly with cross-device learning capabilities, allows integration into students’ daily schedules.
- Blended learning encourages collaboration. By providing helpful content, learners can come together to discuss useful portions of their learning and decide together where this information will prove most useful.
- The decrease in wasted meeting time is a noted advantage of blended learning. Reducing the need to sit through painful, tedious training and replacing them with efficient blended learning opportunities is a great improvement in the workplace.
- Effective blended learning also decreases failure rates for users by allowing the learning to meet a broader set of learning needs.
- Another advantage is allowing the learners to learn at a comfortably chosen pace. Every student differs in their approach to retaining information and will find it helpful to self-regulate when and where they progress in their growth.
Blended learning comes with disadvantages as well.
- One of the biggest is ensuring that the technology itself is efficient to serve a wide array of users. Workplaces and schools must employ the proper number of IT professionals to make the blended learning approach work. Reliability issues can quickly stall online learning efforts.
- Another disadvantage is the increase in instructor workload. Teachers who are trained to be face-to-face must rapidly advance their personal knowledge base to meet the needs of the technological demands.
- A third disadvantage is the loss of personal connection between instructor and student. Though it can be attained online, it is more of a challenge to form a real human connection through a screen, than in real-life settings.
- A fourth disadvantage is accounting for various approaches to learning. Some online learners prefer to procrastinate on lectures and choose to binge in one sitting. Others move ahead quickly and will challenge the instructor by pacing ahead of the scheduled learning.
5 Benefits For Students
Students can find plentiful benefits for blended learning.
- Increase in autonomy.
- Increase in scheduling flexibility.
- Decrease in failure rates.
- Ability to return to content for review.
- Opportunities for knowledge development.
Is It Effective? 2 Research Findings
Through the Communities of Inquiry framework, understanding the role of the learner in the effectiveness of blended learning is important. Self-efficacy and self-regulation are vital for blended learning to be effective.
Without presence (cognitive, behavioral, and social) effectiveness of online learning can be compromised. Learners must believe that they can learn in this setting for the actual learning to take place. 
One study’s findings generally showed that blended learning was an effective approach in making profound learning of academic subjects. This study was done for medical professionals, which carries with it a level of self-regulation that could very well be higher than that of other learners. 
Applying Blended Learning: Best Tool & Techniques
Creating an effective and meaningful online learning experience requires thoughtful planning. One of the most important pieces of the planning puzzle is creating opportunities for student/ client engagement. Quenza’s mobile app enables providers to increase client engagement improving learning outcomes.
A combination of pro-social connection and direct, self-paced online learning content is the best practice when designing a blended learning strategy. Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, MAPP offers great tips for creating fun and interactive online learning here. Blended fun and direct, organized plans are vital to success in online learning.
Instructors should always set clear expectations for their students and understand that hiccups with technology are a part of the process. Ensure that the users know they are supported even if the support is at a distance.
An authentic and strong presence for instructors is absolutely vital to approaching blended learning.
Use video chat as often as possible to encourage the social side of learning.
Don’t be boring! Creating engaging online content is important. Instructors won’t receive face-to-face feedback on how a lesson is going. The audience will be lost if an instructor doesn’t create content that grabs their attention in some way.
Put an effort into creating a community discussion board or some other way to interact with other online learners. Community is important.
Possible Challenges & Digital Solutions
Creating effective and user-friendly blended learning comes with challenges. Emerging technology can take time to learn. Quenza’s course creation platform makes the creation and execution of blended learning user-friendly.
Without having to combine 15 different technologies to make your course work, Quenza allows an easy flow of content, videos, and activities. Instructors don’t have to become techie experts to create a fun and engaging course.
Engagement and empowerment are challenges when building online learning spaces. Quenza’s engagement capabilities improve interactions between coaches/ instructors and their students. This is a huge win for course creators.
Education and training needs have significantly shifted over the past 20 years, even more so within the past 2 years. Advancing theories and technologies for blended learning will inevitably expand with the growing needs in the area.
It is an exciting time for education and training and comforting to know that coaches and therapists aren’t left behind with Quenza’s engaging approach to blended learning. To see how Quenza can improve blended learning for you and your students, try the 30-day trial for only $1.
- ^ Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Learning on demand: Online education in the United States 2009. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium.
- ^ Bonk, C. J., & Graham, C. R. (2006). The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. San Francisco: Pfeiffer
- ^ Shea, P. & Bidjerano, T. (2010). Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments. Computers and Education, 55(4), 0–1731.
- ^ Karamizadeh, Z., Zarifsanayei, N., Faghihi, A. A., Mohammadi, H., & Habibi, M. (2012). The study of effectiveness of blended learning approach for medical training courses. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 14(1), 41-44.