Blended learning is quite a popular term used in both academic and corporate institutions today.It has been identified as one of the top trends in most higher educational institutions today.(Rooney, 2003).Some reports and articles have indicated that blended learning is a very effective way of passing knowledge through to learners and that it holds great promise for those that wise to integrate it into their educational system.
Several research on blended learning has been conducted, in which the researchers have tried to answer questions like; how is blended learning different than other terms like distributed learning, e-learning, and hybrid courses? How to manage the roles and responsibilities of those involved in blended? How to create a seamless learning experience and environment? All of these researches have contributed one way or another, in giving readers more knowledge about blended learning. They however, haven't really talked about how blended learning affects the educational system which we observe in today's world.
The main objective of this research is to gain an insight into how blended learning helps in the current education system we see around us? The author would also be looking into what blended learning really is, why integrate blended learning into the existing educational system? What current blended learning models exist? The author would be looking, to develop an understanding of the barriers and challenges that learners encounter, and the ways these issues can be solved, and finally, what the future directions of blended learning systems are.
General Facts about blended learning
The first question that pops into people's mind when they hear about blended learning, is what is blended learning? The truth is that, although blended learning has become a very popular term in different settings, many people still find it diffuclt to understand what it really is. (Woodcock, 2004). This section of the report aims to give readers an insight into what blended learning really is , why It should be integrated into current educational systems, and also to build on the knowledge they already have about blended learning.
There are various definitions of blended learning. Whitelock & Jefts (2003), Arbaugh (2005) and Peterson (2003) ,Alavi & Gallupe (2003) referred to Blended Learning as the combination of media and tools deployed in an e-learning environment, the integrated combination of traditional face to face learning with web based online approaches, and the combination of a number of pedagogical approaches. Blended learning could simply be defined as the combination of online learning and the traditional face to face method of learning.
There are numerous reasons why instructors, trainers, learners and other individuals might choose to adopt a blended approach towards learning. Six reasons why institutions of higher education might choose to design or integrate blending into their educational system were outlined by Osguthorpe and Graham. They are;
Access to knowledge
ease of revision and
Research by the University of Central Florida (UCF) has shown that while students and teachers indicated that a blended learning approach was very effective for them, they still complained about the loss of face to face interaction. Most faculties refer to blended learning as the best of both worlds, due to the fact that it also retains the face to face element. Blended learning serves as a stepping stone for faculties who are yet to familiarize themselves with a fully online environment, by enabling them to start a course that mostly involves the traditional face to face methods of teaching then branching out as their level of expertise increases.
Another benefit of blended learning is the fact that most individuals find it to be a very convenient way of learning. Students indicated, that they like the fact that they can learn in the comfort of their homes instead of commuting all the way to school. Also they indicated they like the fact that they learn at their own pace. Faster learners can simply move ahead of the class while slow learners can continue to view materials and topics they had been taught to further improve their knowledge on that topic.
Blended learning also has its disadvantages. Some students especially freshmen find it difficult to adopt their learning habits to fit the online learning methods. This are students who are new to the higher education setting and who are already accustomed to the traditional face to face method of learning. Blended learning also brings about financial challenges. The cost of establishing a lecture room ,with internet capabilities, projectors and seating for a lot of students, can be a stumbling block for some institutions that simply cannot afford to do so.
Norm Vaughan wrote an article for the International Journal on E-Learning on the Perspectives on Blended Learning in Higher Education. In the article he discussed the benefits and limitations of blended learning in institutions of the higher education setting. He further explained that Students indicated that students that enrolled in blended courses felt very satisfied with their overall performance in the course. He outlined that the reason why most faculty integrate blending into their system is because it improves teacher student interaction.They also stated that, lack of time, acquisition of new teaching and technological skills and support and resources for course redesign were some of the challenges they faced with blended courses. From an administrative perspective, he pointed out that blended learning presents expansion opportunities to an institution's educational offerings, opportunity to enhance an institution's reputation and opportunities to minimize overall operating costs. He outlined that administrators indicated that it was difficult for them to fuse blended learning with their institutional goals.
Research on blended learning was conducted by Oxford Brookes University. Their intention was to gain a broader insight into blended learning,by identifying past studies and making recommendations for the future. The researchers also aimed at finding out, how blended learning affected the student experience. What are the factors to consider when integrating blended learning into their educational system? Results from the study show that students seem to prefer blended courses to courses offered in the traditional face to face format,due to the flexibility and convinience of the courses.
Both research papers aim to give a better insight into blended learning in relation to the present educational system which we observe. Norm Vaughan basically, highlighted some benefits and limitations of blended learning in the higher education setting.The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University for the Higher Education Academy identified key studies and issues about blended learning in their research. The articles would help the author to gain more knowledge about blended learning and particularly help answer the research topic, which is how; does Blended Learning help in current education system?
Scope and Limitations
When the author wanted to decide on the research topic, he looked for a phenomenon that was getting widespread attention and also a phenomenon that people wanted to know more about. Blended learning has gained increasing popularity all over the world and seemed like a very nice topic to talk about. Blended learning as a topic was very broad and the author had to focus on a particular piece of the broad topic. Many research had be conducted on the topic, answering many questions and clearing many doubts in the process. But, no one had yet conducted a research on the impact blended learning has on higher education today.
It wasn't difficult to find articles and papers that help broaden the knowledge in which the author had on blended learning. The author has the World Wide Web to thank for that. This is the first major research the author is going to conduct and the lack of expertise in the field of research means the author would have a mountain ahead of him. But with help from the internet and supervisors, the author feels the research he plans to conduct will go pretty smoothly and according to planed.
The author's intended audience is students, instructors, administrators and other individuals, who might have an association with any institution of higher education. No knowledge is a waste. The author feels, his research topic, will give the targeted audience an in-depth pool of knowledge about the research topic, to add to their existing pool of knowledge (if they posses any at all).
This report was just to give readers an insight into what blended learning was, in case they did not already know and also discuss issues regarding blended learning that other authors have failed to address. As said earlier, most articles an reports indicate that blended learning is a very effective way of transferring knowledge and that it holds great promise for the future. Blended Learning is here to stay. The author, believe it is the natural evolution of e-learning. The author aims to conduct further studies on blended learning to answer various questions other authors have failed to answer and to gain a better understanding of the blended learning in general.