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Hybrid learning is such a commonplace in today’s digital age that it has become almost synonymous with “learning” itself. Also known as blended learning, hybrid learning is the idea that instruction can take place in both digital and physical environments.
Many pedagogical methods that take place in a traditional classroom are very conducive to online learning. For instance, a round robin – which involves students generating ideas on a piece of paper then passing to another student to critically assess and add ideas – is simple to translate to the online environment. Discussions can take place in person or in online forums. Students can submit work online, and receive feedback from teachers electronically as well.
Technology has enabled instructors not only to add to the traditional classroom experience, but to transform it overall. Instructors don’t simply sub out teaching that would have taken place online, but instead are able to run class in different ways.
For instance, classes that are only held once a week in person have traditionally been hamstrung when it comes to daily activities, because students can only submit once per week. Now, however, teachers can ask students to submit a short reflection, subsection of a paper, problem set or other type of homework on a daily basis. This gives the teacher a better chance to integrate with students and give them the best chance to succeed.
There are many more benefits of hybrid learning besides. Here are 12 of the most amazing, and some serious food for thought if you’re considering going to graduate school online.
One of the most obvious, but nevertheless most amazing, benefits of hybrid learning is the fact that it offers unparalleled convenience. While the face-to-face requirements of classroom learning still dictate certain set times and hours, you will be able to do much of your work at the time and place of your choosing. Because many people have responsibilities, jobs, families and other duties to take care of while attending school, this offers the option of meeting such obligations without the restraint that physical school causes.
Online schools are considerably cheaper than physical college or university educations. While you have reduced access to on-campus technology, and therefore have to buy your own equipment (such as a laptop), most people don’t find this to be a burden. The reduced rate of tuition more than makes up for it. Plus, since online degrees can often be obtained in less time than face-to-face degrees often require, you save money there. Add in the fact that online school offers more online materials and requires fewer expensive books, and you have a real bargain.
One of the downsides of purely online courses is that, with little face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers, there tends to be less accountability. Even conscientious students benefit from seeing others in their chosen fields from time to time, both to keep them from getting off track and to get them excited. If you want to keep up momentum throughout your school career, having some in-person interaction is a great way to do it.
Flexibility is also a key feature of hybrid learning. While campus time brings many benefits, the location can pose trouble for some who can’t make it in several days a week – or, in the case of many programs, every day. Luckily, with blending learning programs, you don’t have to make it to a physical classroom every day, but can instead live considerably further away. Some programs only require you meet once a week, while others go a step further, gathering for an intensive month once or twice a year and allowing you to live wherever you want the rest of the time.
#5 Face Time
Online courses are a great way to expand your knowledge base and learn new skills. But while online classes can prepare you for new careers and measurably improve job opportunities, they sometimes lack the depth and quality of classes that incorporate one-on-one time with teachers. For one thing, when you have face time with teachers, you’re able to form a much stronger bond than when the relationship is purely electronic. This benefits your education, provides mentorship opportunities, and creates relationships with people who can later write letters of recommendation and provide valuable references.
Differentiation is a major buzzword in education, and not just at the elementary level. The idea behind differentiation is that people learn at different rates and in different ways, and need to be accommodated if they’re to be most successful in academia and life. Some students, for instance, need larger print when viewing slides, while others need translations, have focus problems or need alternative supports.
Hybrid education makes responsive teaching much more possible. Instead of having to manually create differentiation, instructors can simply upload various slide sets, assignments or comments based on the specific student’s needs. Plus, online education naturally incorporates a lot of differentiation, allowing students to translate content, make screens larger and work from the comfort of their own individual spaces.
One of the criticisms of blended learning since its inception is that it must not be as effective as traditional education in a college or university setting. However, in the last decade, studies have shown repeatedly that online and blended learning is just as effective as the traditional model, and in many ways more so, for one simple reason: More people can access it.
#8 Expanded Access
As with flexibility, distance can pose a problem to some people when it comes to accessing education. Some people simply don’t have the ability to leave an area for years in order to achieve an education. Perhaps you have ailing parents to care for, a job you don’t want to (or can’t afford to) leave yet or simply want to stay in your beloved hometown. With blended programs, you can stay, and commit to short in-person periods to round out your program.
People learn at different rates; that’s just a fact. However, in the traditional face-to-face model, there isn’t a lot of room for self-pacing. The student must attend lectures as they occur, submit work on the same timeline as everyone else, and attend teacher office hours when they pop up. Unfortunately, this tends to leave some students in the dust. With blended learning, self-pacing is much more available: students can watch online lectures at their own leisure, submit homework in batches and contact the teacher electronically with ease.
As with differentiation and self-pacing, there is a high degree of personalization to hybrid learning. For one thing, the student sets up their own learning environment: workstation, lighting, music, etc., which is often more conducive to actually absorbing materials than sitting in a classroom at 8 a.m. For another, you can arrange your lecture time the way you like, choose which differentiation options work best, and model all your other courses off of these options.
Hybrid learning can result in higher engagement in two ways. Firstly, students tend to be more engaged in learning when they are more in control of the process. Most of the above benefits demonstrate that students who immerse themselves in a blended learning model are significantly more in control than those subject to traditional schedules. For another, the face-to-face component ensures that learners still have the rich, multifaceted experience resulting from interaction with teachers and peers.
#12 Deeper Learning
Plenty of traditional courses go into great detail, but with one problem: students are either there for it or they aren’t. If they miss a class, are sick or tired, or otherwise can’t pay attention closely, they may miss a considerable amount of material. With hybrid learning, that can’t happen, because students will always have access to lecture materials, assignment explanations and other important course components online.
Even this long list doesn’t represent the full range of benefits of hybrid learning. If you’d like to learn more about how hybrid learning can help you, feel free to check out the other articles on this site, or contact the program you’re thinking about and ask questions. Whichever path you take, hybrid learning can help you gain new knowledge and skills throughout life, and is one of the biggest developments of the 21st century. Use it wisely and well, and reap the benefits!