Blended learning, if properly designed can harness the best features of each type of learning on a case by case basis determined by the subjects of interest. The online element of blended learning is not just about the actual content, but on the ability to reach students wherever they physically reside and at any time of the day.
A combination of classroom-based activities and online learning can be beneficial if the right formula is applied. The variety of media types that can now be accessed online is growing rapidly, using voice, video, multimedia and numerous online applications. The classroom and online activities must be carefully dovetailed to ensure that both compliment each other and indeed there should be the ability to almost seamlessly switch from on to the other.
Hybrid learning, another name for blended is now used in many situations, with the most common being used by corporate organisations, although higher education establishments such as colleges and universities are also embracing it. Clever course management systems can be used, not only to connect with the audience, but also to store and track the learning material, maintain records, allow participants to track their progress and allow interaction between lecturers, students and administrators. The online element of the learning can allow lecturers to upload additional material following a classroom-based session and also to set out of class tasks.
Although classroom-based learning does allow interaction between learners and their tutors, online learning can provide this interaction at a time to suit the student where necessary. Training courses that have a practical element can have the majority of lectures uploaded to an online system backed up by classroom workshops. A big hurdle that sometimes needs to be overcome with hybrid learning is in the fact that tutors must be familiar with online learning techniques and indeed trained in its effective use if necessary. The students themselves must fully appreciate what is required of them and what they should expect to achieve from the two different styles of learning.
Some training providers are opting to put a lot of training courses online, which can have a lot of benefits for students, but also a lot of benefits for the training providers themselves, least of all the financial benefits of not having such a large pool of training facilitators and the fact that potentially a larger audience can be reached via the Internet. Increasingly more learners, due to their familiarity with Internet technologies are finding online learning very attractive, but providers must not lose sight of the goal, which is often to ensure the students become more effective in the workplace.
A blended learning approach is probably a more flexible and effective approach, but will require classroom-based workshops to back up the online learning materials. This will need to be thought out carefully and require a good systematic approach to the design of the training or learning program. The design will almost invariably be more complex and of course their is a logistical element that needs to be carefully thought out if students are to have the right balance of online sessions and face to face workshops.