‘To blend or not to blend?’ is no longer the question

With technology now prevalent in most people’s work and social lives and students expecting flexibility in their studies, it is time for blended learning to take its place as the norm.

Filepad and laptop
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Along with several thousand other education and training practitioners, I have embarked on an exploration of the role of technology in learning through the FutureLearn MOOC Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started.  As the range of technologies at our disposal continues to expand, I am aware that there is no room for complacency and that I will probably spend the rest of my career trying to keep up.  Thus the opportunity to benefit from structured learning and to network with a global online community aroused my interest and inspired me to sign up for yet another MOOC – this time with the determination to see it through.

At the end of my first week, I have not been disappointed.  I have found the content engaging and have participated in the practical exercises and the online discussions within the VLE and on Twitter.  The incorporation of a variety of digital tools including Typeform and Padlet from the start has demonstrated how easily technology can be integrated into learning and has garnered a positive response from participants.  Just one fifth of the way into the course, and the vast majority of participants have indicated that they are convinced of the benefits of blended learning.

While the enthusiasm of the participants should probably be expected considering that they have willingly given up their time to broaden their knowledge of blended learning, the challenge will be to convince colleagues who are less keen to embrace educational technology.  Eric Stoller recently addressed this issue head-on with his concise but impactful article, Getting Digital is Required, challenging education professionals to “Get digital or get out of the way“.  While I appreciate that not everyone will share Eric’s conviction, I am hopeful that by exchanging examples of good practice and addressing the concerns of fellow educators and learners, blended learning will soon take its place as the norm.

As learners and society as a whole become increasingly digitally dependent, I believe that the debate on whether or not we should blend offline and online learning is reaching closure.  Instead, we need to concentrate our efforts on exploring how we can can best align technology with our learning objectives so that it contributes effectively to our teaching and is not seen as an add-on.  Students increasingly expect (and often require) flexibility in how and where they study and mobile technology has opened up an array of opportunities for innovation in learning.  Ultimately, our learners will be pursuing careers where they are required to use technology effectively, therefore it is fundamental that we equip them with the capabilities to do that.  Consequently, the real question is how do we combine learning design and delivery with technology in a way that best supports the development of learners’ knowledge and technical competencies.

What do you think?  Please leave a comment!


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