Blended Education Bridges Traditional and Online Learning

February 14, 2011

in Distance Learning, e-Learning, Education, Online Classes

Blended Education Bridges Traditional and Online Learning

Online education can be a strange concept to those who are used to viewing learning as a process that involves students sitting in a classroom with a lecturer in front of them. Yet, there is great promise in online programs. In addition, the opportunity to take classes from home at the student’s convenience is a great incentive for full-time workers and those with other pressing responsibilities to go back to school. But for those who are not ready to go fully digital with their education, there is a way to get the best of both worlds with a blended education.

There are several differences between online learning and a traditional education, the most obvious one being that online learning takes place at home while a traditional education takes place on a school campus. With online education, students will have the ability to make their own class schedules and will also save on commute time and expenses. This is especially useful for those who have other time-consuming responsibilities that make driving to or living on a campus impossible. On the other hand, traditional classroom education allows for students to learn alongside their classmates, which can be a great motivator to stay focused and on task. In addition, they have the opportunity to gain immediate interaction with their instructors. However, classroom education is often inconvenient for those with other responsibilities because of scheduling restrictions. Even students who live on campus typically find it a hassle to try to enroll in classes that will fit their work and social schedules.

But now, with a blended education, students can have the classroom and campus experience with online learning convenience. As if that is not enough reason to consider a blended education, consider this: a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that those who participated in blended learning programs typically outperformed those who participated in exclusively online or classroom learning.

Blended programs differ between schools. For example, the blended programs for campus-based schools typically work by letting students take some of their courses online and some on the campus. This allows students who may not have been able to fit a certain class into their on-campus schedule to sign up to take that particular class online instead. Some campus-based schools, such as the University of Houston, even allow for students to take all of their courses completely online for a semester or two if they are busy at a full-time internship or job. Once that job or internship is complete, students can easily switch back to a full-time campus education if they so desire.

Those who choose to take blended courses from chiefly online schools may have their blended education work in a FlexNet-style class, where students attend the first and last weeks of the class in a classroom, but complete the remainder of the course from home. This allows for students to get to meet their instructors and classmates in person before they switch to an online format, and then to reconvene with their peers once more before the course is completed. This way, students can swap phone numbers and e-mails as well as establish study groups.

Blended programs are a great way for students who wish to take advantage of online learning to earn their education without sacrificing a campus-based experience. It also offers those who are unfamiliar with online education a bridge option to explore online learning without fully throwing themselves into it. Students who desire more flexibility in their education options should consider pursuing a blended education.

Katheryn Rivas, regularly writes on the topics of online universities.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

image credits: © Marcelmooij | Dreamstime.com



Marie Greene June 20, 2011 at 15:17

I would be curious how the retention rate might compare from totally on ground face-to-face, blended, and totally online. Does anyone have any comparisons from their institutions?

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