A comprehensive guide to blended learning & flipped classrooms

A whirl full of major transitions from manual or old-fashioned systems to more automated and digitally upgraded systems can be seen after the internet contributed to modernising the world. Out of these transformations are classroom environments. Education is enormously affected by new technologies. Millennials of this age are provided with diverse choices of opportune to gain education. They can find tutors, self-study, read books, discuss with peers, anywhere, at any time. Therefore, the internet is not only used to enhance education it augments the knowledge of its users – student or not. Schools and higher education institutions are technologically upgrading to smart schools. Educational institutions have to be smarter and shrewder by every passing minute because they are the hub of educating students to be wiser, and now students have many other options too. Like allowing flexible learning backgrounds such as the ‘Blended Learning’ backgrounds for their students. This article will help you understand the great significance of blended learning and what flipped classrooms are. This intelligence would be assistive for you to smoothly transverse into the no-so-long-away world of education that uses innovation and hi-tech equally.

But before that let us learn what virtual classrooms are…

Introducing Virtual classrooms

Virtual Classrooms refer to web-based classrooms where the educational benefactor and the benefitted are connected via the internet. A virtual space is shared by both the parties to receive and send ideas through call or video. It is the digital alternative for traditional classrooms which we are very familiar with at schools and universities. Usually, a virtual classroom requires a tutor, a student or many, interconnected devices via the internet, a mutual platform of communication. Virtual classrooms usually would incorporate tools that support the knowledge deliveries to transfer smoothly from one end to the other, such as: 

  • Participation tool
    The tutors can use this tool to control who will participate and not to the session. Illegible students or students who interrupt the session from going smoothly can be denied by restricting their participation using this tool
  • Video Conferencing tools
    This tool allows the students to look at the teacher face-to-face during class through a webcam. The teacher’s facial expressions, gestures, traditional whiteboards can all be seen online by the student and vice versa.
  • Breakout rooms (Splitting tool)
    The host (the teacher most of the time) can use this tool to split large classrooms into smaller groups for discussions appropriately. They can appoint leaders and split other students under groups and carry out tasks and train or supervise them when needed. 
  • Smart whiteboards and other lecture materials 
    Smart tools like an online whiteboard that can assist the teacher in teaching can be housed in the virtual classroom as needed. Other tools such as automated attendance markers, assessment management software, feedback management software, calendars, event planners and more can usually be housed in teacher management systems for the teacher’s preference by high tech software providers. 
  • Instant messaging tool
    This two-way tool can be used by the students and teachers to communicate through chat messages directly. Teachers can deliver their feedback, review and command the students while the students can use it to clarify doubts, comment, share opinions or inform the tutor about something.

Types of virtual classrooms

Virtual classrooms can be of different types based on the method of pedagogies used by the teachers to teach their students. Some of these types are:

  • Adaptive learning through AI
  • Badging and Gamification of classes
  • Blended Learning
  • Using E-textbooks at class
  • Data mining to change learning environments 
  • Personalised Learning
  • Augmented or Virtual Tech classrooms

Among these types, Blended Learning stands out from being celebrated as a mixture of tradition and trend.

Blended Learning

Blended Learning refers to a hybrid learning environment which uses both the traditional in-class methods and innovative online learning background into play consecutively. A teacher will interact with the teachers throughout the process via online resources used in virtual classes and tangible resources used in a real-world classroom.  This collective approach gives birth to a ‘personalised’ learning environment. Because the student will be in charge of what to learn and when to learn it. As many conventional classes are time-based, meaning they require all students to learn the same lesson at the same time, blended classes are more inclined towards the level of mastery of each student. They can take their own time to master the class and ask personalised questions and help from the tutor when they meet them in class.

To explain it in a different manner, there are two extremes of understanding a student’s level in class:

  • the student knows too much- the class would be too boring for him/ her 
  • the student is pointlessly listening and spaced-out from class- the student will be lost 

In both of these cases, there’s one aspect to say in common, which is ‘they have no attention in class’. Blended learning is an amazing technique to find a middle path that would facilitate students at these high ends or in between. Given below are some advantages of Blended Learning which can also help you better understand what blended learning means to a student or a teacher who is in search for a more flexible medium to deliver lessons. 

Advantages of Blended Learning

Learn familiarity-wise

The students can decide how fast they want to learn based on their interest. Which means the students who are very familiar with the lessons can fast forward the lesson or skip familiar parts while students who are not familiar at all can take time, pause lessons to get down notes or re-watch each chapter until they are familiar with it. Therefore, Blended Teaching is undoubtedly very flexible and highly student-oriented.

Blended Learning is rarely time-based

Both ‘day larks’ and ‘night owls’ can participate in their online sessions because the lessons are not based on time. All the students have to do is get prepared before they join their in-class activities which are mainly group activities, discussions and assessment submissions. Unless it is ‘flipped classes’(discussed further in the article), blended learning is not bound to work on a timely basis.

Students can take breaks!

Every student would prefer a small break now and then. Blended Learning allows students to get breaks when they feel that the learning process is tiring or too stressful to be grasped all at once. 

Active Workover Inactive Listening and close Supervision

Students can use their time in class to apply what they learned online to practical use. For example, if the online-blended lesson was about shapes. They can use instruments to make shapes during the in-class method with their peers while the teacher is supervising or coaching them. The teacher is readily accessible in class to clarify the student’s doubts and closely assist the students when they are discussing or doing group assignments. 

Modes of Blended Learning

There are a few modes of blended learning, some being:

  1. Rotation Model
    Students revolve on a fixed hybrid schedule that is comprised of both online lessons and in-class activities.
    Ex: Flipped Classrooms, Individual Rotation
  2. Flex Model
    The online activities are primary and in-class activities are secondary. In-class activities are used only if it is required by the students for the teacher to coach him or her in person. Students move on fluid curriculums that suit their standing. As the name portrays this mode is ‘Flexible’. 
  3. Enriched Virtual Model
    Main course work of the students is completed at home, but they will have to visit the school for in-class. But it is not based on a routine like in the Rotation Model.
  4. A La Carte Model
    In this model, the teacher is online, where the group of students will be using a device- laptop, widened digitally projected scape- to connect with the teacher. The students will be in a brick-and-mortar class while the teacher is connected to them online.

Flipped Classrooms explained in detail

Flipped classrooms refer to the action of re-arranging the traditional learning pedagogy upside down. The learning sessions would be held online, and the practical application of knowledge (homework) will be made in class. The student will have to listen to the lecturer, take notes, read the eBooks, do research at home via the internet. In class the student will focus on discussing with other students, debate, presentations, submit homework, right answers and so on.       

Flipped classrooms are mainly based on a routine, where the teacher has more control compared to other blended methods. Because the teacher will assign tasks, dates and time for both online and offline sessions, therefore, this method is highly recommended compared to other blended methods, especially when the classes are your teenagers and youngsters. 

Advantage of Flipped Classrooms

  • It’s more preferred by 21st-century students
    • Class transparency
    • Requires a lot of peer-to-peer interaction
    • Mastery-oriented
    • Busy and challenged students can facilitate from it 
    • Different from boring approaches
  • Doesn’t require the latest technologies. It can be established by using commonly used technologies
  • Many classes who have exercised this method gives positive feedbacks

Disadvantages of Blended Learning

Flipped classrooms are one of the most appreciated types of blended learning techniques. Blended Learning can also have its drawbacks. Like the affordability of the technological elements by the teachers and students. Some people who are naturalised with general or traditional in-class lessons, they would face adaptability issues. Also, student’s attendance and online attendance cannot be relied on. Student’s might also not always come prepared to the classrooms at their learning spaces or institutions, where the teacher would have to allocate time to repeat what they have already taught online. Moreover, mode switching from online and offline might not be convenient for some teachers or even busy students who work. But, advantages of the blended learning techniques outweigh its disadvantages, since it allows a more controlled midway for both and students to get a taste of the comfort that technology conveys for education.

Blended Learning can be introduced as a mild mode of entering the future of education without undergoing a technological shock. Since this method, as the name helps you determine, is a ‘blend’ of traditional and futuristic methods of learning pedagogies. This can be identified as a landmark of education all around the world. Overlooking the ease and compatibility that technology allows students, teachers and educational bodies are impossible to overlook nowadays. Therefore, it’s best to be aware of the transitions that blended learning and other digitised mediums that enhance knowledge of the new generation. 

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