Researcher, Policy Connect
Blended learning is the merging of in-person, classroom education and remote, digital tools. Adopted correctly, blended learning can encourage inclusivity and benefit students and educators alike.
The integration of technology into education, commonly known as edtech, has evolved rapidly in recent years, culminating in the rise of blended learning — a transformative approach that combines the best of traditional classroom instruction with the advantages of learning online.
Embracing edtech and blended learning
The nationwide lockdowns in March 2020 forever changed the higher education landscape. In a matter of weeks, educators and providers were expected to move fully online to deliver their course content. The pandemic acted as a catalyst for the widespread adoption of remote education.
However, what occurred during this period was not a blend by any means; schools and universities were forced to adapt to online tools and resources. Yet, it is this very challenge that allows the sector to re-evaluate and develop a more intentional and balanced approach to teaching and learning.
The mixed approach to teaching and learning introduces flexibility and empowers self-direction, giving students more autonomy over their academic journey.
Blended learning can harmonise in-person classes with digital resources, allowing institutions to cater to diverse learning styles and needs while maintaining the benefits of the social aspects of attending university.
The policy implications of blended learning are profound. Especially in the age of rapid technological advancement and change, the sector must evolve strategies to embrace edtech innovations; empower educators to wield digital tools effectively; and support students to fully leverage the benefits of learning on-site and remotely.
Benefits of blended learning
The digital experience insights survey of higher education students (2021/2022) showed a positive snapshot of student perspectives towards blended learning. An overwhelming majority rated the quality of online learning environments to be above average.
The mixed approach to teaching and learning introduces flexibility and empowers self-direction, giving students more autonomy over their academic journey. Using both informal and digital spaces to deliver course material can also lead to economic benefits. These benefits will only intensify with the advancement of mobile technologies and bolstered digital infrastructure, which should both be seen as sector priorities for educators and policymakers.
Higher education providers must embed student voices in strategising a framework to navigate the edtech revolution. Flexibility, inclusivity and adaptability must underpin the guiding principles for institutions. Only then can policies have the potential to pave the way for an educational system that empowers learners from all walks of life.