to illustrate the blended learning concept

Blended Learning: The Right Solution For The Covid-19 Problem

The coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe at an alarming rate, leaving a trail of chaos and uncertainty in its wake.

In a bid to control the spread of the virus, most countries have imposed drastic lockdowns, but fearing a major economic setback, they’ve had no choice but to gradually lift the restrictions. However, when it comes to one of the hardest hit sectors – education – many countries are yet to make a final decision regarding the fate of schools and academic institutions.

According to UNESCO, almost 70% of the world’s students are not attending school! Shocking, isn’t it? Although both policymakers as well as parents are reluctant to risk the well-being of children and further spread the virus, they realise that students cannot afford to rack up any more academic backlog.

To sustain education, instructors, both in the private and public sectors, have turned to elearning. But, unfortunately, the 100% online learning route may not be a feasible solution because

  1. Online courses are inaccessible to learners from poor backgrounds,
  2. Most instructors themselves require training to use technology,
  3. Current courses are yet to be tailored to suit online learning,
  4. Many courses call for hands-on training rather than theoretical knowledge, and
  5. Poor motivation among learners leading to higher dropout rates

On the corporate front, Learning & Development (L&D) teams face similar challenges. Regular training sessions have had to take a backseat in the face of COVID-19, as the first priority of any company is to ensure that employee productivity is not hampered in any way while transitioning to a work-from-home model. Furthermore, most employees today are overwhelmed trying to integrate their work and personal lives, making it difficult for them to focus on conventional L&D courses.

This is where blended learning comes in – it’s the right approach to address the problems of young as well as adult learners!

What is Blended Learning?

Also known as hybrid learning, blended learning is the integration of traditional face-to-face learning with online learning, essentially letting students enjoy the best of both worlds. For example, students can learn Chemistry via live video calls and/or by reading online material, followed by a day at the lab with their instructor. In the case of an organisation, employees can learn a new soft skill by watching engaging videos on their smartphones, which can be followed by a live group discussion moderated by the instructor.

The New Normal

It does not come as a surprise that blended learning is being hailed as the new normal. Recently, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Rohtak came up with a mathematical model proposing a blended learning approach. In their paper, they recommend that students should attend school for a week while following social distancing protocol, and then attend online sessions for two weeks while self-quarantining at home. The paper also suggests that schools should operate in three shifts to teach students in three different groups.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) seems to be on the same wavelength as IIM-Rohtak, for in a much-needed move, they have allowed colleges and universities to offer up to 40% of their coursework online, which is double of what was permitted so far!

Why Blended Learning?

Let’s take a look at why blended learning is the most effective antidote to COVID-induced learning challenges:

Flexibility

Learners can access course material at any time on their smartphone, tablet or computer, allowing them to study whenever time permits.

Personalised Learning

It is next to impossible for one instructor to cater to the needs of every student or employee owing to their sheer numbers. However, with blended learning, you can leverage adaptive learning and assessments so that students can learn at a pace that is comfortable for them.

Higher Completion Rates

The lack of peer pressure, adequate supervision, and social interaction while learning online, leaves students with no incentive to complete the course. However, blended learning intersperses online learning with group discussions, live simulations, fun quizzes and games, and regular video calls with instructors, thus ensuring higher completion rates.

Ease of Gathering Feedback

When you collect feedback using a survey at the end of a course, you can be sure that most of the data is unreliable. However, with blended learning and the use of a Learning Management System (LMS), you can easily measure and track the learner’s performance, which will also give you insights into the effectiveness of the course and potential problem areas.

After relaxing restrictions, several nations, including India, are witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, cementing the fact that the virus is here to stay awhile. So, for education and learning to continue, academic institutions and L&D teams will need to adapt the blended learning approach and embrace the new normal.

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