Blended learning has been a successful trend in education and quite in vogue in the developed countries over past few decades.

Blended Learning: The Way Forward Amid F2F-Online Conflict in India

Blended learning is the best way to fill the gaps of face-to-face and online modes of learning in India. The F2F classroom interaction is condemned for killing creativity and individualization whereas the learner misses the human element in the online learning. The blended approach has succeeded well in developed countries.

Blended learning has been a successful trend in education and quite in vogue in the developed countries over past few decades. Often used interchangeably with terms like hybrid learning, flipped classroom, just-in-time teaching, ubiquitous learning etc., blended learning is an interrelated concept yet has subtle differences from these terms.

India’s USD 100 billion education industry is in disarray in terms of deciding whether to continue with F2F mode or adopt fresh online learning practices. The online education is facing hard times amidst critique from the traditional institutional system of education in India. However, blended learning is a mode which must put their doubts at rest, at least substantially. And, it’s not an overstatement. The approach has been seen yielding some of the best results in developed nations in terms of dispensing qualitative learners’ experience.

Blended learning isn’t just mixing the F2F and online methods randomly, just be clear of that! It’s a conscious and careful concoction of desirable elements of both the modes to provide best instructional experience.

One may still be intrigued by these assertive claims. But, blended learning isn’t just mixing the F2F and online methods randomly, just be clear of that! It’s a conscious and careful concoction of desirable elements of both the modes to provide best instructional experience. Let’s explore how!

What is Blended Learning?

More than often, people consider blended learning to be the combination of any two or more types of teaching methodology or pedagogy. Unlike the commonly hold notion, blended learning has a standardized meaning. In 2006, Bonk and Graham, in their book ‘Handbook of blended learning’ laid all the speculations to rest and defined it as that mode of learning which integrates the traditional teaching method of F2F with the new learning technologies via online learning.

Blended learning in the universal setting where any number of practices from F2F and online can intersect to give a blended approach.

Later, in 2008, Garrison and Vaughan explained it more precisely as the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and technologies. Now, the two words which hold special significance in context to teaching-learning situations are ‘thoughtfully selected’ and ‘complementary’. So, the approach isn’t just a random cocktail of approaches selected on the whim of instructor. It’s an important and elaborate decision, and an essential part of course design.  

One must understand that teaching/mentoring is a planned activity. So, while designing a course, one must keep in mind a large number of aspects like the content to be taught, pedagogy, mode of delivery, need and level of learners, type of learning activities, etc. In the blended learning, the F2F and online should be so planned that one ‘complements’ the other and not just supplement or appear as an add-on.

Moreover, the scheme of selected approaches once approved must be thoroughly and consistently adopted and executed during the course. Blended learning has potential of providing ubiquitous and active learning to the learners and driving them towards independent learning. The spirit of blended approach lies in thoughtful selection, complementation, and rigorous implementation of approaches during the course.

The spirit of blended approach lies in thoughtful selection, complementation, and rigorous implementation of approaches during the course.

7 Types of Blended Learning

1. Flipped

A flipped classroom flips the traditionally established practice of listening to teacher’s lecture in F2F class and doing homework and other activities at home. In this model, the students are provided with the teachers’ notes, lectures and videos in online mode which they are supposed to go through at their home followed by activity, discussions and guided conversations in the F2F classroom mode.

2. Station

The station model traverses the learners through a series of stations each with a specific purpose and a fixed schedule. These stations may range from those listening to teachers lecture, doing a collaborative activity, and learning a related concept online. In blended mode, one of the stations should include an online one. This model is specifically useful for secondary classroom environment.

3. Flex

The flex model derives its pith from flexibility. Primarily online mode is utilized for transaction of learning and the role of teacher comes ‘just-in-time’ as and whenever required by the student. The learner exercise more control on his learning in this model. 

Blended learning makes learner owe the responsibility to learn as they are not spoon fed in contrast to the purely traditional classroom setting.

4. Lab Rotation

Just like the station model, the learners rotate from one station to another with a fixed schedule. However, the difference lies in the online station which happens to be a dedicated lab with computers where the learning takes place.

5. Enriched Virtual

In the Enriched virtual model, full-time school is accessed entirely online by the learner. There are no stringent rules of physical attendance to the educational institute but the learner may visit the institute for face-to-face learning session with a teacher.

6. A la Carte

This model gives learner the opportunity to pursue few courses online and the rest in a F2F classroom under an academic program.

7. Individual Rotation

Under this, the learners are provided an activity playlist and the individual learners need to rotate to only those stations which are scheduled under his playlist.

Many research studies have shown considerable improvement in learners’ attention, motivation, and achievement in blended learning settings.

10 Advantages of Blended Learning

Research on blended learning has proved that it increases learners’ engagement, motivation, and satisfaction towards the attainment of learning.

  1. Control over time and pace: The learner gets autonomy in terms of learning at a time suitable to the learner and enables self-paced learning.
  2. Enhanced teacher-learner interaction: Since blended learning integrates both online and F2F mode, there is opportunity for learners to interact more with the teachers. Those who are not able to interact more in F2F mode can interact via synchronous and asynchronous means in the online mode.
  3. Increased learner engagement: Blended learning makes learner owe the responsibility to learn as they are not spoon fed in contrast to the purely traditional classroom setting. They get more time to do self-study, and as they do so, they get more engaged in their learning.
  4. Best of both the mediums: Both F2F and online has their strong points desirable by the learners. A quality teacher in a F2F mode can never be replaced by any technology whereas the online mode leverages technology to provide more individualized learning experiences. When both of them are combined together they have the capacity to provide a wholesome and enriching learning experience to the learners.
  5. Better learning outcomes: Many research studies have shown considerable improvement in learners’ attention, motivation, and achievement in blended learning settings. Increased student engagement and academic performance have also been reported among learners provided with a blending online learning environment.
  6. Reduction in cost: Blended mode provides the scope of enrolling more number of students and reducing infrastructural costs involved in teaching large number of students in a F2F situation. It also reduces students expenditure involved in travelling to educational centers.
  7. Personalized and adaptive intervention: Use of technology like AI, ML, and data analytics helps the teacher and learner in doing an informed analysis of one’s learning attained and the remaining gaps. Instant feedback and response in an online environment motivates the student. The insights from OLE can be utilized by the teacher in F2F mode to stress upon those portions of learning content which the learner couldn’t grasp well.
  8. Increased creativity and higher order thinking skills: The learner is at the center of learning in a blended learning environment. He is provided numerous opportunities to utilize higher order thinking skills like ability to create, reflect, introspect, analyze, and evaluate. All these develops the higher order mental faculties of the learner.
  9. Towards self/independent learning: Blended learning is online learning with a right mix of guided teacher-led F2F intervention. It is a move towards independent learning where the learner possess all the requisite study skills to do independent study. The adult learners are in a better position to do self-study as compared to young learners who will always be in a need of a facilitator/mentor to reach to their zone of proximal development.
  10. Ubiquitous presence of learning: In conventional system, the learner gets disconnected from the entire learning environment once he comes back from the school/college. In contrast, blended learning provides an all pervading and ubiquitous presence of learning in a student’s life.
Blended learning in a specific context where the course designer is choosing suitable F2F and online approaches as part of his blended approach.

Blended Learning: Significance in Indian Context

The Indian education system is one of the largest in the world. The traditional education system of F2F has not been able to cope with ever-increasing learners’ population in terms of numbers and quality. The e-learning industry has arisen, but in a supplementary role and is currently struggling to carve out a niche for itself. The KPMG-Google report of May 2017 projects increased adoption of hybrid channels or blended mode by existing online as well as offline players in field of education in India.

The conventional system of education is plagued with many of inherent disabilities. The online education, on the other hand, is witnessing low completion rates and distrust due to lack of feedback and interaction with a teacher figure. The e-learning companies in India are increasingly realizing the need to have multiple touch points with learners, apart from online for elevated engagement levels. Even for the offline educational institutes, in order to become competitive, it has become a necessity to provide some online services like counselling, student support, downloadable notes, and documents, mock tests, etc.

AI-based online platforms can utilize data analytics to provide customized feedback to learners while in offline interaction. More and more offline players like coaching institutes, tuition centers, private schools and colleges now have their virtual classroom as an offshoot of F2F mode.

Leveraging Blended Mode

Many e-learning companies are providing online solutions to the educational institutes for adopting a blended learning model. Next Education, Educomp, and Meritnation are providing in-house technology and training to teachers in collaboration with the K-12 schools so that the teachers may integrate a blended learning system for learners. Some coaching institutes and test preparation e-learning companies also provide online/offline learning sessions.

In higher education, some private organizations like Symbiosis International University and Sikkim Manipal University have developed an entire virtual learning system comprising of webinars, videos, text documents, e-books, and other online tools along with offline counselling sessions/practical sessions etc.

India’s indigenous MOOCs ‘SWAYAM’ is also an attempt to provide some exposure to online component in higher education. Even the reskilling professional online course providers like Talentedge, Simplilearn, Imarticus and upGrad liaison with eminent universities for providing offline internship and work experience to the learners.  

This is purely a discretion of the course designer, usually the teacher, to chalk out a strategy for combining relevant pedagogy with efficient technology to get just the right mix of both.

Blended learning has infinite possibilities of improving learning and begetting tremendous benefits both to the teacher and the learner. However, it is essential that blending requires right mix of online and offline learning for attaining the desirable outcomes. This is purely a discretion of the course designer, usually the teacher, to chalk out a strategy for combining relevant pedagogy with efficient technology to get just the right mix of both. Most of the learning in future has been forecasted to incorporate blended learning.

Rikisha Bhaumik

    Rikisha Bhaumik is Honorary Associate Editor at Courseware World and has over 5 years of active association with the field of e-learning along with 10 years of active and continued association with school education. She is adept at experimenting with innovative tools and technologies in school education and her direct involvement with learners and pedagogy has given her an augmented insight into the scope of e-learning in school education. Her writing repertoire mainly consists of detailed and research-based articles on various e-learning concepts and trends.

    Rikisha Bhaumik has 18 posts and counting. See all posts by Rikisha Bhaumik

    Rikisha Bhaumik

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