As we humans progress through our lives, we will be given tasks to complete, problems to solve, and expectations to reach. Naturally, we fulfill these goals based on the way we think and who we are. This makes it especially difficult to set up a good learning environment for students, because it can be difficult to accommodate those who think and function differently from the majority of the other students in the metaphorical classroom. This minority is increasingly taking the digital learning route. This allows them a flexible work schedule that can be accessed online anytime. Unfortunately, the transition from traditional to digital learning results in an abandonment of hands-on learning experiences, such as lab experiments and field trips, and even more importantly a community that they can be part of. So what if we combine the two? This is what blended learning does. The merging of digital and traditional schooling results in the creation of a flexible learning experience that caters to a wide variety of people, allowing students to be responsible and hard working within a relaxed but supportive community.
The digital aspect of blended learning is crucial to the flexibility of the design. Students are given their own personal schedule that they can access through a web browser on their computer. Unlike a traditional school, students aren’t forced to keep a steady pace as a group. Some students can work ahead of everyone else while others can work a bit more slowly and finish up whatever’s left over the weekend. Some students can even dedicate days to finishing lessons in just one subject, and alternate between subjects on a daily basis. The way students choose to learn the given material is up to each individual student, as long as it’s all finished by the end of the semester.
Of course, blended learning environments wouldn’t exist if online classes were perfect. For one thing, there’s a feeling of solitude when working in a virtual environment. A feeling that one is isolated, at least when it comes to finishing assignments. Many people can agree that school isn’t just for learning math and grammar; it’s also the place for students to develop social skills by being part of a community. This, of course, brings up another essential aspect of blended learning: a physical school building. While individuality and independence are important, students also need a place to socialize and partake in group activities, much like in a regular school. Along with these additions comes educated, well-rounded staff, who are able to help students understand the provided learning material as well as give support when completing assignments. Basically, it minimizes the flaws of digital learning. One can say it’s the best of both worlds where blended learning’s effectiveness exceeds either traditional brick and mortar or online learning by themselves.
Naturally, blended learning has received some criticism. Many people argue that teenagers can’t handle the responsibility of independence. This is somewhat true, though it definitely varies from person to person. It’s important to note that independence is a privilege, one that can be confiscated with relative ease. Those who finish their work efficiently and responsibly are given the freedom to sit wherever they want and work however they like, while those who procrastinate and spend their work time unwisely will be asked to change their habits and work alongside a learning coach to learn better study habits and time management. For example, a student that is unable to resist goofing off when he’s working away from everyone else could be moved to a table out in the open, reducing the temptation and helping him work better. That’s what the adult coaches are for, to help students work in a way that will ensure proper completion of their lessons in a timely manner.
Blended learning is truly a unique set up. It balances two distinct ways of working in order to ensure maximum benefits are received from both. It’s an ingenious concoction of innovation and reliability, bringing independence and individuality within a thriving community and respectable authority. This ultimately results in unrivaled flexibility, capable of accommodating almost any student willing to embrace it for the bright future that comes with a good education.