Over a year ago, the Covid-19 pandemic launched the world into unprecedented times. The education sector was one of the hardest hit areas, as students and teachers alike had to continuously adapt to online learning and readapt to in-person teaching.
However, now students have re-settled into the familiar school environment and life slowly returns to normal, some educators suggest that we should keep some of the tools and strategies we turned to during distance learning. Is this the way to go? Let’s take a closer look…
Hybrid vs Blended Learning
Although often used interchangeably, hybrid learning and blended learning are two different teaching strategies.
- In hybrid learning, some students are in the classroom and other students participate online. Typically, the teacher uses video-calling tools to connect everyone.
- Blended learning involves incorporating technology into traditional classroom teaching, where every student is physically present.
Many schools have utilised hybrid learning throughout the pandemic as the children of key workers needed to be able to attend school while others learned from home. Is this something to explore now all students are allowed back in schools?
Although hybrid learning has its benefits, it’s hard to pull off as it requires teachers to simultaneously balance the needs of two groups of student. A blended learning environment is much easier to implement, as teachers can select what online resources they would like to use to complement in-person teaching. But what are the benefits of a blended environment on student performance?
What the research says
Research suggests that a blended learning environment should consist of 50-70% traditional face-to-face teaching and 30-50% utilising online resources to enhance learning. This is because students can often get bored by the slower and less interactive pace of traditional learning, resulting in decreased motivation and lower engagement. In fact, 70% of students believe that they perform best when in blended learning classrooms and 82% of students report that they prefer the blended environment to traditional face-to-face teaching (of course, we do have to distinguish here critically between what students like and what is actually best for them).
96% of teachers also believe technology is a valuable resource in the classroom because it changes the way students interact with material and allows them to create more varied lessons. One survey found that 60% of teachers felt that blended learning benefited their students’ academic performance in some way, and 59% of students reported feeling more motivated to learn when technology was weaved into their lessons.
Blended learning tools you can implement into your classroom
So, what are some ways to implement technology into your classroom?
Games and quizzes
Incorporating online games and quizzes is a great way to get students warmed up and engaged for the lesson, consequently boosting their motivation to learn. Websites such as Kahoot and Quizlet are free online tools that can allow students to practice retrieval and teachers to check for understanding in a fun and interactive way. In fact, 48% of students report completing online quizzes and polls are their preferred way of learning. Quizlet even has the option for students to make their own flashcards, which they can also print off.
Videos for lessons
A survey conducted in 2020 shows that 25% of students felt the use of videos whilst learning was the most beneficial online tool for their learning. In this digital age where students are consuming a lot of online content, having access to lesson content through platforms such as YouTube is a great way to keep students engaged and lessons dynamic.
Not only can videos be used to explain what student will be learning in the lesson, but can also be used to explain new concepts in a visual and easy-to-follow manner. Students can replay the video if they’ve missed something or haven’t quite grasped a concept when trying to complete a task independently. And if students are absent, online video material ensures they can access the lesson from home so they don’t fall behind.
E-books and digital textbooks are another way of effectively implementing technology into the classroom. Research shows that the use of e-books in the classroom positively impacts students’ writing proficiency, reading comprehension, motivation and overall academic performance.
The ability to annotate, highlight sentences and click on words for their pronunciation allows students to closely interact with this new material, allowing for deeper memory encoding and greater learning gains. Their portability and accessibility also mean that students can access them from anywhere, don’t have to worry about losing the book and have greater autonomy over their learning.
Although research shows that increased phone usage has been linked to a decline in academic performance and many schools have banned them, using other devices such as iPads have been shown to improve learning. One study highlighted how iPads can make students more independent learners as they have greater control over the pace of their learning and can research topics that they are less confident with.
Research has also emphasised that iPads positively impact student engagement. Student reports included statements such as “I participated more in class during iPad activities than during activities that did not use the iPad”, improving their ability to master complex information.
Present information using PowerPoints
Research shows that utilising PowerPoints to present information and guide learning is a positive way to boost academic performance. However, the benefits are most evident when students are given a copy of the slides at the beginning of the lesson and teachers aren’t making common PowerPoint errors. Students can pay more attention to the actual lesson rather than focusing on copying the information from the slides. This allows them to effectively encode this new information into their long-term memory.
Use educational technology
Educational technology is any technology that creates an interactive learning environment for students which allows them to closely engage with lesson material and encourages collaboration between students. Apps like JamBoard, which acts as an interactive whiteboard that students can annotate at the same time, or Padlet, which acts as an online notice board, are great tools to improve student motivation.
Research shows that using educational technology in the classroom also has a small but positive effect on students’ reading achievement. Pedagogical agents (or “computer characters”) are another way for teachers to maintain student attention and reduce their boredom, enabling them to retain more information. This is because students’ learning is being guided by these agents in an easy-to-follow manner.
If there is one positive thing we can take from the pandemic, it’s that there are endless ways to use technology to improve students’ performance, hand in hand with traditional learning. Plus, a blended learning environment doesn’t have a rigid definition. So you can implement as much or as little technology as you want, depending on the needs of your students and what they feel comfortable with.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that for the majority of students, hybrid or online learning has a detrimental impact on their learning. So, it’s important that face-to-face teaching remains the focus, and technology is only used to add to it.