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Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Learning

Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Learning

We all have heard of blended learning strategy. Recently, a lot has been written on this topic. Maybe you have already integrated the strategy into your training project by now. Despite the frequent use of this term, many people still misunderstand or confuse it with other learning strategies. Blended learning, which is often called hybrid learning, offers a combined platform for both face–to-face and online learning experience. Therefore, the strategy has its own merits and demerits which we will be discussing in detail as you read on.

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Learning

Understanding Blended Learning and Its Importance

The term ‘blended learning’ actually describes the manner in which eLearning is integrated or combined with a more traditional classroom setup, offering independent study. This particular learning approach makes sure that the audience remains engaged and their overall learning experience is productive. The learning strategy is more popular among individuals who have unique learning styles as this strategy caters to individual needs with more flexibility and convenience.

However, to fully and completely incorporate this learning strategy, there are two basic factors which you should consider. While some learners prefer a combination of online settings and traditional classroom, it is important to consider the target segment of catered students. Not every learner is motivated enough to actively engage in blended learning. For such learners, this particular learning strategy is not suitable.

Secondly, motivation is indeed a critical aspect of blended learning strategy in addition to targeted segmentation. Managing this part of blended learning involves planned crafting of the ‘BLENDED’ assessments. The term ‘BLENDED’ here is associated with ‘ASSESSMENT’ to emphasize more on the non-traditional assessments such as traditional examination and tests. This means that developing innovative content is a major factor that must be considered here.

However, developing unique and engaging content and creating a productive environment of blended learning, whether it is on corporate or students’ level, is not always easy and can be quite challenging for many reasons. The development of this learning strategy involves the integration of online course software and its basic know-how by both the targeted audience and the content developer. Similarly, such kind of learning platforms cannot be accessed in the absence of adequate and fast bandwidth WiFi or internet access. This is imperative to get a complete and easy access to the learning material and to learn in a blended learning environment.

In extension to that, blended learning strategy involves the use of right software tools to develop a more engaging and advanced curriculum which is helpful for the achievement of set learning goals.

Blended Learning in Corporate and Academic Setup

An effective learning strategy is not only implemented for the training of students but also at the corporate level. These advanced training strategies help the participants (both students and employees) to fully meet their learning specifications. This allows them to formulate more personalized learning instructions or strategies.

Blended learning allows participants to work with instructors at the facility as well as take assistance from additional online resources while at home. With that, they can also avail the opportunity to communicate with their instructors using various online communication methods, receiving advice and support from the class. The variety of used formats keeps the content engaging and allows more creativity and space for the participants to dig deeper into the subject.

With that, let’s have a look at both of the positive and negative aspects of blended learning.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Incorporating Blended Learning

Every strategy has its own benefits and limitations. The important question is whether the benefits outweigh the limitations. In a corporate setup, professionals like to think of this more strategically such as:

Does the integration of self-paced learning with face-to-face interaction offer any benefit to the participants? Do the efforts worth the rewards?

However, to assist you with that, let’s dig deep into the advantages and disadvantages that come with the adoption of blended learning.

The Advantages of Blended Learning

Round-the-clock access to training resources

Since blended learning involves online and digital resources, time limitations are simply the matter of the past, if you do have a good internet connection. The learning strategy is way ahead than these old limitations. The online resources are always there to help – 24/7. In addition, if your blended learning strategy also offers a public forum, you can also learn from the experience of others and get your solution without the assistance of an instructor.

A personalized training experience

The strongest aspect of blended learning is the chance to receive personalized training by every individual, catering to their learning needs. This means that every participant has different learning capabilities and not all of them are always on the same page in terms of grasping the information. They may choose the path through specific topic areas as they deem right.

Undoubtedly, face-to-face interaction and various aids to receive timely performance feedback have made blended learning a unique training and development strategy. The overall result of this particular training strategy is to enable every learner to focus on the information and skills they are in need of, without having to attend long unnecessary lectures or going through piles of unrelated information.

Unique Ways Individuals Absorb Information

It’s universally acknowledged that individuals have varied learning mechanisms. Back in 1992, scholars Fleming and Mills introduced a widely recognized learning model termed VARK. This model segments learners into four categories:

  • Visual Learners: Those who comprehend better through visual aids.
  • Aural or Auditory Learners: Those who grasp concepts by listening or vocalizing.
  • Read/Written Learners: Those who digest information best when presented in written format.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Those who learn optimally via physical activity or hands-on practice.

Further academic inquiries have expanded these categories, introducing:

  • Logical Learners: Individuals who lean on logical reasoning and critical thinking to understand new ideas.
  • Social Learners: Those who thrive in a group environment, learning through interactions.
  • Solitary Learners: Those who excel in a self-study setting, absorbing knowledge best when alone.

Enhancing Engagement and Retention through Diverse Learning Modes

A plethora of research underscores the enhancement in learning outcomes when diverse activities complement traditional study methods. Incorporating interactive elements such as discussion threads, video calls, and knowledge-sharing platforms facilitates not only the sharing of information but also the practical implementation of acquired skills in professional settings.

By tapping into an array of instructional tools – from videos and live instructors to social interactions and hands-on exercises – one can effectively bridge any potential knowledge lacunae. Such an approach ensures learners grasp concepts that might not be adequately addressed through a single mode of instruction.

Empowering Learners to Drive Their Study Pace

It’s universally accepted that individuals thrive when they wield control over their learning journey. Offering choices in the learning process can diminish apathy, alleviate stress, and invigorate learners’ engagement with content. Corporate learners, distinct from conventional students, juggle their professional duties alongside personal commitments. Moreover, they hail from varied backgrounds, each bringing a unique knowledge base and experience level concerning the course material.

Blended learning presents them the freedom to undertake online studies at a pace they’re comfortable with without being tethered to the progression rate of their peers. This autonomy enables them to fast-forward through known material, revisit sections as needed, and utilize resources at their optimal concentration levels. Additionally, they can intersperse their study sessions with breaks. The ‘flipped’ blended approach is especially potent here, allowing learners to first consolidate their self-acquired knowledge and then enrich it with personalized instructor-led sessions (either virtual or physical). This is supplemented by the collaborative spirit of social learning and cemented with hands-on practical projects.

As highlighted by education aficionado Clifford Maxwell from the Clayton Christensen Institute, blended learning needs to embed an element of learner autonomy. Absent this, it’s merely an exercise in delivering online curriculum in a traditional classroom setup.

Considering the wide spectrum of learning preferences, the blended learning approach emerges as the ideal solution. For solitary learners inclined towards visual or written content, online autonomous video sessions might be the perfect fit. In contrast, auditory and social learners would greatly benefit from live, instructor-guided sessions. Simultaneously, interactive projects and hands-on exercises cater to the kinesthetic and logical learners’ needs.

Better communication and collaborative learning

Even though with blended learning strategy, a participant can access the resources in the absence of the instructor, it still improves the communication and interaction amongst the participants and also with the instructors. Such online learning solutions offer a great variety of communication tools such as email, news announcements, instant messaging, online grading tool, online discussion, drop boxes, or more. All of these communication tools offer great flexibility in terms of ensuring timely communication. May it be any concern or feedback/evaluation, all of this is now possible instantly and without any time constraint.

Similarly, unlike traditional classroom, blended learning offers a good collaborative environment for participants. This substantially increases collaboration amongst the learners and between the instructor and the learner, which makes blended learning strategy one of the best online training platforms. As the learners use many collaborative tools such as blogs, online discussions, instant messages and others, they are able to collaborate with each other in a better way and in fact, in or out of the training room.

Track participants’ skill and performance development

If you have incorporated right tools into your blended learning course, you can easily track down the data in terms of participants’ eventual performance improvement. This learning strategy makes data tracking a lot more convenient and quick. It helps in eliminating the cookie cutter approach of grading exams. Instead, it offers a better evaluation option of online assessment that comes with a built-in grading rubric with an additional benefit of immediate feedback.

This modern learning strategy can easily track the material accessed by a participant. It also shows at what time and for how long they reviewed the material. All of this, especially in a corporate setup, can easily be done digitally and this provides the track record of employees which are then further used to take their promotion and development decisions. In fact, nowadays many organizations use this opportunity to determine activities which are more effective and the ones which need improvisation or modification to fully meet the objectives or performance goals.

Cost-effective training strategy

Every business strives to make strategies that are both smart and cost-effective and blended learning is just one of these strategies. As you incorporate more and better online options in the blended learning program, it not only saves the traveling cost but also the cost of missed work. That is, as you integrate the events of your training program in an online setup, it not only eliminates the limitations of time and place but also reduces travel cost for both the instructor and the participants.

There is no need for any instructor to be present at a location and also there is no need to rent out the training space. Similarly, the same advantage can be availed considering the availability of content on an online platform. The courses can be expanded and updated in just a fraction of the time because there’s no need to worry about the printing of course material like in the case of the traditional classroom.

Blended Learning in Continuing Education

While blended learning has been a transformative force in education, it’s worth exploring how this approach can be harnessed for continuous education.

Continuous education is all about adapting to new trends and ensuring that professionals and lifelong learners are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills. In this context, blended learning presents a valuable opportunity.

Imagine a scenario where professionals can blend their work commitments with ongoing education, attending face-to-face sessions, webinars, or virtual labs as needed. Blended learning facilitates this harmonious integration, offering flexibility without compromising the depth and quality of education.

Incorporating online components into continuous education programs allows individuals to access resources, materials, and assessments at their convenience. It empowers them to learn at their own pace while still benefiting from the guidance of mentors and experts in live sessions.

To explore how continuous education and blended learning can drive your institution’s growth, visit our product page: Continuous Education Solution for Universities.

The Disadvantages of Blended Learning

Here is the list of things that can be challenging as you incorporate blended learning into your training program.

High maintenance cost

Incorporation of advanced technology in your blended learning projects such as infrastructure setup and devices are at times costly. In a corporate setup, this is especially true for bigger organizations having various departments or a large workforce. But if you compare this cost with all the other benefits that come with blended learning, this is not only a short-term expense but it will eventually be quite beneficial in the long run.

Technological dependence

In order to achieve the learning objectives of your blended learning program, the content developers use the technological tools and resources that are easy to use, reliable, and up-to-date. All of this is possible if participants have strong internet connectivity as this has a meaningful impact in terms of overall learning environment and experience. That is why incorporating this learning strategy depends on technological feasibility, and in case of technical issues or inadequate technical accessibility, the objective of this advanced learning strategy is unachievable.

Also, since blended learning is about technological dependence, there is a limitation with regards to technical skills of both the instructors and the learners. Students and instructors who are not tech-savvy can face a great barrier in terms of smooth interactions. The participants will face difficulty in accessing the course material; therefore, this learning strategy must come with adequate technical support.

Wastage of offered Resources

This is in connection with the limitation discussed in above point. That is, if the learners or students are unaware of technology used in the online learning course,  there is a chance you won’t get the desired results. Similarly, if the provided technological tools are inadequate and not in relevance to the course material, then this will also be a wastage of resources without improving ROI.

The bottom line

Like any other learning strategy, blended learning also has positive and negative aspects. In today’s world, the learning and working environment offer unparalleled opportunities for online training facilitation just by adopting blended learning approach. This learning strategy can be applied to any program which holds on to the values of traditional learning and incorporates digital media with that. The approach is a lot more efficient, effective and appealing to individuals than anything that has been ever before.

Hence, to achieve your learning objectives in the best possible manner, the content developers have to incorporate the technological and other relevant aspects wisely in the learning content. After all, blended learning creates more engagement amongst the learners, increases the rate of retention in organizations, keeps learners more motivated, provides the best learning environment and facilitates both the personal and professional development programs.

Indeed, it has the values of traditional learning and at the same time, it offers great feasibility by leveraging technological advancements to save time and money both. This learning strategy has now given rise to many learning platforms globally and is now one of the most adopted learning tools.

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