Blended learning

Blended Learning is the process of incorporating many different learning styles that can be accomplished through the use of 'blended' virtual and physical resources. Learning styles refer to the many ways in which people learn, through blended learning this can be accomplished by creating a variety of learning assignments and activities with the use of technology and instructor and peer interaction.

The instructor can also combine two or more methods of delivery of instruction. A typical example of the delivery method of blended learning would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to present content. An instructor can begin a course with a well-structured introductory lesson in the classroom, and then to proceed follow-up materials online. Guidance is suggested early in the process, to be faded as learners gain expertise (Kirschner, Clark and Sweller, 2006).

The role of the instructor is critical as this requires a transformation process to that of learning facilitator. Quite often, with the onslaught of baby boomers going back to school and pursuing higher education the skills required for technology use are limited. The instructor then finds him/herself more in the role of assisting the student with computer skills and applications, accessing the internet, and encouraging them to be independent learners. Blended learning takes time for both the instructor and learner to adapt to this relatively new concept in delivering instruction.

Current usage of the term

With today's prevalence of high technology in many countries, blended learning often refers specifically to the provision or use of resources which combine e-learning (electronic) or m-learning (mobile) with other educational resources. Some would claim that key blended-learning arrangements can also involve e-mentoring or e-tutoring. These arrangements tend to combine an electronic learning component with some form of human intervention, although the involvement of an e-mentor or an e-tutor does not necessarily need to be in the context of e-learning. E-mentoring or e-tutoring can also be provided as part of a "stand alone" ("un-blended") e-tutoring or e-mentoring arrangement.

Researchers Heinze and Procter have developed the following definition for Blended Learning in higher education:

:Blended Learning is learning that is facilitated by the effective combination of different modes of delivery, models of teaching and styles of learning, and founded on transparent communication amongst all parties involved with a course. (Heinze, A. and C. Procter (2004). Reflections on the Use of Blended Learning. Education in a Changing Environment conference proceedings, University of Salford, Salford, Education Development Unit, Available on-line: [http://www.ece.salford.ac.uk/proceedings/papers/ah_04.rtf http://www.ece.salford.ac.uk/proceedings/papers/ah_04.rtf] )

A major criticism of such a definition revolves around their rigid insistence upon features such as "communication", "transparency", "parties" and "courses". These features do not necessarily have clear or unambiguous meaning in environments outside that of higher (or other institutionalised) education systems. In other words, the definition fails to acknowledge environments where blended learning does not raise issues of "transparency of communication" in the way it is envisaged in the institutional definition. This might refer to artificial intelligence systems, or animal training systems, which can be involved in blended learning since they employ combined resources.

Some of the advantages of blended learning include; cost effectiveness for both the accrediting learning institution and the learner, accessibility to a post secondary education, and flexibility in scheduling and timetabling of course work. Some of the disadvantages may include; computer and internet access, limited knowledge in the use of technology, study skills, problems which are similar to those who would be entering a physical learning institution.

It should also be noted that some authors talk about "hybrid learning" (this seems to be more common in Northern American sources) or "mixed learning". However, all of these concepts broadly refer to the integration (the "blending") of e-learning tools and techniques.

Some Blended Learning systems

[http://orestes.ii.uam.es:8080/willtools Willow] : you can find more information about this system [http://orestes.ii.uam.es:8080/dperez/index1.html here] . Willow has also its wiki: [http://orestes.ii.uam.es/wikiow/index.php/English_welcome_page WikioW] .Nvolve: http://www.nvolve.net is a new approach that blends Classroom, Online and Mobile technologies

The European Union's Socrates program is currently funding development of blended learning courses for several less widely spoken European languages. The development projects, TOOL (Tool for Online and Offline Language Learning) and ALL (Autonomous Language Learning) are coordinated by the EuroEd Foundation based in Iasi, Romania and CNAI based in Pamplona, Spain respectively.

Each project is developing blended learning programs at A2 'Waystage' level in accordance with the competence descriptors defined in the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference).

ALL: Romanian, Turkish, Lithuanian, Bulgarian.TOOL: Slovene, Dutch, Hungarian, Estonian, Maltese.

The development is large in terms of size and scope and in that these may well be the first Blended Learning courses available in these languages and represents a development for the application of modern communicative language learning techniques in these languages.

The developments are undertaken by a development team in each country through several partner institutions. These institutions are a mix of nationally sponsored Universities, commercial Universities and private language learning providers.

for more information : http://www.allproject.info/ http://www.toolproject.eu/http://www.euroed.ro/

Outside the academic sector, blended learning is now gaining a foothold amongst private companies, probably because of the cost-benefits over traditional training. One of the earliest commercial offerings in the sector came from [http://www.virtual-college.co.uk Virtual College] , who produced a blended learning NVQ system in early 1995.

See also

* Flexible Learning
* E-Learning
* M-learning
* Networked learning
* Virtual education
* Virtual University
* Negotiated learning [http://www.chester.ac.uk/pdu/ www.chester.ac.uk/pdu]

External links

* [http://www.allproject.info/ "Autonomous Language Learning" A European Union, government funded, education project to build blended learning language courses in European less taught languages (Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian and Lithuanian)] .
* [http://www.toolproject.eu/ "Tool for Online and Offline Language Learning" A European Union, government funded, education project to build blended learning language courses in European less taught languages (Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Maltese, Slovene)] .

An Instructional Media Selection Guide for Distance Learning, an official publication of the United States Distance Learning Association (http://www.usdla.org) that contains a section on blended learning. Free download available at: http://www.usdla.org/html/resources/2._USDLA_Instructional_Media_Selection_Guide.pdf


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