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The point of Blended Learning

June 22, 2008

blend of blue and green splodges (shot of dried mud processed in photoshop)

Blended Learning’s contribution to the eLearning discussion is a simple one. It forcefully makes the point that delivering learning online is a pragmatic not a dogmatic solution, that eLearning works fine in a mixed economy of learning, and that it doesn’t replace but supplements traditional modes of delivery. This point may seem obvious from the standpoint of 2008, but six or seven years ago it needed to be got across to educators, and BL performed that function.

(It’s for this reason that Blended Learning is best understood as simply a mix of on- and offline learning delivery. This definition clarifies BL’s place in the eLearning landscape, whereas other definitions that have been suggested – such as the blending of distinct web-based modes, or the blending of pedagogical approaches – actually obfuscate BL’s role.)

A blended approach makes sense in many scenarios because some types of learning simply ARE best delivered face-to-face: children will always need some physical schooling; learning ceramics, taekwondo or CPR will always demand hands-on teaching. eLearning in turn can help wherever learners are geographically dispersed, or on the move, or having to fit their learning around their work or domestic obligations – as well as putting enormously powerful exploration, research, communication and community-support tools into the hands of learners themselves.

There are cost factors to be balanced here too. eLearning can have high fixed costs, especially if sophisticated learning objects or simulations are involved, and so may only be cost-effective where there are large numbers of learners or where courses have a long shelf-life. Face-to-face sessions on the other hand may appear inexpensive to run but do not scale up well and will always carry high variable costs in the form of transport and accommodation overheads. A blended learning approach which combined high eLearning fixed costs with high face-to-face variable costs would be difficult to justify from a cost-effectiveness point of view.

From → H806

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