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What is blended learning?

We’re back with Instinct E-learning for today’s blog, taking a look at a phrase that crops up in a number of e-learning job descriptions but isn’t necessarily explained – blended learning.

Blended learning is one of those concepts that doesn’t have a universally agreed definition. Sometimes it’s used interchangeably with ‘hybrid learning’, ‘mixed learning’ or ‘integrative learning’. Some organisations have a strict understanding of what it looks like, others are less restrictive.

However, what is generally accepted is that blended learning incorporates three key elements:

// CLASSROOM LEARNING

While classroom learning may make use of digital/online tools, its crucial characteristic is that it is delivered in-person. Whether a traditional lecture style or a more interactive format, classroom learning depends on a teacher or trainer.

// ONLINE LEARNING (E-LEARNING)

E-learning products can be as simple as a pre-recorded lecture or Blackboard-style collaboration system, or as sophisticated as an in-depth online course involving a selection of games, activities and examinations. E-learning is creative, innovative and dynamic – the possibilities are endless!

// INDEPENDENT STUDY

In a blended learning programme, each learner may also be expected to explore the learning materials in their own time, developing further skills with the guidance of both the teacher or trainer, and the e-learning products.

Blended learning programmes combine these three forms of learning in different - and often flexible - proportions. These combinations may be set by the course administrator, or they may be led by students' individual wants and needs.

It’s clear to see, then, that blended learning is a uniquely flexible and multi-faceted approach to learning. It means that no matter which learning style suits an individual, they are likely to find an element of the course that speaks to them and helps them progress. It means that organisations can save time and money (by delivering part of the learning experience online), while still incorporating personal, face-to-face elements.

Blended learning also means that those elements of a course that are likely to generate lots of questions, or that learners are likely to require debate or one-to-one instruction to get through, can be delivered in a traditional classroom style. Meanwhile, those that are best suited to electronic formats, or that different learners are likely to complete at vastly different paces, can be delivered through e-learning products.

Unsurprisingly, blended learning has had a powerful influence on the e-learning industry. E-learning designers and developers have been increasingly required to design e-learning products that complement an offline element. In other words, e-learning no longer exists in a digital silo (if it ever did!) – it must often work in conjunction with a programme of classroom activity and independent study.

Similarly, many e-learning designers and developers have found blended learning an opportunity to diversify their skill sets, learning more about how offline learning is facilitated and even assisting with training in some instances. Likewise, many teachers and trainers have taken on wider facilitator roles, no longer just delivering lecture-style teaching and classroom activities, but also managing online forums and guiding learners through e-learning programmes.

Many of the roles Instinct E-learning works on incorporate an element of blended learning. If you’d like to learn more – why not get in touch? Email info@instinct.co.uk or call 0161 714 0600.