Blended Learning refers to a mixing of different learning environments. The phrase has many specific meanings based upon the context in which it is used. Blended learning gives learners and teachers a potential environment to learn and teach more effectively.
Whether a course should be proposed as a face-to-face interaction, an online course or a blended course depends on the analysis of the competences at stake, the nature and location of the audience, and the resources available. Depending on the cross-analysis of these 3 parameters, the course designer will opt for one of the 3 options. In his course scenario he/she will then have to decide which parts are online, which parts are offline. A basic example of this is a course of English as a second language where the instructor reaches the conclusion that all audio-based activities (listening comprehension, oral expression) will take place in the classroom where all text-based activities will take place online (reading comprehension, essays writing).
BLENDED learning increases the options for greater quality and quantity of human interaction in a learning environment. Blended learning offers learners the opportunity “to be both together and apart.” A community of learners can interact at any time and anywhere because of the benefits that computer-mediated educational tools provide. Blended learning provides a ‘good’ mix of technologies and interactions, resulting in a socially supported, constructive, learning experience; this is especially significant given the profound effect that it could have on distance learning.
Role of the instructor
The instructor can combine two or more methods of teaching method. A typical example of blended learning methodology would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions to present content.
An instructor can begin a course with a well-structured introductory lesson in the classroom, and then proceed with follow-up materials online. Blended learning can also be applied to the integration of e-learning with a Learning Management System using computers in a physical classroom, along with face-to-face instruction. Guidance is suggested early in the process, to be used more sparingly as learners gain expertise.
The role of the instructor is critical as this requires a transformation process to that of learning facilitator. Quite often, with the increase of baby boomers going back to school and pursuing higher education the skills required for technology use are limited. Instructors then find themselves more in the role of assisting students with computer skills and applications, helping them access the internet, and encouraging them to be independent learners. Blended learning takes time for both the instructor and learner to adapt to this relatively new instructional concept.