A Blended Learning Solution For K12 Education
ABC school system (a pseudonym for a school district) prides itself on providing quality education that supports its students, parents, and community members. This school system is comprised of 38 schools with an average daily attendance of approximately 30,000 students. The school’s mission statement is “To Educate and Empower Our Students to Reach Their Potential”. Additionally, the school system’s goal is to increase student achievement by maximizing efficiency and effectiveness while using its resources to support school needs. Blended learning is one way to maximize student learning and teacher success.
Traditional And Online Learning
Students, in a traditional classroom environment, depend on the teacher to deliver, guide, manage, and maintain the flow of instruction. The student views the teacher as an authority figure conveying information in a face-to-face learning environment. However, this is not the case in an online learning environment where there is a shift in the student-teacher relationship, the educational model, and the learning environment. This transition and integration of eLearning technologies is now the most important approach in teaching pedagogy. A successful eLearning environment embodies a blended educational approach, which is required to meet the needs of today’s students receiving public education.
ABC school system’s goal and mission is aligned with increasing student achievement and improving teaching methods and strategies. Now more than ever there is a sense of urgency to transform education into something new and innovative. Traditional education is beginning to give way to more innovative learning approaches. This is due to the increase in availability and number of information technologies changing the way people use technology in their everyday lives. Despite the many teachers in the ABC school system that have already embedded the use of computers and the internet into their lessons the effective use and integration of these technologies are still quite slow.
Blended learning is an integration of synchronous and asynchronous learning approaches and the use of supporting technologies, which can be integrated in the classroom or in online learning environments. The transformative potential in combining a synchronous and asynchronous approach to the current education system results in an eLearning approach to education called blended learning. There is research evidence that blended learning environments have the potential to transform learning.
Benefits Of Blended eLearning Environment And 3 Types Of Learning Approaches
A review of the research indicates that information and communication technology used in the classroom decreases student barriers to learning and improves student achievement. Garrison and Kanuka (2004) reported that students achieved better in online learning environments compared to traditional classroom only environments. Other benefits achieved by blended eLearning environments included better student attitudes toward content and student satisfaction with delivery of instruction and learning compared to traditional only formats. Overall, the reviewed literature and research supports using computer technology, social media, and Web2.0 applications to increase student participation, motivation, and ultimately increasing student achievement.
Through the use of asynchronous and synchronous learning strategies, computer technology, and Web2.0 online applications embedded in the K12 public curriculum the school system can make available a technologically rich blended learning environment. With this new learning methodology the school system will be able to offer three different types of learning and teaching approaches to education that will optimize and increase student achievement with little financial implications: Traditional classroom, blended classroom, and online only learning. It is this new overall approach to teaching and learning that will drive teacher excellence and increase student achievement in ABC school system. The ABC school system will serve its technologically savvy and internet native students better, preparing them for college and/or a career ready world in the 21st century, with the implementation of these three learning approaches to education.
The following sections describe each learning approach and learning environment and will identify examples of specific eLearning resources that ABC can integrate into its current K12 learning curriculum.
- The Current Classroom Environment.
One of the most important advantages of traditional learning environments is synchronous communication between students and teachers. In this learning environment teachers are able to provide students with immediate feedback and instruction, and learning happens in a collaborative setting utilizing the existing faculty. We have the instructors to provide face-to-face learning in the traditional classroom. Students would continue to attend classes, having the benefit of an instructional expert and freedom to provide a learning experience tailored to the learning needs of each student or a group of students. This is considered a synchronous learning environment and for some students proves the most effective way to learn.
- Blended Classroom Environment.
eLearning lends itself more naturally to using synchronous and asynchronous technology resources to drive instruction and learning. This is often referred to as a blended learning environment, which is also called a blended eLearning system. A blended eLearning system is an instructional system that includes different learning methods such as face-to-face and online learning strategies and resources. Chou and Chou (2011) also characterize this blended approach to learning as “maximizing the best advantages of face-to-face and online education” (p. 464). In this blended classroom environment students would be given the opportunity to learn using technology and Web2.0 applications, not just as a means to deliver information, but also as an integrated and natural part of how teaching and learning happens in and outside the traditional classroom. The integration of online resources like e-folios, Google docs, and online classroom portals like Edmodo make it possible to provide students with a synchronous and asynchronous learning environment, in which the student can pursue learning at their own pace, while having the immediate guidance of the classroom teacher. Allowing teachers to integrate online technologies into traditional teaching practices will encourage collaboration, self-learning, enhance existing student learning experiences, and support learning discovery and lifelong learning.
- Online Only Environment.
65 percent of learning still happens in the traditional classroom environment; however, this number is decreasing as online course designs improve. Online only learning environments rely on internet connectivity, providing students with a less structured, but more flexible learning space. In an online only learning environment students will receive the same content as in traditional classrooms, and can study at a time that best meets their individual learning needs. This is considered self-paced learning. Self-paced learning contributes to a constructivist approach to learning because it addresses different learning needs and abilities. This approach to learning allows teachers to provide pertinent information to students while allowing them the control of pursuing that learning at their own pace. It is important, however, that consistent interaction between teacher-student and student-student be maintained as an embedded part of the online curriculum. The research reviewed suggested that constant interactions increased the probability that online students would successfully complete an online only program. Interactions like Skype for face-to-face instruction and email communication can also increase student satisfaction with online only classroom instruction.
Next Steps For Implementation
First, ABC should identify the best way to begin implementing each of the three different learning methods and how to embed them into the current learning structure and practice. Second, the school system should develop staff development trainings, coaching guidelines, and technology support for quality implementation of the proposed blended learning environments. Third, ABC should assess student motivation and willingness to learn using informational technologies and Web2.0 applications. Fourth, a timeline should be created to indicate how the three learning methods will be integrated into the current K12 curriculum. Fifth, the school system should ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the overall approach to teaching and learning that will drive teacher excellence and increase student achievement in ABC.
The technologies and approach to education associated with synchronous and asynchronous learning can improve the quality of teacher instruction, student-teacher interactions, and improve student-learning outcomes. There are strengths and weaknesses to both learning methods. Some students like a synchronous classroom only learning environments because they need face-to-face instruction and instant feedback. For other students an asynchronous online only learning environment provides more time student reflection and self-paced learning. While there are those students that benefit the most from a blended eLearning environment where learning happens in the classroom and outside the four walls of a traditional learning environment. All three learning approaches have very unique benefits and limitations; however, a blended online learning environment has the most potential to meet many learning and teaching styles, increase student achievement, and improve teacher instruction.
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