Five Tips for Getting Started with Blended Learning

The pervasive use of technology in homes, businesses and schools makes blended learning a natural fit for today's Gen Z digital natives. In fact, students born in the early 2000s don't know a time without high speed internet, tablets, digital cameras, music downloads or mobile phones.

Blended learning, a mix of online and traditional instruction, mirrors how most students already consume content. They are adept at seeking out information on their own, and sharing and discussing it.

However, before bringing blended learning to your classroom, there are several issues to consider. Taking time to plan your blended learning strategy, and the tools you'll use, will make the transition smoother.

Here are five considerations for getting started:

1. Your blend

According to Blended Model Universe, blend examples include:

  • Station Rotation: Students rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is online.
  • Lab Rotation: Students rotate through stations on a fixed schedule. Online learning occurs in a dedicated computer lab.
  • Individual Rotation: Students rotate through stations, but on individual schedules set by a teacher or software algorithm.
  • Flex: Students move on fluid schedules among learning activities according to their needs. Online learning is the backbone of student learning in a Flex model. Teachers provide support and instruction on a flexible, as-needed basis.
  • Enriched Virtual: An alternative to full-time online school that allows students to complete most coursework online at home or outside of school, but attend school for required face-to-face learning sessions with a teacher.

2. Technology delivery and access

Technological access is crucial to blended learning. Carefully consider the platform you'll use to deliver your digital content. Online management is key to creating a successful blended learning environment. Also, consider challenges for students who may not have access to technology at home. Perhaps they can access content before or after school in a computer lab or check out laptops to take home.

3. Learning expectations

Learning in a blended environment can be exciting for students. However, it's important to review the basics of blended learning, and how the technology should be used in class and at home. Students will benefit if you walk them a sample lesson, review learning stations and take them through the blended learning platform before beginning. Communicating the blended learning approach with parents will also help with home support as students make the transition.

4. Design in-person instruction

In-person instruction is just as important as technology in blended learning. Many teachers find delivering in-person content in small groups to be more effective than in a large group. Think about not only the type of instruction you will deliver, but how your classroom will be designed to accommodate in-person instruction. Will you work with another teacher or an aide? In addition to delivering instruction, you will also float around the classroom helping students complete other tasks and assessing their learning.

5. Introduce blended learning slowly

Start with one class or unit and see how it goes. Keep a test and revision mindset as you teach, to gain deeper insight into how your students interact with the technology. Remember, while most students are adept at working with technology, some will be less experienced than others. And all students will be encountering a new learning platform, so plan for enough time to teach them how to use the technology. Be prepared for hiccups along the way. There will be bugs to work out. Be patient with your students, and yourself.

"27 tips to set up your blended learning classroom." Legends of Learning Blog. March 8, 2017. Web. https://www.legendsoflearning.com/blog/27-tips-set-blended-learning-classroom/

"Blended Learning Models." Blended Learning Universe. 2017. Web. https://www.blendedlearning.org/models

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