To satisfactorily answer all of the separate points of the assignment question, this piece of writing will be presented in three parts: first, it will pertinently identify what blended learning is; second, the concept of face to face and e-Learning will be highlighted, including the positive and negative issues of each; and third, in order to examine the methods by which blended learning can be used to exploit the advantages of the educational techniques found above, each separate area will be argued in turn. Finally, the main points of each argument will be summarised in the conclusion.
Definition of Blended learning
Blended learning is the combination of multiple approaches to teaching or to educational processes which involve the deployment of a diversity of methods and resources or to learning experiences which are derived from more than one kind of information source. Examples include combining technology-based materials and traditional print materials, group and individual study, structured pace study and self-paced study, tutorial and coaching. 1
Face-to-face and e-Learning
Face-to-face learning can be found both in and out of the classroom and can help motivate and involve students. A definition by LearnThat2 suggests it is personal interaction in real life as opposed to via digital or electronic communications medium. This method is particularly suited to active and audiovisual learners as it ensures thought and practical interaction via questioning, discussion, small-group presentation and role play.
E-learning (also known as distance learning) is the unifying term to describe the fields of online learning, web-based training and technology-delivered instruction. This method of learning can include text, video, audio, animation and virtual environments. It can be a rich learning experience for a child as interactive activities can involve students in dynamic learning through a cycle of questions/answers/feedback; discussion and work groups allow students to evaluate their performance against that of peers.
Several types of learners find this style efficient, including reflective learners, as they can consider carefully their course materials online beforehand and study at their own pace to complete them.
E-learning can fall into two categories3: Asynchronous training - Known as 'traditional e-learning' as the process involves self-paced learning via a CD-ROM or upon a network, intranet or Internet It may include access to instructors through online bulletin boards, online discussion groups and e-mail. Or, it may be totally self-contained with links to reference materials in place of a live instructor.
Synchronous training - This is achieved in 'real-time' with a live instructor facilitating the training. All log in at a set time and can communicate directly with the instructor and with each other. This type of training usually takes place via Internet Web sites, audio- or video-conferencing, Internet telephony, or even two-way live broadcasts to students in a classroom.
Positive and negatives issues of each
Face to face learning is said to provide a flexible environment that allows the facilitator to respond to a learner needs as it allows the educator to conduct ongoing needs assessments in an informal manner, and adjust accordingly, to assure relevance of discussions and content.
I feel one potential advantage created by the process is social interaction as a sense of involvement is often created via a peer to peer relationship. It is felt within a classroom of thirty students that the individual is less likely to feel lonely and isolated (than those in an e- learning environment) as a level of support is available to them.
Furthermore, some would agree the teaching style reduces study time scales as the student receives instant feedback from the educator as they do not have to wait a lengthy amount of time for a reply from an email or answer to a query if both pupil and educator are situated within the classroom.
Negatives points however can arise when the learner grows older, some feel in higher education the need for face to face learning is reduced and the learner is capable of completed the course without the personal touch provided by the tutor.
Obvious advantages of e-learning is the flexibility and the cost savings from not having to travel or spend excess time away from work to attend lectures or seminars, there are also others benefits of e-learning that are less palpable. For example: According to an article by Jennifer Salopek in "Training and Development Magazine"4, e-learning courses progress up to 50 percent faster than traditional courses. This is partly because the individualized approach allows learners to pass over material they already know and understand and move onto the issues they need further assistance upon.
Furthermore this method of learning provides increased retention and a stronger grasp on the subject - This is because of the many elements that are combined in e-learning to reinforce the message, such as video, audio, quizzes, interaction, etc. There is also the ability to revisit or replay sections of the training that might not have been clear or comprehended the first time the student was taught about the subject.
Negative issues conversely can and do occur in e- learning, it has been noted that there are technological requirements to enable full participation in the virtual classroom. For example, if the student does not have a high bandwidth and adequate computer memory needed to access the Internet and hence the virtual classroom and its downloadable course material, they will be at a distinct disadvantage. Also, the technological dependence of the virtual classroom can be a weakness if there is an Internet connection failure or a similar technological problem that prevents students from completing a task. If there is no "back up plan" in the case of a technological hindrance, students will fail to see the learning activity that was scheduled (Colorado State University, 2005).5
Nevertheless, two themes clearly emerge as the most frequently cited strengths in both cases: the personal contact allowed by face-to-face classroom learning and the flexibility allowed by e- learning.
Instances in which blended learning can be used to exploit the advantages of face-to-face and e-Learning.
Although it appears from conducting research and reading online articles and journals that fully-online learning has claimed its place in today's education continuum, and that face-to-face learning has been sidelined and students are no longer choosing place-based education. It can be noted also that blended learning is beginning to evolve and impact upon the educational system and other methods of teaching, as it employs the advantages of each and aims to assist educators to connect their online work with face-to-face teaching. By implementing courses which can replace synchronous classroom seat time with asynchronous online learning activities so that instruction occurs both in the classroom and online.
Blended learning allows "[teachers] and [their] students to have the best of both worlds." (Alvarez, 2005)6 He states, "The online environment is not the ideal setting for all types of learning. Classrooms are not perfect either.... That's why so many teachers and corporate trainers are concentrating their efforts on integrating internet-based technologies and classrooms to create blended learning environments. It just makes good sense."
What does research suggest? In a study by Dean and associates findings displayed that by providing several online options in addition to traditional classroom training actually increased what students learned (2001)7. Another study showed that student interaction and satisfaction improved, along with students learning more, in courses that incorporated blended learning (DeLacey and Leonard, 2002).8
Blended learning and its impact upon educators
Blended learning allows the educators to choose which learning activities they teach within the classroom or online. It has been noted that instructors are more comfortable and effective employing the teaching techniques that come naturally to them. Using an online course as an extension of the classroom allows instructors to apply their most effective traditional classroom methods in the physical classroom, while using the online portion of their course to gain advantages offered by an asynchronous space. Voo's 9and Young10 believe blending online best practices with face-to-face techniques assures instructors access to a range of teaching strategies they would not have in online or on-campus settings alone.
Another aspect of blended learning in education is its connection with differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction involves "custom-designing instruction based on student needs" (Brown)11. In differentiated instruction, educators look at students' learning styles, interests, and abilities. Once these actors have been determined, educators decide which curriculum content, learning activities and learning environments will best serve those individual students' needs. Blended learning can impact upon a number of these areas. By implementing blended learning, educators are definitely altering the learning environment when students work collaboratively in learning communities online, for example. Teachers could also add relevant curriculum content that would be unavailable or difficult to comprehend outside of the internet. Learning activities and products can also be changed to use technologies in a classroom that uses blended learning.
Blended learning and its impact upon students
When an instructor has access to the full gamut of instructional strategies via blended learning (offering a combination of online and traditional environments), many believe a pupil's learning will be enhanced. In summary, all students have more opportunities to be more successful.
Furthermore, in most blended learning classrooms, there is the ability to study whenever the student chooses to do so. If a student is absent, she/he may view some of the missed materials at the same time that the rest of the class does, even though the student cannot be physically in the classroom. This assists students to stay on track and not fall behind, which is especially helpful for students with prolonged sicknesses or injuries that prevent them from attending school or university. Because of the ability of students to self-pace, there is a higher completion rate for students in blended learning classrooms than to those in strictly e-learning situations (Sands)12.
Moreover, some universities are beginning to require students to learn online for at least a portion of their academic career. The reason for this is the growing prevalence of online training required in the workplace (Young). A student who is familiar with and knows how to learn online will supposedly become more successful than those who have only experienced face to face interaction. For instance, when teachers plan a course to include writing (for instance, using threaded discussion) in the online component the student will have acquired a variety of different communication skills in addition to those learnt in the face to face environment.
Blended learning and its impact upon institutions
A primary reason for the growing number of blending learning courses is an institution's need for space efficacy. Investing in virtual infrastructure is, over time, much less expensive than building physical classrooms. Young cites the case of the University of Central Florida, which at one time had to rent space from a nearby movie theater to accommodate its burgeoning number of students. Central Florida chose to convert about 100 courses to blended, meeting 50% online and thus reduced the physical space needs of those courses by 50%. Not having to build and maintain buildings, or even distribute paper collateral, delivers an overall cost savings to financially struggling schools or universities who supply just the face to face learning style.
With the given research, it is clear that using blended learning in education improves the teaching and learning provided in a given course. Educators aim to teach in a manner that successfully reaches all of their students. If blended learning accomplishes this then more teachers are expected to use these methods. When teachers begin to explore blended learning and the resources that can be found through the internet and other technologies, they can structure their classroom in a way that best suits their teaching style and their students' learning styles.
In closing, blending learning can be said to have exploited face to face and e-learning as it has studied each method closely and taken positive aspects from each, to create a method which contains a variety of processes and teaching styles to benefit educators and pupils of the twenty-first century. Voo's supports this viewpoint and comments "the blended learning model allows existing course resources to be redesigned in a half online/half traditional space rather than be completely reinvented. The redesign process, when conducted using best practices for both classroom modes can be very successful in terms of cost and human capital and is an effective means of creating and managing rich learning environments".