Two huge benefits in using e-learning is the ability for learners to collaborate and be able to accommodate the collection of their own unique learning journey. Finding a design that brings to tether the best of orthodox teaching and learning with the e-learning is described as Blended Learning. It describes the design of a curriculum that combines both formal teaching with a teacher and learners; learning with others, where the teacher is not physically present. Historically the funding arrangements only followed the presence of a teacher, leaving on-line activity as a supplemental activity. Using the teacher presence is a clear an auditable method of measuring the value of effort put into supporting learning. Using GLH meant that blended learning was relegated to being an important but supplemental component to formal teaching, that did not ‘count’.
One new and very important development is redefining Guided Learning Hours (GLH) as including evidence of Learning Presence. It means that e-learning can now be an integral part of course delivery rather than an addition or supplementary on top of GLH.
The challenges of Blended Learning
But Blended learning can be difficult to measure as it occurs in places and spaces invisible to the provider.
This new approach to the role of e-learning requires a conscious uncoupling of the teacher from what counts as formal learning. Consequently redesigning course curricula will need very careful consideration to make sure no harm is done to learning yet using e-learning in a manner that promotes purposeful pedagogy. It places much greater emphasis on the value of the learner commitment and activity rather than measure what effort is being expended in teaching. It still needs to show that funding for learning is used well and efficiently, requiring purposeful pedagogical activity to be evidently apparent, which would not have occurred without funding and that value for money is demonstrable.
Blended Learning is not Distance nor Open Learning, although it can form a component part of it. Distance or Open Learning is characterised by significant parts of a course being delivered away from other classmates and much of the drive for learning being implicit in learning materials made available to learners with little or limited support from classmates or tutors. Blended learning incorporates a mutual dependence on each to produce a rounded and coherent package of teaching and learning.
The benefits of Blended Learning
For the learner, working collaboratively with other learners without the immediate intervention of a teacher develops the skill of self-directed study and web-based enquiry. It encourages social learning with class mates, supported, but not directed in detail by tutors.
The characteristics of Blended Learning
When designing Blended learning the following should characterise it use, so as to maintain a formal bound between teachers and learners.
There will be evidence in the form of an electronic footprint which will satisfy the following:
Flipped learning describes a particular curriculum design, that draws on the strengths of e-learning that supports the idea of learner presence learning.
To understand Flipped Learning, one starts from a traditional view of teaching didactically in class, where the teacher directs and lays out what is to be learned. The instruction is often based on factual information and procedures that learned must master in order to master them, prior to practising or replicating them in real or thought experiments.
In this scenario, cognitive is captured first on which practice and skill then then be developed. A class is used by the teacher for this purpose.
Flipping learning removes this initial fact-building class. The teacher set the cognitive domain learning into the cloud and sets tasks, normally for collaborative learning to master facts and details and processes necessary to manipulate them to a level of sophistication in the class. it means that by the time learners come to class, they have mastered facts although may not know why to do with them. The class time is then spent on affective and psychomotor skills. and subsequent activity after the class is spent on-line collaboratively, using the skills developed from the class activity. The first flip here to to move the beginning of the learning period from a first class to pre-class activity on-line.
The second flip is to swap cognitive learning out of the class and put affective and skill learning into the class.
The reasons for doing this is e-learning is particularly strong in supporting collaborative learning outside of the classroom. It is also easy to provide cognitive learning tasks rather than affective open ones on-line. In short, Flipped Learning plays to the strengths of on-line collaborative learning.
One other advantage of Flipped learning is that the class time is spent drawing on the skill and experience of the teacher in forging skills, rather than have them act as a cypher of information gathering that is easily acquired in more efficient ways.
Geoff Rebbeck Cert Ed. BSc. FIfL FRSA QTLS | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.geoffrebbeck.com|
Higher education has really got to grips with the idea of every student acquiring a set of demonstrable personal attributes during their course of study. It goes to the idea of education developing and presenting the person and not just the skills. Greenwich University is a case in point who have 13 of them, split into three groups, Scholarship and Autonomy, Creativity and Enterprise and Cross-cultural and International Awareness.
It is evident that FE is behind the curve on this one and the Sector has only a few examples of creating attributes of any kind. South Devon College is an example of attempting this with students, using Moodle communities that student are enrolled on, but in FE it appears as a ‘taught’ process rather than an ‘acquisition’ process.
Having a set of attributes every student can demonstrate is made possible with the advent of personal technologies and personal learning space in particular. FE has not been slow in providing personal space, but the portfolio model that we found so well developed in FE is a mapping one, where 200 plus competencies are linked to evidence, marshalled and stored, drawing on the efficiencies of a database approach to learning and it is no surprise that these mapping portfolios are seen as examples of the efficiencies (saving of time, cost, effort, weight of folders etc.) of using technology rather than helping develop the student ‘in the round’.
By this mechanism every student can discern their own unique learning journey from their classmates but it is only currently by categorising and evidencing the ‘hard’ competencies, so it is the learning journey and not the personal journey that is captured. There are a few exceptions to this such as in the health and social care qualifications that contains values based Units that goes some way to addressing this based on the nature of professionalism in this sector.
One more promising area of development in FE employability practice is the development of an ‘audience’ of prospective employers courted through a Twitter following and connections made through LinkedIn. These technologies do encourage ‘work readiness’ attitudes as illustrated at St. Helens College on Merseyside. In FE, this ability to demonstrate a more rounded, accomplished student is very appealing to employers who tell us they are looking not just for skills, but for the ‘right’ person; someone able to represent the employer with polish to their customers. One category of attributes for example could be around the notion of ‘work readiness’, a factor FE is often criticised by employers for not achieving.