Why Blended Learning Is The New Normal
With the United States recently surpassing 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the spread of the coronavirus has shown no signs of slowing down. As the summer comes to a close with students of all ages ready to return to the classroom, experts are anticipating another surge in cases.
Because there is no timeline for a readily available vaccine for COVID-19, most schools won’t be able to go back to fully on-ground courses without endangering the safety of their staff and students (and their families!).
In light of this reality, many higher education institutions have made plans to continue with remote education for the rest of 2020. Some big names in the higher education space, including Harvard University and the University of California, have made plans to administer fully online courses for the fall term, with many other institutions following suit.
But for career colleges, where students are learning specific skills for career paths vital to our society, hands-on training is extremely important to students’ development. Take a welding school, for example. It’s nearly impossible to adequately teach a student how to handle a blowtorch without giving them access to one in a safe practicing environment. So how can schools preserve the on-ground, hands-on training that is so vital to students’ education in a world experiencing a pandemic? By switching to a blended learning model.
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended courses combine face-to-face instruction and online instruction into a single course. Students enrolled in blended courses complete the majority of their coursework remotely through web-based learning and attend on-ground courses once or twice per week to reinforce what they learned at home.
During the remote, asynchronous portion of blended courses, students are learning conceptual and theoretical components of the course material. Students consume this content online, which can include video lectures, online activities, ebooks, and more.
While on campus, students strengthen the knowledge gained during remote learning and participate in hands-on training. In addition to valuable practical instruction, on-ground classes enable students to build connections with their instructors and peers, which are valuable for retention.
For schools in states where it is safe to administer an on-ground component, blended courses offer a way to deliver effective hands-on training without fully compromising the safety of individuals on campus. Students can learn theory remotely from the safety of their homes while getting the most out of the time they have with instructors on campus.
The combination of safe and effective hands-on training and safe remote learning make blended courses the most productive and realistic teaching and learning model moving forward.
Realistic Social Distancing
Through blended courses, schools will have fewer students on campus at a time because the majority of the student body will be learning remotely. A course with twenty students can have half of the students attend on-ground classes on one day, and the other half attend on-ground classes the day after, allowing for smaller class sizes. With fewer students on campus, staff and students can realistically practice social distancing in the classroom and in common areas, significantly limiting the spread of germs.
Maintaining Safe Learning Environments
Fewer students on campus also gives schools the opportunity to fully disinfect classrooms, labs, and common areas multiple times per day. After each class session, school staff can spend the necessary time it takes to clean countertops and tables and wipe down equipment. That way, the facilities are all clean and ready for use by the time the next group of students comes on campus.
Because blended learning models require fewer students to be on campus at once, staff can properly maintain learning environments, making it possible for students to receive their valuable on-ground instruction without fully compromising their safety.
Effective Remote Learning
Technology has recently emerged to bolster and improve students’ academic experience during remote learning.
Whether asynchronous or synchronous, institutions have designed online courses with different types of delivery to increase student comprehension. By taking advantage of online tools and types of media, instructors can effectively teach students remotely in blended learning models and use the on-ground components to reinforce it.
An integral piece of students’ success in remote learning, and the highest priority for faculty teaching online courses in the fall, is providing students with consistent opportunities for engagement. Using a platform like CourseKey, faculty can take a multifaceted approach to engagement and maintain frequent touch points with students, providing students with opportunities to participate and stay involved in the lesson.
Staying Prepared For Second And Third Waves
If schools do need to close temporarily in the future, by having an online component in the form of blended courses already in place, they can transition seamlessly between fully online and blended courses. If needed, schools can switch over to fully online instruction overnight, allowing programs to continue running without forcing students to go through downtime. Having a blended model in place that works puts you in the position to transition as necessary depending on public health risk.
By taking advantage of the tools they have in place for blended learning and simulating the on-ground classroom in a fully online environment, schools can still track student attendance, ensure students get live interaction and feedback, and provide consistent and substantive social opportunities.
A New Reality
Remote learning through online tools and software enables students to effectively learn from the safety of their homes. And with proper safety measures in place and a well designed on-ground course component, institutions can bring students back to campus in a limited capacity to ensure they receive hands-on training without compromising their safety.
As institutions strive to deliver the best learning opportunities to students while navigating the ongoing pandemic, many institutions are turning to blended learning. To speak with a CourseKey team member about running successful blended learning programs at your school, fill out the form below!