Children are growing up with technology infused into many aspects of their lives, including the classroom. Teaching methods are evolving to incorporate 21st-century skills, and blended learning is a great example of this. Blended learning has been defined by the Innosight Institute as ‘a formal education programme in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction, with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace.’
Although blended learning comes in many forms, the use of a virtual learning environment (VLE) creates a dynamic ecosystem to complement existing teaching practices. The flipped classroom is one way to get started with blended learning, but using the tools in a VLE allows you to take it a step further. Blended learning efforts can be amplified by using a VLE to complement teaching practices that are currently in place.
If you are ready to take the leap towards implementing blended learning with your VLE, then here are some ways to amplify your efforts:
Utilise the VLE for content delivery
The VLE allows you to create courses to accommodate different learning styles through video files, audio files, written documents, and live and/or recorded webinars. This flexibility allows you to create engaging content or upload publisher content for your students to use in and out of the classroom.
Create learning paths for all
Customisation tools, such as intelligent agents, allow for flexible learning paths to be created. Teachers can differentiate instruction based on students’ needs through these tools. If students master content then they can go on to new material while those not meeting proficiency can be guided to remedial or practice content.
‘Regardless of how you get started with blended learning, remember that it is not about just adding technology.’
Construct and conduct assessments online
Creating or importing assessments in the VLE is a great asset. Many assessments can be all or partly auto-graded. These assessments can help determine learning paths for individual students and assist the teacher in grouping students for maximum benefit. In addition, real-time reports are available for item analysis, so teachers can reflect not only on student performance but assessment validity.
Provide space for meaningful interactions
Incorporate social media and discussion forums into your online classroom. This feature helps bring your online classroom to life. Students can follow your social media feed for classroom updates or engage in a topical discussion. Discussion forums have the added benefit of extending a classroom conversation in a moderated format – some VLEs even allow teachers to require students to respond to a post before viewing other responses.
Incorporate hands-on activities within the online format
Extend your classroom reach by creating activities that merge online and face-to-face. Students can use online tools such as ePortfolios to collaborate on projects, privately discuss progress with teachers and/or peer groups, and share versions. The final project can be stored in the ePortfolio as an artefact and evidence of mastery. This online tool provides an interactive, engaging way to complete a project but also an opportunity for later reflection.
Blended learning can be accomplished using various outside resources. However, the benefits of a VLE are great when implementing this practice. Regardless of how you get started with blended learning, remember that it is not about just adding technology. Blended learning should supplement and enhance the great things that are already being done in the classroom. Pick what works for you and your students, add to your practice as you all become more comfortable, and adjust when needed.
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