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Train to gain

Training for instructors and students on successful use of technology is crucial in blended learning's success, says Ryan Eash

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 19, 2016 | People

Q. How does the greater use of technology in classrooms and lecture theatres reflect the changing attitudes towards education? 

This is a really great question. I think the response to this question could be extremely different depending on who is being asked. Not everyone sees the greater use of technology as a positive change in education. But I believe that those who don’t learn to accept or adapt to it will be left behind as we move forward. Students learn very differently today than students did 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. Advancements in technology continue to grow faster than most people can keep up with, and today’s students need technology to keep them engaged. 

Today’s students share information and communicate in bite-sized chunks, via text, Snapchat, Instagram, and the list goes on. It’s a rarity to find students without a Smartphone or Tablet or both. And with the power of the internet, we are accessing information constantly. I think the challenge for instructors comes with being able to create learning assignments or projects that engage students through the use of technology. Not just knowing how to access information, but being able to utilize tools to create end products that demonstrate what they’ve learned. Implementing real-world learning into the curriculum to help prepare students to be career-ready upon graduation.    

Q. How can students benefit from blended learning, as opposed to more traditional teaching methods?

Blended learning allows more flexibility for students to complete course work when it’s most convenient for them. With rising costs of education, many students have to maintain a job outside of taking classes. Blended learning is extremely beneficial to these students because they can complete course work around their work schedule. Students can also work at their own pace, instead of being tied to the pace of the instructor and all other students in the class. Blended learning still allows face-to-face time with the instructor, so students who prefer the traditional teaching methods can still experience this form of learning, too. 

Depending on how blended learning is implemented in the course, instruction may be delivered to students through computer-based tutorials, interactive video, simulations, and other guided-practice exercises. This process allows students to learn from not only a variety of modes, but from a variety of teachers.

Q. Are there any potential pitfalls that institutions need to be aware of when introducing blended learning into the classroom? 

I think that when something new is introduced to any group, it generally isn’t accepted positively by everyone equally. Change can be hard for some. Blended learning often means the incorporation of technology as a means of communicating or providing instruction to students. One potential pitfall related to this is ensuring that all students have access to the technology needed to participate in the course. Proper training for both the instructors and students on how to successfully use the technology tools being implemented would be crucial to this success. Are all courses that are offering blended learning as part of their curriculum using the same tools? Or will students have to learn multiple platforms and processes depending on what courses they are taking?

I truly believe that a lot of planning is required to take place in advance of rolling out any new programs, to help ensure that institutions are putting their faculty and students in the best possible situation to be successful. Putting the cart in front of the horse will more times than not cause backlash from recipients, and may require more time and effort of fixing issues than the time it would have taken to properly plan the strategy ahead of time.     

Q. What are the biggest benefits to Blended learning that you've seen so far?

In my opinion and through my experiences, I’ve seen so many benefits to Blended learning. A few at the top of my list are:

  • The flexibility that it provides for both the teacher and students. In particular, students who have to work or maintain a job during the day, and can only take classes in the evenings or on weekends
  • It’s more engaging than the traditional teaching methods and adds a variety of learning experiences for students
  • It can be cost-effective, in both time and money for students and teachers, by not having to commute to a physical place for every class
  • It allows the instructor to dedicate the face-to-face classroom time for deep, meaningful discussion, by having students view learning material at home, or before arriving to class 

Ryan Eash is Customer Success Manager at TechSmith


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