Blended learning is an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery. Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings. Blended learning is highly context-dependent; therefore a universal conception of it is difficult. Some reports have claimed that a lack of consensus on a hard definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness. A well-cited 2013 study broadly defined blended learning as a mixture of online and in-person delivery where the online portion effectively replaces some of the face-to-face contact time rather than supplementing it. The teaching and learning environment is embracing a number of innovations and some of these involve the use of technology through blended learning. This innovative pedagogical approach has been embraced rapidly though it goes through a process. The introduction of blended learning (combination of face-to-face and online teaching and learning) initiatives is part of these innovations but its uptake, especially in the developing world faces challenges for it to be an effective innovation in teaching and learning. Blended learning effectiveness has quite a number of underlying factors that pose challenges. One big challenge is about how users can successfully use the technology and ensuring participants’ commitment given the individual learner characteristics and encounters with technology. Blended learning model encourages students to learn more actively. They have opportunity to learn on their own pace. They can prepare themselves for the course before coming to the class and it can realize student centered learning and reflect the value of 21 century education .The research indicated that student who attended blended learning course had higher achievement scores than those who attended traditional teaching. The survey results are in line with other researchers who also argued that blended learning effective for increasing students’ performance. Most of those studies also found that blended learning improves the academic achievement averages The present study was not only give a concern about how to balance the online learning and face to face learning, but also give attention to content to be provided. Blended learning can help teachers to provide several formats of learning material then, it can increase student motivation and they can get new experience on learning process. The other relevant study also stated that blended learning can help for enhancing students’ motivation .In this research, content was presented in various formats such as text and also video format. Each learning topic was provided with a quiz as an evaluation. Last, discussion forums were also available as a communication and sharing media between teachers and students and among fellow students. The introduction of blended education allows teachers to be more creative in the way they structure and deliver courses, providing opportunities to incorporate new technologies into their lessons. Both teacher and student must be on their toes, because as technology changes, teacher and student must adapt.
Benefits of blended learning: As a result of changing times, students will encounter blended learning opportunities in universities and colleges across North America. This change will eventually be replicated across the world as time goes on. Common types of blended learning include:
• Rotation: Students alternate between classes and online learning.
• Flipped Classroom: Students listen to online course lectures at home. Class time is used for projects, group activities or questions about the lectures.
• Flex: The majority of instruction takes place online, with face-to-face support as needed.
Blended learning often means that all the necessary learning materials will also be available online, allowing students to access them at any time to refresh their memories, to ensure that they understand the course content or to seek out additional, in-depth resources about a topic of interest. There are pros and cons to blended learning, but since educators agree that it is here to stay, they are focused on finding the best mix of strategies for each individual course. Knowing the positives and negatives can help students understand how to get the most from blended learning, so let’s explore them.
Opportunities in blended learning:
• Allows for Differences: Students aren’t made from cookie cutters and they learn in different ways. A mix of teaching approaches makes it likely that a larger number of students will absorb the material more easily. It reduces stress for those who find it challenging to keep up during classroom lectures and can increase satisfaction for quicker learners.
• Availability of Resources: Students can access online materials anywhere, anytime. They can review the materials as often as they like and study them at their own pace. Blended learning includes new technologies, and for many of today’s students, using such technologies is a natural part of everyday life.
• Enhances Learning: A blended approach can offer richer, more interactive learning experiences.
• Better Communication: Blended learning improves communication between student and teacher. Generally, using technology means offering a variety of methods for communication, such as email, instant messaging, online discussions and news announcements online.
• Collaboration: Online tools also allow students to collaborate and communicate better with each other. They can connect via email, text messages and online discussions, as well as face-to-face in the classroom.
• Easy Feedback: Tests can be given online, allowing for easy grading and quick feedback that gives students the opportunity to see where their weaknesses are before they forget what the test covered. Teachers can also quickly get a sense of who is having difficulties with the course material and can take action to address these students’ problems.
• Promotes Autonomy and Responsibility: When a portion of the material is online, it is up to the students to keep pace and meet deadlines. This is good training for life after graduation.
• Helps Maintain Focus: Using a varied collection of tools prevents students from becoming bored with course delivery and material. They stay engaged longer than they would with only books as resources.
( The author is a teacher at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)