The year 2020 has been an immensely transformative year for universities and higher education sectors. With border closures, travel bans, and physical distancing, universities have no choice but to embrace remote learning. But as we move towards a post-pandemic era, there are opportunities for more collaborative learning and teaching forms for a better education.
Understanding blended learning
At the time of the sudden shift, online learning was only seen as a supplementary model or an alternative to in-person learning. Also, the reality is we cannot go back to 100% in-person learning modality because of the various safety concerns as well as other limitations. But, it has its own importance for a better learning experience for students. Here, blended learning models become an important way for universities to balance admissions as well as a safe learning environment for students.
As the name suggests, blended learning is a blend of online and face-to-face instruction. It usually consists of students interacting online to complete assignments, ask questions, collaborate with other students, and virtually meet with their instructor. Using blended learning, an instructor may have face-to-face instruction and also assign online tasks for students.
Impact on student engagement and skills development
The times of global uncertainty posed a large impact on mental health. Distance learning caused a sense of isolation which resulted in mental breakdown. It eventually raised a huge demand among students for mental health and counselling support. On the other hand, blended learning creates many learning possibilities, allowing students to choose the mode of interaction to suit their circumstances.
According to a 2010 study by the Department of Education, university students who participated in courses using blended models performed comparatively better than those in fully online or fully traditional courses.
Need for collaboration
Many types of research have shown that prolonged isolation can lead to heightened depression and other mental health challenges. Under these times of uncertainties, it is now more crucial to incorporate blended learning in the academic spectrum. This will then contribute towards strengthening the resilience amongst the students. There needs ti be collaboration among students through group discussions, debates, and sessions. It will provide students with an opportunity for a shared experience and interpersonal communication. This is crucial for their mental and physical wellbeing
New perspectives on education’s digital future
The recent shift from remote to blended learning has offered two-ways benefits to both students and instructors. It has given flexible classes, easy accessibility, and improved management of student engagement. But, this has also created other challenges significantly. such as lack of digital infrastructure-readiness and differences in digital capabilities. Further, instructors find it difficult to completely rethink course design and strategies to fully facilitate students online.
No matter whatever be the learning way, maintaining the best student experience should always be the topmost priority. As blended learning is becoming the new normal, there is a need for better-blended learning solutions in the post-pandemic era.