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Making full use of technology

May 09, 2006

Learning doesn't take place only in the classroom.


I thought I would put down some thoughts about how schools might use technology to further the concept of blended learning. The human brain, as we know, is more powerful than any computer and it never switches off. Learning can go on twenty-four hours a day so there is no need to limit teaching to the classroom. Blended learning involves a combination of methods of delivering tuition so that you achieve the flexibility to adapt to your learners’ needs. It is possible to accommodate part-time students, pre- and post-course students—in fact anybody who needs a course should be able to find an appropriate means of access no matter what their circumstances. The traditional face-to-face classes can be supplemented ...

...with interactive web-learning, telephone lessons, CD-ROMs, live tutoring using a webcam—all that modern technology enables. Learners can pick and mix the learning program that suits their timetable and their pocket and can tap into learning at any time. Schools can offer a greater variety of programs and thus, in theory at least, attract more students.

However, the implementation of blended learning requires careful planning and monitoring. Supposing, for example, you set up some web-based modules that students can follow at home. How will you ensure that they complete the work and don't skip the parts they find difficult or boring? To avoid this it is a good idea to have a debriefing session with a tutor for each e-learning component that a student undertakes. Another potential problem with e-learning is that the student can be frustrated if technical or user problems arise. You may need to think about a hotline to support students when they have such difficulties. And that of course could really raise questions about cost-effectiveness.

You need also to plan what activities are suitable for e-learning: will you be testing, consolidating, or extending their knowledge? And who will design the courses: can your existing staff do that? Will you need to outsource or can you buy into an existing system? The question of who will be responsible for the e-learning must be raised too. Can the D.O.S. take this on or should it be a separate post?

Be careful too not to give the impression that your technology-based modules are somehow less important than face-to-face teaching—you could incorporate an assessment of the e-learning in your final evaluation of the student’s progress to ensure that it is seen as a crucial course component. As with all the services you offer, to be competitive you have to get the formula right.

Let me know what you are doing in your school?
Back soon,

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  1. Leah ED205 Says:

    Your concerns about web-learning are very interesting to me. I believe that an online course can be just as effective, if not more effective, as a face-to-face class- if it is managed properly. You cannot ensure that students won't skip parts, but these students will not perform very well on assessments. The professor should not say, read this, look at this webpage, and take this test. They should have online conversations with their students, hold online labs and online work that you cannot skip steps. The students work should be formatted to where they can't be lazy and skip steps. Online courses could very well hold more work for the professor.

    I don't know how much I am in support of blended learning. When you're in high school, you have a lot on your plate. You have 7 different courses that have homework, your involved in sports and outside clubs, and you have to find time to have dinner and maybe watch Grey's Anatomy. To add online components to just 2 of those classes would increase the homework load from 2 hours to maybe 4 or 5 and you wouldn't have time to breathe. At the college level, blended learning makes more sense but again, I don't agree. I personally work 40 hours a week and I go to school, if I had to take inclass courses that had online components, I wouldn't have time to do anything. I believe that you either do face to face or you do online. With online courses, you have to be careful to manage the course well. Putting limits on when each assignment can be done and having assessments/labs every week will ensure that students will work on that class more than once a semester.

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