Blended Learning Model

Goals specific to this model:

  • 1Gently transition to online education with the least adaptation needed
  • 2Improve instruction based on data
  • 3Create more active learning opportunities for students

Variations of this model

Icon-01

The most common version of this model is one in which the instructor conducts class as per usual, and uses online courseware for homework and practice. This particular version of blended learning is sometimes considered “textbook replacement”, although in most cases both the textbook and paper-based homework exercises are replaced with the online courseware.

Icon-02

A variant of blended learning occurs when online courseware is one among a number of online resources that are integrated in various ways into the course. In this variant, the online courseware tends to serve as the core online resource, and the instructor can add and change additional online resources and tools according to their emphasis, interest, and goals.

What this model means for students

To complete their homework, students need a device and internet connectivity. Given the prevalence of such mobile devices among today’s students, this means students may be learning and practicing anytime and anywhere. Indeed, students in blended learning environments often comment positively about not having to lug a textbook around in order to complete assignments. In addition, with blended learning, students’ homework provides more interaction (compared to reading a passive textbook) and more immediate feedback (compared to a typical homework assignment or problem set). Finally, if the online courseware supports personalized instruction (Acrobatiq does), students can benefit from variable pacing, tailored practice exercises, and adaptive quizzes (if assigned).

What this model means for teachers

For the instructor, blended learning tends to require less grading because more of that is automated through the online instruction. Instructors also get faster feedback on where their students are doing well versus struggling – even in time for the next class session. In Acrobatiq, this is possible because data from students’ practice is fed into the Learning Dashboard and analyzed according to targeted learning objectives for each module. The instructor can then see at a glance how well students are learning each objective and, if desired, “drill down” to see how students are performing on particular concepts and subskills. This kind of data is a totally new asset relative to traditional teaching. It enables the instructors to adjust their teaching based on what their current set of students most need.

In “textbook replacement” mode, instructors often find a direct mapping between what they would have assigned as paper-based reading and homework and what they need to assign from the online courseware. The more directly the online courseware maps to the previously used textbook, the more straightforward it is to create a coherent course that integrates the courseware seamlessly. This also means that the amount of adjustment instructors must make is relatively little going from traditional face-to- face instruction to this blended model.

One point to note, however, is that online courseware homework may take students more time to complete compared to regular readings and homework. This is sometimes the case merely because students are actually reading more from the online courseware (whereas they tend to skip reading from textbooks). So, it is important for instructors to be mindful about the overall load and amount of online homework they are assigning.

Suggested Strategies

  • 1.
    Make sure students are comfortable using the online courseware. (Textbooks generally don’t need instructions!) This may be as simple as taking five minutes of class during the first week to show students what the online courseware looks like and basic steps for how to use it.
  • 2.
    Prepare students for homework to have a slightly different feel. Rather than all reading (passive) followed by a set of homework exercises (active), online homework tends to intersperse reading and other multi-media with interactive exercises. Such interleaving may be unfamiliar to students at first, but the good news is that it is actually better for learning.
  • 3.
    Consider how long homework assignments are taking your students to complete, as adjustments may be appropriate in the early going – until you find the sweet spot. One way to reduce the homework time is to assign students a certain number of online pages, sections, or modules but then require them to complete only a particular proportion of the contained activities and/or assessments.
  • 4.
    To ensure the best integration into your course, instructors often find it useful to go through the online courseware themselves. This provides a great opportunity to increase your familiarity with students’ perspective on the system and to note which sections of the online materials map to your previously used, paper-based readings and homeworks. It also gives you a rough sense of the time it takes to complete a given online assignment (especially if you go through and actually complete all the exercises). Of course, instructors usually need to multiply their time on task by a factor of 3-4 times in order to have a reasonable estimate of the time students will need.

Benefits

Tablet
  • Homework is more personalized to students: Feedback is tailored to students’ individual responses, and adaptive practice and assessments are possible.
  • The immediacy of feedback on practice problems helps to quickly correct students’ common errors and misconceptions.
  • Students are more active throughout their time doing homework, rather than having large blocks of more passive reading time that alternates with active problem solving.
  • Some portion of the exercises in online courseware will be scored automatically, so this means less hand grading. Moreover, automated scores can be directly sent to your LMS, eliminating the extra step of manually entering scores into the gradebook.