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Blended learning models are here to stay

By Nirmal Singh and G Banga,

The crossover to online teaching caused by the tectonic shift of the pandemic will be long lasting.

In the post COVID situation, blended learning model (BLM) augmented by online teaching is likely to be the new normal. Image: Shutterstock

Today, we cannot imagine education systems without technological interventions. The penetration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in academic affairs has scaled up during the Covid-19 pandemic as millions of students have been driven out of their academic space and kept confined at their homes.

In such a situation, academic institutions have embraced online teaching. Access to classes have been provided to learners and their teachers through available gadgets. Now virtually a part of academic life, it looks as if this system of teaching will now blend with the traditional classroom mode.

Online teaching was the immediate solution to academic disconnectivity when the Covid-19 virus struck. It might, however, not be accepted as the complete replacement for classroom teaching, especially for professional and practical courses and other subjects requiring hands on skill development and training.

Education is not about memorising facts and spewing everything out during examinations. It is aimed at overall development of students, which can only be attained in an organised academic setup. Undoubtedly, the crossover to online teaching caused by the tectonic shift of the pandemic will be long lasting and/or permanent. Thus, technological interventions would be best put to use after academic activities resume in physical classrooms, with routine didactic learning approach.

In the post Covid situation, blended learning model (BLM) with face-to-face education augmented by online teaching is likely to be the new normal. Technology enabled learning deliverables through gadgets supplemented with frontal instruction method will offer a futuristic model of education, taking in its ambit the best of both methods.

In BLM, the role of educators will also be transformed. They will act as facilitators, guiding learners in practical application of knowledge, monitoring their performance and providing a blend of assorted content formats, making learning dynamic and vibrant entity. Topics that are difficult to grasp will be covered in class and other content made available online for students to cover at home. This will also help teachers provide personalised attention to the students.

In BLM technology enabled monitoring of students’ presence and performance through Learning Management System will help teachers get customisable learning modules based on the competency and learning behaviour of students in a student centric teaching and learning environment.

Use of educational technologies encompassing augmented reality and virtual reality will make practical learning more immersive and realistic and will cover up for loss of practical training in exigencies. BLM will also give learners the flexibility to grasp things at their own pace as they will be free to access the same content multiple times, to chisel their practical skills. This will also allow them to remain connected to their institutions and teachers when they study from home. The benefits? Students will become proficient in self learning as they can, guided by the teacher, prepare at home for next day’s interactive discussion in class. This will teach youngsters soft skills such as t time management, accessing the right information and independent decision-making and will also develop critical analytical thinking, confidence, as well as team work.

(The authors Dr Nirmal Singh and Dr G Banga are assistant librarian, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University and professor, School of Business Studies, Punjab Agricultural University, respectively, both in Ludhiana. Views expressed are personal)

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