Backed by years of practice and development, blended learning is far from a novel concept. However, as the pandemic drives heated discussions on alternatives to in-person education, blended learning – from the term itself to further exploration of its effectiveness – has been put under the spotlight. In the meantime, the advancement of education technologies gives rise to innovative approaches, such as OMO learning, as future modes of education.
What Is Blended Learning?
Despite large volumes of discussions, blended learning remains without a clear definition and is often used interchangeably with hybrid learning in academia as well as online discussions. While popular conception generally recognizes the integration of technology-enabled or internet-based elements in classrooms as blended learning, more authoritative sources foreground the blend of virtual and in-person learning spaces.
For instance, most recently in 2021, UNESCO Bangkok published a policy brief to address the issue of enhancing online or blended learning for education equity and excellence in the Asia-Pacific, which broadly defines blended learning to be “the deliberate combination of online learning with face-to-face classroom-based learning”. Taking a step further, U.S. Department of Education proposed reduced in-class seat time as a concrete measure for hybrid/blended courses, which clearly pointed to a blend of spaces instead of simple incorporation of online resources.
..."the deliberate combination of online learning with face-to-face classroom-based learning".
What Are the Advantages of Blended Learning?
One of the most prominent and frequently discussed advantages of blended learning is expanded access for students. Reviewing existing literature on the learning method, international scholars emphasized that online technologies can “increase access to nontraditional and underserved students by bringing a host of educational resources and experiences to those who may have limited access to on-campus-only higher education”.
Along with diversification of learning resources is increased flexibility of when and how to access class materials. Researchers found that after Nanyang Technological University in Singapore adopted blended learning, students were able to access archived class recordings anytime and anywhere. More importantly, the method catered to students’ different learning styles as it incorporated audio, video, and text.
Beyond technological affordances and conveniences, blended learning has yielded proven learning results, where students exhibit a better understanding of course materials and stronger motivations. Analyzing four years of data from a course at Armstrong State University in Georgia, which transitioned from traditional in-person learning to blended learning, scholars observed “as good, if not better outcomes”. Similarly, the English Proficiency course at Nanyang Technological University achieved higher level student involvement following the adoption of synchronous discussion forums and streaming video. It is worth noting that students themselves reported that “they interacted well in the discussion, improved their understanding from peer review and enhanced their learning using this platform”.
What Are the Challenges of Blended Learning?
Despite the promise of more resources and flexibility, technology-enabled learning methods always bring up the question of who can afford such a transition. Asia Society noted that many faculty members in Philippine public schools either do not have or are not comfortable with digital computers and online platforms. In addition to difficulties of accessing electronics and stable internet connections, in rural areas of South and Southeast Asia, existing school curricula are not generally designed to be delivered remotely.
Technological support alone is not enough – successful implementation of blended learning also requires systematic efforts from the institution. Formally adopted the learning approach since around 2000, the University of Central Florida and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee both established robust structures on campus to facilitate the institutionalization and steady growth of blended learning, which included governance structures, registration systems, data collection and more. From the perspective of teachers, for instance, a UCF faculty member must first attend an 8-week workshop: “Every faculty member who teaches either a fully online or a blended course goes to a required faculty development program that runs
approximately eight weeks, and they are paired with an assigned instructional designer who is sort of their concierge to make the transition from the classroom to online and then works with them on an ongoing basis for updates and revisions and teaching courses and so on.”
On the other hand, the transition to blended learning can be challenging for students as well. At Singapore Management University, students in a blended learning module raised several major concerns, especially pertaining to the lack of interaction and communication channels in class. Moreover, students reported a need for more “fun and competition” and an absence of feedback from teachers.
One Step Further than Blended Learning – OMO Learning
As technological development inspires new educational approaches, Online-Merge-Offline learning builds on blended learning but also shines a light on in-class engagement and pedagogical considerations.
Like the name suggests, OMO learning seamlessly integrates online and offline spaces to provide an authentic learning experience, which is supported by education-centric technology and infrastructure – ClassIn X and ClassIn Smart Board. With multiple built-in communication channels and more than 20 classroom tools, OMO learning affords a highly interactive classroom and innovative activities. What further differentiates OMO learning from blended learning is its attention to the educational experience itself. Evaluating real-life cases of OMO learning, international researchers observed that it is “a long-term, sustainable implementation to ensure effective education, learner performance, and teacher engagement”.
..."a long-term, sustainable implementation to ensure effective education, learner performance, and teacher engagement".
As the pandemic rushes in discussions about the next technology-based revolution in the classroom, budding research on the OMO method lights the way for a promising future mode of learning with globally connected participants and uncompromised, if not better, learning outcomes.
Pilot Study on OMO Learning: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/6/3512/htm
About ClassIn: https://www.classin.com/en/
*ClassIn is a leading edtech company that provides a one-stop solution for digital learning.
ClassIn software enables interactive classrooms, in-school social app, lesson scheduling, homework management, and school management dashboard, which start free and scale up to meet our customers' needs at any stage of teaching. Today, thousands of schools and institutions around the world benefit from ClassIn's powerful and easy-to-use tools to teach online and offline.