Mon 2nd October 2017 - 10:07

Blended Learning: Incredible Opportunities or Undermining the Value of Educational Process?

Although enrolment of technological changes in education seems to be a natural and unavoidable process, the society still cannot stop questioning its advisability. Worried parents, psychologists, scientists and social experts try to find out whether digitals enhance the learning process or obstruct its pedagogical function. Here, we will try to participate in this discussion and get to the truth through verifying the most widespread misconceptions about blended learning.

A few words about blended learning

The essence of this educational approach implies the use that both traditional classroom settings and online course delivery method. 30- 79% of course content can be delivered through the web facilities. Online delivery can have two forms: Asynchronous (offline) and Synchronous (real-time sessions). 

The level of embracing technologies in blended learning becomes more and more intensive every year. It generates multiple apprehensions concerning this method’s effectiveness. Let’s verify the most widespread among them: 

Blended learning minimises the level of social interaction

Educational institutions were perceived as one of the most important and effective means of the socialisation process. For a long time, this was the case as there was no alternative. However, traditional education, as well as the other formats, has its weaknesses and challenges. Facing the otherness is the first and most critical of them. Socio-economic, cultural, religious, cognitive, ideological, knowledge or interest diversity in the educational environment often makes pupil or students confront it. Some children succeed in this adaptation whereas others failed to adapt successfully and lose their own identity. Consequently, it causes the suppression of their communicative skills and learning potential. 

When the traditional in-class education deprives students of their right to choose, blended learning provides the opportunity for wide personal choice. The flexibility of the learning process allows students to be involved in desirable and favourable social interaction outside of educational institutions. It promotes the less struggling educational environment, helps to minimise the challenge of the otherness and develop the innate person’s abilities in the best way.  

For those, who suggests that increasing the role of digital in educational process promotes children’s isolation or sociopathy we propose a convincing data proving the opposite. Dr. Rosie Flewitt from the Open University investigated the influence of technology in the early years. The study found that the pre-school children who were the most computer savvy demonstrated better performance in indoor and outdoor activities; they also led extremely diverse lives. 

Blended learning causes lower outcomes than traditional classroom-based delivery format

Supporters of this stand claim that interactive communication does not allow delivering the course content at a decent level. Moreover, less in-person instructor’s control creates the ground for students’ procrastination or cheating behaviour. Indeed, the research refutes these suggestions.

Experiments demonstrate a statistically significant increase in student performance in a blended environment. Researchers explain such effect with students’ opportunity to work independently when they can explore material, analyse it, speculate and obtain alternative answers to course questions. At least, it is the ultimate goal of the educational process, and blended learning efficiently promotes it. 

Moreover, the fact of individual communication with the instructor which blended learning approach implies enhances the need of students’ self-control. They cannot hide behind the backs of classmates when failed in preparing the task but should report directly to the teacher. Psychologists assume that such background and having choices helps even young children develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.

Cheating, especially in online testing, is one of the central issues in the blended learning context. Indeed, there many digital facilities for distance control. Remote Proctor, optical cameras and audio detection, zone alarm tool and others warrant the security of testing even more than traditional proctoring.

Blended learning obstructs development of cognitive abilities

The suggestion that using web-based education does not allow to realise students’ cognitive potential fully is a rather widespread. At first sight, it may seem that the method really boils down to completion of assigned tasks. However, one should look at a depth of blended learning approach.

Often students do not ask questions they are interested in during the classes because they are afraid to seem strange or a little different from the classmates. Blended learning frees from the limitations of social pressure and supports the student’s innate curiosity. 

Indeed, comparing two experimental groups in respect of their way to interact and present a personal point of view, scientists found that online learners demonstrated a more active involvement in the discussion then traditional students. They performed deeper knowledge of the material, strived to discuss the subject matter in more detail, encouraged each other with the multiple resonate questions, and corrections of the classmates’ misconceptions. 

Apparently, only a few of myths about blended learning were mentioned, and a huge number of them exist in reality. Certainly, to reflect each of them one should write the dissertation. We did not set such a goal and only pointed out some misconceptions to demonstrate that embracing technological changes should no longer be perceived as a frightening tendency. The technologies are already an essential part of our life, and it is high time to struggle a stereotyped thinking.

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