The world of education underwent a revolution when the pandemic hit in 2020. It altered the system to such an extent that traditional learning structure transitioned to a wholly digital mode overnight. With the schools reopening, hybrid or blended learning that combines offline or face-to-face sessions with technology-based asynchronous content is the future.
However, teachers and parents have expressed concern over the quality of learning, children’s lack of interest in studying, motivation and healthy competition. Blended learning also requires the disciple of autonomous learning – ability of students to take control over their studying, either independently or in collaboration, without being too reliant on teachers. The idea is that pupils are capable of self-direction and can develop a proactive approach to their learning. Though this concept differs from the age-old method of ‘school attendance’ that is prevalent in India, the pandemic brought the use of technology in the classroom, even in the offline mode.
Blended learning has some excellent features that promote a more holistic style of studying. There can be in-depth online discussions with a wider range of peers, quick messages and feedback from the teacher and mentors, increased accessibility to courses at any time and location, and a customized learning pace and style for each student – slow runners and sprinters. Yet there are aspects of the hybrid mode of learning that may seem daunting. The first is building the essential infrastructure within the educational institution and the homes of corresponding students. Then there is the software and hardware required for the blended learning program, which are quite expensive!
The only silver lining is that investing today in technical infrastructure will make the institutions future-ready.
There are many more advantages and disadvantages to the hybrid mode of studying. Let’s examine them in detail.
Pros of blended learning:
- Re-watch lectures – In the hybrid mode, all lectures will be available during the span of the course in video format, and missing classes will not require you to ask your peers for notes! The lectures can be perused over and over again to clear doubts and prepare for examinations. From an educator’s perspective, this mode will reduce absences from physical classes and remote students can participate in the courses, allowing them to avoid missing out altogether. This advantage implies that those who cannot attend offline classes due to chronic medical conditions can easily cope via the hybrid mode.
- Availability of course materials – The flexibility of the blended learning module allows those with multi-schedules to access course materials and watch the lectures from anywhere with a good internet connection. From the school’s angle, they can recruit students from a broader range of areas due to ‘eLearning’. They will no longer be restricted to attract good students from their immediate area and can offer courses to overseas students without requiring them to migrate. Importantly, this can be managed without alienating people who would rather be in a classroom.
- Enhancing teaching resources – This model also enables the educators to improve the efficiency of their teaching methods and utilise all the resources in various ways. In such a scenario, smaller classrooms can take in a larger number of students – online and offline – and a single curriculum can be designed to accommodate both groups.
Cons of blended learning:
- Tech support and training – There is a huge expenditure involved in upgrading the technical infrastructure to incorporate blending learning module in the education institution. It also requires constant tech support and ample training of the teachers to handle minor tech issues during lectures.
- Internet connectivity – Students will require a strong internet access to complete the hybrid part of the learning module. Otherwise, video lectures will freeze or constantly buffer, and the embedded materials may get corrupted or take forever to download.
- Time management skills – Self-motivation and time management is a prerequisite for the blended learning module to succeed. Some students who are used to teacher-motivated studies and classroom environment may struggle when left on their own. Additionally, the video format of lectures will change the pace of the students and some may lag behind due to difficulties in comprehension.
- Overwork of educators – Changing the mode of learning has befallen mostly on the teachers and there has been an enormous rise in their workload, especially during the primary stages. The teachers have had to pick just the right syllabus, the correct ratio between offline and online classes, and incorporate interesting visuals to hold the interest of the class in the online mode.
- Plagiarism issue – The ease of copying directly from the internet and cheating is a major issue in the blended module and it affects fair assessment and quality of work. Besides, it is difficult for the teacher to analyse student’s work and ability.
- Digital fatigue and loneliness – Headaches, lethargy, poor posture and eye problems are just some of the issues that the students are now constantly suffering from due to the over exposure to computer and mobile screens. Coupled with the social isolation of the two years of pandemic, many students have developed mental health problems, such as social anxiety, aggression, depression and disruptive behavior, among others.
We hope this article was informative. Leave a comment and let us know what you think of the blended learning.