Education is a basic right of every child and a crucial pillar for an individual’s overall development. At a point of time, when technology has revolutionized every realm of our lives it is inevitable that it will have an impact on how we teach, where we teach and what we teach. The ubiquitous presence of internet connectivity and penetration of smart phones and laptops has brought technology at our fingertips. This has led to a metamorphosis in the learning techniques of the digital natives.
The current breed of learners is so accustomed to using technology for sourcing, processing and application of information that restricting them to just the traditional way of classroom teaching might be an injustice to their overall learning experience. In the words of renowned educationist David Warlick,
It is imperative for schools and educational institutions to demonstrate technical readiness in their infrastructure to facilitate the learning needs of these digital natives and accommodate new methodologies of imparting education.
What was once the prevalent method of teaching might not be adequate in the current context. For instance, when COVID 19 led to sudden school closures globally, traditional teaching methodology fell short of its purpose and online classes was the only way to ensure continuity of education. However, when teachers and students had to adopt distant/virtual manner of teaching, it came with its own set of challenges – The change was sudden; stakeholders were neither conversant nor trained to use the new medium. Academicians were suddenly expected to be technical geeks. Teachers have been struggling to keep the class engaged with shorter attention spans of the students. Students have geared towards EdTech platforms for topical information lured by the fancy content presentation.
Having said that, one cannot undermine the strengths of traditional classroom learning system as it relies a lot on the human aspect of a teacher -student equation which cannot be replaced by technology. Ultimately, education is not an assimilation of information overload. Teachers are not just subject matter experts with years and sometimes decades of experience, but they are also experts in the art of teaching. The manner in which a teacher explains a topic is crucial to a student’s overall learning experience.
Therefore, it is essential that educationist device new methods of learning, that are more relevant & effective in the changing landscape of education. As they say, “Modern problems require modern solutions!” What is really required is to make use of technology to amplify the impact of traditional teaching techniques.
Consequently, we have the Blended learning – a smart approach that astutely picks on the strengths of both the old and new techniques of edification.
The blended learning methodology allows students to learn through a combination of electronic/online mediums and in person classroom lectures.
There are different methods and techniques to implement blended learning. E.g.
(i) Flipped classroom: A stark contrast from the conventional methodology, students first self-study the necessary concepts at home with the help of online video lectures or notes shared by the teachers. The time in classroom is utilized for clarification of doubts and to solve problems under the guided supervision of the tutors.
(ii) Flex Model: A task-based model where a student can flexibly learn the concepts at his/her pace through a system of dedicated tasks. It not only helps understand theoretical facts but also makes it easy for the students to visualize them through practical sessions at hand.
(iii) A La Carte: This model allows students the flexibility to access online learning content on demand online as a way to supplement their existing course load at the school campus. Pre-recorded lectures on various important topics can be accessed based on their interest and academic goals from the convenience of their homes.
(iv)Enriched Virtual: An alternative to full-time online school that allows students to complete a majority of coursework online at home or outside of school but attend school for required face-to-face learning sessions with a teacher. It does not focus on regular attendance.
The popularity of blended learning module stems as much from its own inherent benefits as it does due to the limitations of the traditional classroom learning.
In the traditional learning set-up, a teacher explains the concept most likely in a presentation format assuming the same degree of learning pace and grasping abilities for the entire class. Conventional teaching aids, e.g., textbooks/practice books limit the information on any topic to only what is included in the prescribed curriculum, depriving students of any interesting references available digitally to understand a topic from a 360-degree point of view.
The Blended Learning model designs itself in such a way that it allows every student to learn at his own pace giving sufficient opportunity to benefit from interacting with a teacher. Learning with technology becomes an important aspect of the learning technology.
Blended learning can also be a solution to a huge deficit in availability of quality and quantity of teachers in the remote areas. According to UNESCO’s ‘Sustainable Development Goals for education’, close to 69 million new teachers are needed to provide quality universal primary and secondary education by 2030. With a mix of online and offline classes, there is a handsome opportunity for students in remote villages to learn directly from some of the best teachers through video-conferencing and other online medium whilst the local schoolteacher monitors their progress and guides them on a day-to-day basis.
Hence there is an urgency for educational institutes and technology providers to collaborate together to be technically prepared to facilitate the availability of online and offline resources of learning. Calamity or not, we need to ensure that the pursuit of education for every student remains unperturbed.