Edtech tips

Online and blended learning 101

Using technology for deep learning

 

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted the way that schools operate and the traditional model of what going to school used to look like has been considerably altered. Perhaps your school has decided to go fully online for the foreseeable future, or maybe your school has remained open for in person instruction with a limited capacity of students per classroom. 

However, if you are now teaching in an environment where some of your students remain in the classroom while some are still learning from home, you are probably wondering how to effectively reorganize your class and implement suitable strategies that can benefit students in both a physical and remote setting. Fortunately, there are certain strategies you can use in order to create meaningful experiences for both groups of learners within a blended learning environment. 

What is blended learning?

In order to prepare for the uncertainties of face-to-face learning for the foreseeable future, and to successfully teach your students who are learning both remotely and in a brick-and-mortar setting at the same time, a blended learning model could be implemented. Oftentimes, there is some confusion surrounding the idea of blended learning. In order to clarify this concept, let’s first take a look at some key terms within the learning continuum. 

On one side of the continuum, there is face-to-face learning, which occurs when the teacher and students are located in the same physical space. Conversely, online learning is on the other side of the learning continuum, and occurs when instruction, learning tasks and collaboration are completed solely over the internet. Blended learning constitutes any combination of online and face-to-face learning.

The seven types of blended learning models

Since blended learning makes up such a wide range of the learning continuum, it is helpful to understand blended learning models. According to the Christensen Institute, there are seven different types of blended learning models. 

  • In the station rotation model, learners rotate through stations with at least one station focusing on an online learning component. 
  • Lab rotation is similar to the station rotation model where learners rotate through stations, but the online learning component is completed in a lab.
  • In the individual rotation model, learners rotate through stations but on individualized schedules, rather than in groups.
  • In a flipped classroom, students engage in online coursework independently at home to learn the content, while face-to-face class time is utilized for teacher facilitation and guided projects. 
  • A flex model is primarily learner guided, with students working through activities and online content that is targeted to their specific needs.
  • In an a la carte model, learners participate in face-to-face classes, while also taking courses that are fully online.
  • In an enriched virtual environment, learners complete most coursework online outside of a brick and mortar school building but also have supplemental face-to-face learning sessions with a teacher. 

Each blended learning model has varying focus on the online and face-to-face components. The rotation models tend to focus more on the face-to-face learning components, while the flex and enriched virtual models have a significant focus on the online component. In the graphic below, the blended learning models have been placed on the learning continuum:

Therefore, in order to reach students who are at home learning virtually, as well as those that are physically in the classroom, it would be beneficial for teachers to implement the blended learning models that have a heavier focus on the online component, such as the flex, a la carte and enriched virtual models. For example, an enriched virtual model allows most coursework to be completed online whether learners are in physical school or learning remotely. For the learners with face-to-face time, any additional learning time is viewed as supplemental. 

Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning

In order to effectively implement online learning–be it online or blended– it is imperative to understand that there are two main components to online learning: synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning occurs when both the students and the educator are learning together at the same time, via a video meeting or an online chat. Asynchronous learning occurs when students engage in learning tasks on their own time. In an asynchronous environment, students can view lessons created by the educator, complete assignments, participate in discussion threads and collaborate with their classmates at their own pace. 

There are many ways teachers can incorporate both synchronous and asynchronous components into a class setting, however, the most effective way to teach your students who are learning both remotely and in the classroom at the same time is to implement asynchronous learning activities. For example, a teacher could create an asynchronous lesson that both students at home and students in the face-to-face classroom could access and complete at their own pace. The teacher can then use the class time to facilitate the learning of students who are physically located in the classroom, while also checking in with the students who are remote in order to give guidance, offer feedback, answer questions, etc. As an additional resource, the teacher could periodically offer a synchronous meet that involves all of the students, both on and off site. 

How can Hāpara help with online and blended learning?

Hāpara can help with the online component of learning in a variety of ways. Hāpara increases visibility for both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities.

Teacher Dashboard shines when alongside asynchronous online learning by making it easy for teachers to quickly and easily see what each student is working on at home or in class, regardless of pace. 

Highlights shines with synchronous online learning by allowing teachers to send encouraging messages or share websites for all learners to view.

Workspace allows teachers to create asynchronous lessons that contain learning goals, content, assessments, collaboration and feedback all in one place. 

Shifting control of learning from teacher to student is essential for online learning success. Student Dashboard helps learners with executive functioning skills in order to manage their own online learning tasks.

Even though we are facing many uncertainties in education during this time, there are many ways to help our students have a meaningful and successful learning experience. Hāpara can help teachers create an online classroom that is successful for teaching students that are both at home, learning virtually and those who are in class, learning face to face.

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