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Is Blended Learning The Future Classroom?
Blended learning seems to be the way forward, but what does this mean for educators, students and institutes? What are the needs of the hour and how do we prepare for the future?
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The new generation classroom may be blended, especially when it comes to academic learning. But where does this leave the traditional curriculum? Even the National Education Policy 2020 states that up to 40 per cent of learning may be online. Technology is now essential in the classroom and in 2020 we have seen the rise of many edtech and eLearning platforms. Yet, educators still struggle to engage students. What are the real challenges of blended learning? And what are the technological solutions available?
Educators are mostly in agreement that blended learning is the future.
Balkrishna Shetty, Vice-Chancellor, Sri Siddhartha University, explained, “We use an ‘Answer first and discuss next’ methodology. This is what is called a flipped classroom. We do not teach, we ask.”
Distance and remote learning have put the onus on the student to know course material. Therefore, the educator’s role becomes one of answering questions, clearing doubt and creating discussion in class. Preeti Bajaj, Vice-Chancellor, Galgotia University, states, “It is going to be the stealing or learning, un-learning and re-learning. These are the 3 words which every teacher has to adapt.”
The focus has shifted from teacher-centric to students centric. As Shetty states, “There are so many softwares. The newer generation classrooms are nothing, but where the students can learn for themselves, so we need to give that autonomy to students.”
Experts believe that for blended learning and distance learning to work, students and educators need to work together to find a way forward.
Dr G T Thampi, Principal, Thadomal Shahani Engineering College asserts, “The autonomy must live with the institutions to decide the course of action.”
The Key IT Needs
IT infrastructure is the need of the hour for education institutes to be able to deliver quality education.
Mukesh Nihalwani, Sales Head – Pvt Education, Lenovo India, brought to light the true demands that came with the pandemic, number one being, devices. Second, the software will ensure seamless delivery of class and teaching tools. He adds, “Everyone wants more visibility on student progress and ensuring devices are securely monitored and protected.”
Lenovo offers three Portfolios that would address the key needs of education leader and help them create an executive or learning plan. This includes:
- Cybersecurity: Content filtering, student safety, next-gen antivirus and device security.
- Remote class management: manage live class session effectively with tools to share and filter content, screen monitoring, content delivery and calibration tool.
- Instructional resources: Tech-enabled social learning stem readiness and digital care.
The ‘Lenovo Smart Classroom,’ which provides an intelligent interactive education solution combining artificial intelligence big data cloud computing and other advanced technology that empowered Institute to better organise instruction works. Lenovo also has an affordable alternative in their DASH devices.
Returning To The Classroom
Although online learning is the predominant form of education, educators still believe that once the ongoing coronavirus pandemic stabilises, institutes will return to the physical classrooms.
GT Thampi, “learners are not essentially intrinsically motivated, therefore, for foreseeable future, there is massive scope for brick-and-mortar universities in classrooms.”
With a switch to an online mode of learning, the pressure of studies has fallen on the student and parents. The absence of a classroom and learning environment can be distracting for many students. Thampi argues that examinations are essential to learning, stating that, “Once they know it is an online examination, people stop learning.”
Preeti Bajaj turns to continuous assessment as the solution. She states, “Continuous assessment is going to be a very important parameter of what is blended learning, online learning or e-learning. Assessment is going to give you a film through which a student’s progress is measured.”
KNB Murthy, Vice-Chancellor, Dayanand Sagar University of Bangalore adds to this, commenting, “The idea is not to pass or fail. The idea is to check whether the approach is right.”
As Mukesh Nihalwani stated, “Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology may replace those who do not.”
Educators seem to agree that the online mode of education is the solution to the current problem, but not the solution to education. It is essential to have the tools available for special circumstances such as the pandemic or with students with special needs. Overall, the consensus lies with a blended classroom system, where teaching must be face-to-face with the student, but learning can happen anywhere.