What is Blended Learning?

If you’re familiar with online learning, you’ve probably heard of ‘blended learning’ before. But what exactly is it? And how can it benefit you as a learner?

Katie Broadbent - 31 August 2021 · 12 min read

For those of you who are familiar with the world of online learning, there’s no doubt that you’ll probably have come across the term ‘blended learning’ before. 

As a concept, it’s risen in popularity over the past few years, with its advantages transforming the way educators deliver their online programmes. And yet, there’s still some ambiguity around its definition and what it means for you as a student pursuing an online course

So what is blended learning? And why is it relevant to you as an online learner? Read our full article below for a detailed introduction, along with the benefits it offers ambitious young learners.

What is blended learning?

Essentially, blended learning is an approach to education that combines powerful online educational tools and opportunities for online interaction with traditional classroom-based teaching methods, such as whiteboard teaching, question and answer, discussions, etc. 

As an approach to learning, it’s hugely accessible and beneficial for young learners, with course providers encouraged to take the very best aspects of in-person teaching and use them online to deliver a personalised, engaging online learning experience. 

As a result, it broadens the learner experience, giving you access to educational opportunities at any time, no matter where you are in the world. Your tutor can personalise the experience entirely around your learning wants and needs to make your online education as impactful as possible. 

There are typically two ways in which blended learning can be applied to online learning:

  1. Asynchronous learning - where learning materials are presented online but not in real-time, with the student managing the majority of the pace at which they learn.

  2. Synchronous learning - where a portion of the learning is tutor-led, usually through webinars and online tutorials, allowing remote learners to engage in real time with their tutor and classmates.

For us, blended learning sits at the very core of our teaching principles. With an intuitive online learning platform, our Academic Programmes allow our tutors to connect and teach you in real-time, along with your classmates (who could be on the other side of the world from you!) 

We combine online webinars, weekly 2:1 tutorials, as well as online quizzes, worksheets and projects for you to complete independently - giving you the perfect balance of activities to engage you in your learning and advance your subject knowledge. 

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Benefits of blended learning

For modern learners, a blended learning model is undoubtedly a great way to enhance your online learning experiences, but its advantages far exceed that.

Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of blended learning below:

Customisable, flexible learning at your fingertips

Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, it’s never been easier to find and create a totally customisable online learning experience, centred around your every want and need. 

No matter where you are in the world, you have the ability to connect and learn from some of the very best tutors in your field of interest. This means access to subjects you may never have experienced before, access to meet and network with other ambitious students who are just like you, and most importantly, access to a world-class education that’s tailored exactly to how you want it. 

You can choose almost any subject, tutor, modules, learning style and course length that perfectly matches your requirements. 

What’s more, for those with busy schedules, having a self-paced online learning experience through asynchronous blended learning allows you to work through material at your own pace, fitting in around your other commitments. Even if you’re signed up for online tutorials, these can usually be scheduled around your other priorities - giving you complete flexibility, when you need it. 

Feel more motivated with engaging online learning sessions

When you take a blended learning approach and apply it to online learning, there’s the potential to create an endless combination of programmes, as guided by the most successful classroom practices.

Research has found that mixing up your learning styles has the potential to help you improve your concentration, and thus learn more during your online learning sessions.

Webinars, quizzes, online tutorials, interactive worksheets, discussions, debates, projects, presentations, videos, sound bites, and Q&As are just some of the features that we use to build engaging online courses

The result? Interesting, varied online classes that you feel motivated to participate in. Plus, you’ll leave your learning session feeling inspired to move forward and find out more about your chosen subject or area of interest.

Learn more, and faster

In line with being able to sustain engaging learning for extended periods of time, blended learning also appears to make you improve your subject knowledge at a faster rate than you may have first perceived.

As the world of online learning has grown into a new normality for many students across the world, much work has been conducted to assess which teaching methods and models provide the most rewarding experiences for students.

And according to research, blended learning appears to be one of the most beneficial models for students. Reports indicate that it has the potential to “support deep and meaningful learning” giving it the “potential to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of meaningful learning experiences.”

Supportive, social learning 

For many students, a common concern with moving towards online learning is the prospect of not being able to socialise with others through live interaction.

But one of the great advantages of blended learning is that it takes the very best aspects of traditional classroom learning and transports it online. Through live webinars and tutorials, blended learning gives you the opportunity to connect with others, share knowledge, ideas and interests and gain a rounded perspective of your subject.

You can expect live, interactive feedback from your tutor to make the most out of your time spent online, while thriving in a supportive, collaborative learning environment with your peers.

In this way, blended learning isn’t just a great way to communicate and stay connected with others, but also reap the benefits of networking with new people who share common interests and ambitions with you.

Affordable and accessible

Accessing the very best education used to be a costly investment for students. Renting class space, paying to use a university or college’s facilities, and transport costs all add up. And, if you didn’t live within commuting distance, then this also means having to factor in accommodation and living expenses while away from home.

One of the biggest benefits of a blended learning environment is the ability to remove much of the additional costs associated with a course, making it much more of an affordable learning option. The costs associated with your course will be solely for your tutor’s time, WiFi, and access to online learning resources. 

There’s no need to cover those costly course fees, transportation costs or even that bit of breakfast you used to purchase each morning - making it a far more affordable and accessible option for many young learners. 

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Potential blended learning pitfalls

Now that we've learned more about blended learning and its ability to help you thrive as a young learner, it's also important to be aware of the potential pitfalls that can come from this approach to learning.

While these drawbacks don’t discount the obvious benefits of blended learning approaches, they are important factors to be aware of when embarking on an online learning programme to ensure you choose the right course and make the very most out of your experience.

Lack of direct contact 

One of the biggest challenges that young learners and tutors face when taking learning online is a lack of direct contact with others. While we previously outlined this as a potential advantage for students, it can of course also be a pitfall of your online learning if you don’t make use of the resources available to you. 

Where classroom environments allow learners and tutors to communicate with ease and pick up on social cues, online learning removes those social cues and elements of direct contact that encourage communication with our classmates and tutors. 

After a year of socialising on Zoom and WhatsApp, we all know the challenges that can come as a result of remote communication. But the key thing to remember is that when it comes to online learning, everyone is in the same boat as you and facing the same challenges - so you need to try and navigate through them in order to make your learning experience a success.

As much as tutors can try to facilitate engaging classroom debates and discussions, it’s down to you and your peers to participate in those discussions and share ideas. Likewise, your tutor can offer as much help and support with helping address any questions you face about the subject material, but it’s down to you to take your queries to them and let them know if you are struggling.

Prepare to be open, honest and ready to engage - it’ll ensure you really connect with your peers and tutor, and leave with a broader perspective and better understanding of your subject.

Not everything is fully transferable to online

As great as a blended approach to learning means being able to diversify access to education for many students, it's also important to note that not everything that has thrived in a traditional classroom will necessarily transition as easily online. 

While studying, keep in mind that what has worked for you in the past in a physical classroom may not necessarily work in the same way for you online. 

For example, you may find it really fulfilling to complete worksheets in class, but if you don’t have your tutor in the room with you whilst completing it, you may get stuck on a particular question and need further help. Help, which, if you’re studying in a predominantly asynchronous learning environment, is something you may need to wait to receive. 

You need to keep an open dialogue with your tutor, making sure that they’re fully aware of what types of teaching methods are and are not beneficial to you - allowing them to customise the experience further to benefit your learning.

Remember that blended learning is a fairly new concept to most tutors, and your feedback is as invaluable to them as their teaching is to you. 

Too much screen time

Another factor to consider when studying online is the potential of having too much screen time in a week. 

We’re all currently living in a heavily digital world, where it’s very easy to find yourself waking up, checking your phone, sitting on a computer all day, before spending an evening in front of the television or on the phone to your friends. 

And we all know that a healthy work-life balance means taking some time away from the screen and focusing on something that you enjoy.

Wherever possible, implement breaks during your online course, away from your screen and embrace your non-digital time. This can be going to do a short burst of exercise, reading a book, running an errand, or sitting down with a cup of coffee.

Technological limitations

How many times have you sat down at your desk, only to find your WiFi connection has been turned off for ‘essential maintenance works?’ Or, you’ve jumped on a video call, only to see your screen is all pixelated and people are talking like robots? We’ve all been there. And nearly everyone can relate to how frustrating it can be to work efficiently when technology fails us. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure that you’ll never face any technical difficulties when studying online, but there are precautions you can take to minimise any potential disruption. 

For starters, try to position your computer as close to the WiFi router as possible and keep the box itself up on a ledge to ensure the best possible connection. Secondly, disconnect any devices that you’re not using from the internet to keep the network usage as low as possible. 

Even if the inevitable does happen, having a back-up plan, such as hot-spotting or using printed materials in the interim will ensure that any lost instruction time is minimised. 

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Summary

There’s no doubt that blended learning has the potential to be a truly revolutionary and rewarding approach to learning for the modern-day student looking to save costs, while accessing a high-quality education. 

As with any learning experience, there can be some disadvantages with blended learning for students too. Keep the potential pitfalls in mind at all times, but view them in a way that allows you to turn them into a strength. For example, feeling lonely? Why not arrange a virtual study session with your new peers? Small steps can really help make the online learning experience really enriching.

When choosing an online course, check to see if the course provider offers the elements of classroom learning that you’ve benefited from or enjoyed the most in the past. That means that when it comes to studying online, you’ll be customising the experience around your wants and interests, making it a far more enriching study experience. 

Experience the Benefits of Blended Learning with Melio

Want to find out what blended learning is all about? Experience it yourself with online learning programmes from Melio.

Whether you want to study one-on-one with a tutor through online Tutorials, who can tailor content around your specific learning wants and needs, or are looking to experience a small-group learning community with a 2-week Academic Programme, we have a range of online learning options available to choose from.

Contact our admissions team to find out more about Melio and the online learning options we have available, or you can apply online, free of charge, to kick-start your learning journey.

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