What Exactly is Blended Learning?

Student in school

Blended learning, explains Kim Elms, Curriculum and Assessment Strategist at ACS International School, "blends where and how learning happens: online at home, and through guided practice in class at school. Blended learning models offer students and teachers opportunities to personalise highly-efficient learning, and they focus on mastery of the content and skills that students need to be ready for the future."

One of the more common course designs for blended learning is the 'flipped classroom'. Lessons are ‘flipped’ so that students are introduced to a concept at home (for example, by watching an instructional video or problem-based scenario). Then in the classroom, they explore the idea with other students, ask questions, solve problems, and practice applying their developing understanding to unfamiliar situations.

Home begins to look like a traditional classroom, where information is transmitted from teachers to students. And school is the place where students undertake deeper learning - which traditionally was expected to take place - unsupported and inefficiently - alone at home.

Blended learning relies heavily on contemporary educational technologies as well as teaching practices that are rooted in modern cognitive psychology (current understandings about how people learn). It’s part of broader educational trends recognised in ACS’s Education Strategy: a recognition that learning happens all the time, in many places, within and beyond the classroom.

Blended learning models support other expected school-wide learning results, too.

Students strengthen their abilities to work independently and manage their own learning. Teachers design flexible, responsive courses and classrooms that help students learn at their own pace, and challenge every learner to grow. Contemporary educational research validates the blending learning approaches that feature self-paced, competency-based, reflective education.

ACS Egham product design teacher, Derek Wiggins, has used blended learning principles to advance his approach to teaching and learning. With students locked down from learning on campus last spring, Derek re-imagined his course based on what he learned from The Modern Classroom Project. He has freed up in-school learning time by creating an extended series of personalised video lessons that his students can access at home. Derek’s work successfully blends what, where and how students learn across time and geography as they master IB Middle Years Programme objectives.

Problem solving and collaboration within families increased greatly and the removal of classroom distractions enabled the majority to learn better

Derek Wiggins, Product Design teacher, ACS Egham 

It’s a great example of innovation spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic. At home and at school, Derek’s classes are using blended learning to meet challenging goals—creating fun and sophisticated evidence of student achievement that range from trebuchets to toy planes to ‘logo cakes’ to home renovations.

The course’s structure synthesises assessment criteria and enables teachers to identify learning goals that students must, should, or may aspire to accomplish.

Student with tablet in school

Quick Guide to ‘Blended Learning’ Benefits

  • Problem solving and collaboration within families is increased
  • It is designed to work both for on-campus learning and for hybrid-flexible learning where students may be learning in class and remotely at the same time and can pivot quickly to situations in which students need to learn exclusively at home
  • It focuses on moving students to reach a ‘mastery’ level in each subject, using their personal learning data and allows students to set a pace of learning at which they feel comfortable
  • Thereby not forcing all students to learn at the same pace It encourages students to self-manage their academic programme, strengthens this skill and helps them develop a sense of responsibility for their own learning
  • It helps students develop and improve digital competencies
  • It is supported by an international network of good practice, the Modern Classrooms Project and within ACS by a team of educational strategists.

 

ACS Doha also reports how blended learning has brought the community closer and built student confidence in new ways.

We found parents to be more involved with at-home learning for their child. From reading a book, to learning numbers, parents can note where their children are most engaged and be involved in the skill-building first-hand.

- Caroline Rennie, Deputy Head, ACS Doha

A dynamic and fluid approach

Concludes Kim, "We continue to explore how blended learning can ensure maximum flexibility of our education delivery, and maximum agility in being able to shift learning from fully on campus to fully at home - and everything in between. Teaching and learning must remain dynamic, flexible and able to meet the needs of teachers and students whether they are together in school or not. At ACS, wherever we are, we are always learning."