How Technology Will Shape The Future Of Education Through Blended Learning
EducationSoftware & Technology
18 Sep, 2015
Walk into the average school classroom and you can expect to find desks or tables either lined up to face the front of the class, or arranged into islands for group work. The walls and doors of the room will be covered with inspirational learning posters, and maybe a display area for student work. You may even see a couple of computer screens or laptops sitting in the corner.
However, times are rapidly changing, and in a few schools you may discover a very different layout, and it will be one that is predicted to become more commonplace as the future fast approaches and software is enabling new possibilities.
Blended learning is a formal education program where certain content and instructional details are delivered to the student via digital and online media. Students still attend a ‘traditional’ classroom but face to face learning is combined with computer interaction.
In the newest classrooms where blended learning has already been adopted, you will be more likely to see rows of laptops or computer screens where students are working through online courses rather than collectively with their teacher.
You will find an actual teacher present in the classroom, but their role will be to offer immediate support or assistance to individuals who may be struggling with certain aspects of their online course.
Each student will be following their own lesson plan at their own pace through the use of self-guided digital lessons. However, they will be allowed and encouraged to collaborate with their classmates on joint projects and experiments.
‘Blended Learning Labs’ are beginning to pop up in educational establishments across the world, and so far the results are proving to be very promising. By actively mixing online digital lessons with in-person attendance, students are able to work to their individual levels without the risk of falling behind the rest of the class, or becoming bored because the work is not being issued quickly enough.
This method of learning is more commonplace in the USA, where programmes have been developed to cover everything from archaeology to science and web design. This forward-thinking step has been introduced into a number of schools as a way to help children prepare themselves for a future where technology will be part of everyday life, but still allows these schools to replicate a classroom environment where a qualified teacher is on hand for advice and guidance.
As technology has advanced, and the related costs of software licensing and hardware has fallen to affordable levels, some schools are now able to introduce blended learning into a single classroom with the intention to eventually expand it across the whole school, absorbing the costs gradually as they update their out-of-date technology.
Meeting a greater need for tailored education
One of the many benefits of educating through technology is that every student is treated as an individual which allows them to learn at their own pace and comfort level. It allows above-average students to work independently and take on more challenges. At the same time, it will give students who may struggle with a particular subject the freedom to pause and absorb facts and techniques, go back and repeat sections they need more understanding of, and all without feeling self-conscious in front of their classmates.
Many home educated students already study through online programmes, so certain aspects of blended learning would already be familiar to them. Not only can they benefit from the online digital lessons, but also from the input and guidance of a qualified teacher through a web-cam, if needed. It can also be of great assistance to children who miss large chunks of school due to a medical condition, or long periods of hospitalisation.
No limits to class sizes
The British classroom now holds up to 32 students on average, but with the introduction of blended learning, there’s no restriction set on the number of students in any one class. There will always be room for more students, so there will be no competition for places for popular subjects, and the school will not need to employ more teaching staff to run multiple lessons.
For older students, there would also be the opportunity to enroll for classes without actually having to attend the class in person. A number of content management systems already cater to this specific niche, but even developing a WordPress website could tackle this need. This would be helpful for students who live in remote locations, or for children that miss school due to severe weather. This could see an end to those famous snow days! Schools could effectively continue to deliver an education when it is not safe for students to attend class, for example during the winter if the school heating breaks down, or due to freezing temperatures making paths and playgrounds inaccessible by foot.
The digital lessons are also formulated to appeal to students in a way a white-board and marker pen can never match. All children will be equipped to thrive and learn with no-one feeling as if they are being ignored or left behind.
Having the chance to deliver tailor made digital lessons is a great way to help prepare children for their future that will involve them working closely with technology. The schools that have already incorporated blended learning are seeing fantastic results, and it will not be long before more schools will follow suit.