Pick up any subject from your curriculum to study. Encountering a difficulty? Open up your gadget and type it in a search bar. You will be presented with hundreds of articles, videos, and podcasts, all answering your questions. The Internet made information accessible and affordable for all in a way that has created a dependency on online information accessible at anywhere, anytime.
Technology continues to affect every sphere of life and education is no exception. According to a survey by UNESCO, the 11 countries mentioned from Central and South Asia are using online learning platforms for learning.
These unprecedented times have also pushed Pakistan’s educational institutions to adopt online learning. Students are becoming more familiar with online systems and are showing mixed inclinations towards having a blended mode of learning.
Sarah, a student of Economics at Punjab University favors blended learning ‘if it is implemented with the right strategies.’
“I believe that the best way to improve the quality of education is to use both systems as complements of each other. By using pre-recorded sessions to deliver lectures so that every student can grasp the lecture at his or her own pace and later on discussing new ideas, questions, and discoveries in a traditional class”, she says.
There has been a considerable talk about online classes in Pakistan. A blended model is different from a completely online mode of learning. Even though students and teachers have become familiar with it because of the launch of the blended learning initiative by the Education Ministry in April 2021, there will be a rush to go back to traditional methods if we don’t fully understand what blended learning is.
What is blended learning?
It is simply a model that works on hybrid learning methods and is based on integrating face-to-face teaching models with digital learning to help students and teachers gain and learn more. In the context of Pakistan, there are three modules to work on.
Digital classroom setting
Have you ever felt like the teacher is moving too fast with a topic and you’re being left behind in terms of grasping the concept? You’re probably nodding right now. With blended learning, teachers will upload all of the course content, chosen by your institute, on the online platform. You will be able to study difficult concepts at your convenience.
Students have the luxury to pause, rewind and forward lectures, which enable them to learn at their own pace. This is important to improve our education system because all students do not learn in the same way. Having a blended learning system will cater to students’ personalized needs and make the classroom more interesting. Teachers will be able to teach at a slower pace and will have more time on their hands to give individual attention to students.
Aimen Aftab studies English Literature in Forman Christian College and ‘finds it really hard to connect with the teacher/class on screen’. For Aimen, attending online classes was more difficult than actually studying for them.’
This is because even in online settings, the traditional instructor-assignment model is followed in Pakistan and innovative practices are only limited to a few private institutes.
Traditional classroom setting
With the blended learning system, traditional methods and techniques will be curtailed. Instead, teachers will have to redefine the classroom. The classroom setting should be redesigned in a way that students can fully use this setting to find practical solutions to the problems they came across during independent study. Along with this, there is a dire need to plan more outdoor learning activities and design unorthodox exercises that put theory into practice.
To make their classroom more interactive, teachers will have to abolish the instruction-assignment model and incorporate blended learning strategies.
A blended learning strategy
Both of these systems should complement each other in a way that they surpass their individualistic benefits. This is perhaps, the most difficult module to work on.
If the face-to-face setting is only a repetition of what students gained during online and independent learning, then learning losses might continue.
On the other hand, if all the educational content is unleashed online, then the time that can be used to have outdoor and practical skill-building experiences will be misspent along with a loss of feedback from students. In the same way, if teachers only deliver through a face-to-face setting along with giving uncontrolled reading assignments online, then that would also subdue the individual learning process.
Interestingly, various institutions around the world are adopting blended learning methods and technologies. Many of these institutions are also providing technology e.g. smartphones and laptops to their students to equip them for the new system. However, to be able to consider your institutions as having a blended learning system, it is crucial to completely follow the model of blended learning and embrace its essence that focuses on integration of online learning with classroom learning.
Why blended learning in Pakistan?
In this report by Dr. Krasulia, she highlights that blended learning increases the student base by providing remote access to educational resources. It also enables ‘On-demand learning’ as students can study the course content at their own pace i.e. rewind and forward video lectures. More time for teachers to give individual and personalized attention and devise more ways to keep track of their student’s unique capabilities. Many studies have proven the importance of peer discussions and the way they can move the students to be more communicative and interactive.
One of the models of blended learning is the flipped classroom model in which teachers encourage students to engage in problem-solving and skill-building activities during the physical classroom sessions. Using LMS to build fair assessments that can be graded automatically. LMS will further equip teachers with a methodical measure of their students’ performances as it will record and store students’ assessment scores. Teachers can analyze poor performance and work on them more quickly. Education will become more affordable as course content will be uploaded online and the need for textbooks will be eliminated.
Dr. Krasulia also mentions some perils in her report. While the blended learning model is applicable in most societies and structures, it will still be essential to analyze the course and student base to ascertain whether blended learning will be right for a particular subject matter.
This system also requires the latest tools and reliable digital platforms for student learning. There is a strong risk of increased dependence on technical resources. Studies have revealed that a lot of students prefer watching videos in one set usually after the given time slot.
Teachers have also complained that the online feedback process is more time-consuming than doing it in a physical setting. Strong partnerships with learning management systems and ensuring the provision of the internet are also essential along with conducting further researches.
Blended learning is becoming increasingly popular and many countries are devising innovative ways to use it. It is also not a new concept and many universities around the globe have already employed this model. There has been an increase in research, lately, to achieve perfection and truly reap the benefits of blended learning.
The digital migration that took place in the wake of the pandemic was massive in scale and has thereby changed consumer behavior. Technology has found a more essential place in human lives and humans are continuing to evolve. In the coming years, catering to such changes in learning behavior will make educational models like blended learning more compatible as compared to traditional learning methods.