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 digital can 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 of both traditional classroom settings and online course delivery method. 30–79% of course content can be delivered through web facilities. Online delivery can have two forms: asynchronous (offline) and synchronous (real-time sessions). 

The level of embracing technologies in blended learning increases every year. This generates multiple apprehensions concerning this method’s effectiveness. Let’s check out the most widespread among them: 

Blended learning minimises the level of social interaction

Educational institutions have been 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 other formats, have their weaknesses and challenges. Facing the 'otherness' is the first and most critical of them. Pupils and students often confront socio-economic, cultural, religious, cognitive, ideological, knowledge- or interest-related diversity in the educational environment. Some children succeed in adaptating whereas others fail and lose their own identity. Consequently, this suppresses their communicative skills and learning potential. 

When traditional in-class education deprives students of their right to choose, blended learning provides the opportunity for а 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 a more easy-going educational environment, helps to minimise the challenge of the otherness and to develop the person’s innate abilities in the best way.  

For those, who suggest that increasing the role of digital in an educational process promotes children’s isolation or sociopathy we propose 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 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 has lower outcomes than the traditional classroom-based delivery format

Supporters of this stand claim that interactive communication does not allow to deliver the course content at a decent level. Moreover, less in-person instructor control creates the grounds for procrastinating 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 the blended learning approach includes, enhances the need for student self-control. Students cannot hide behind their classmates' backs when they haven't prepared their tasks, but should report directly to the teacher. Psychologists assume that this helps even young children to develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.

Cheating, especially in online tests, is one of the central issues in blended learning. Indeed, there are 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

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

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

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

Only a few of myths about blended learning have been mentioned, and a huge number of them exist in reality. To reflect on each of them, one should write the dissertation. This is not the intention of this article, which only aims to point out some misconceptions and demonstrate that embracing technological changes should no longer be perceived as a frightening tendency. Technology is already an essential part of our life, and it is high time we debunked stereotypes around it.

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