November 13, 2020
The pandemic changed the educational landscape dramatically and has given the world a glimpse of how teaching and learning can change for the better (or worse). It has taken on the form as a catalyst for educational institutions to search for new and flexible learning solutions. New models such as blended, hybrid and online learning are in the making – but what does this mean and how does it all come together?
When schools re-opened in September, educational institutions were under great pressure to establish and provide excellent standards of teaching, with educators instructed to find a way to teach students both in the classroom and when at home. With no choice but to innovate, a flexible method, known as the blended learning approach is a combination of an offline and online instruction where students interact with their teacher through a video conferencing tool in the classroom, as well as through having access to voice-over materials and/or assessments in their online platform. This is understood as a type of fusion between traditional educational and modern digital methodology, which is now one of the most established trends for the continuum of 21st century education within the times of the pandemic. For those schools that have got it right, the great advantage of a blended learning approach is that it offers the best it can from both worlds – the advantages of the online education merged with the benefits of remotely taking part in a live lesson within a traditional classroom.
The combination of traditional brick-and-mortar instruction and an online model is another type of transformational educational approach coming to life. Think of it as a teacher-facilitated online school, which delivers personalised one to one interaction for the learner, as well as the opportunity to attend school onsite to take part in social interaction with their peers. At the heart of these schools is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous lessons, planned and delivered by expert subject specialist teachers where lessons are delivered via video conferencing platforms and supported by adaptive learning technologies or tools. Students are also given the option to study onsite on a weekly, termly or residential basis, as it serves them best. This has resulted in taking a whole school experience – from lessons to extra curricular, to week led assemblies and tutor groups all online and in person. Adopted by innovators, hybrid schools are a unique offering of their own, delivering a blend of both the traditional and new, through flexible and personalised educational approaches, tailored as appropriate for the student.
Finally, there is the wholly online model concept of flipped learning where through self-study materials, students are given the opportunity to learn online anytime, in any place and anywhere. Popularly known as distance learning (as seen with The Open University), students receive a high quality virtual educational experience and are invited to take part in a range of lessons, clubs, seminars, and societies online to create a sense of belonging and respect for one another. As a response to the pandemic in education, The Oak Academy is one such enterprise set up by the Department of Education, which provides video lessons for students followed by an assessment and worksheets. This method, completely online, relies on students taking ownership of their learning to make progress with it.
We are in a process of transitioning from traditional learning structures to new and flexible online learning experiences, creating and adopting extensions of all possible models. It is likely that some schools will pursue with blended learning and carry on until a vaccine is introduced, where thereafter school will return to normal. However, for those schools that are ready to re-imagine and re-invent education, the world, as it is said, is their oyster.