The requirement imposed on centres of education to provide remote teaching has accelerated the adoption of new pedagogical methodologies that embrace the concept of e-learning.
For some years, but more intensely during and following the COVID-19 lockdowns, education has been revolutionized by the emergence of various concepts related to remote teaching (in both its synchronous and asynchronous facets) and their interaction with in-person models.
Diverse methodologies, mixed concepts and ad hoc solutions
A number of different educational models are based on a mixture of in-person and remote presence in the classroom and remote working through e-learning. Although a single satisfactory definition for blended learning is wanting, the early description used by Garrison and Kanuka (2004) refers to the “the increasingly prevalent practice of the convergence of text-based asynchronous Internet-based learning with face-to-face approaches“. Its meaning has been expanded over the years to encompass a host of experiences and variations. The authors Yan Ju and Yan Mei (2018) define the blended model, in general terms, as “any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace”.
In the academic literature, many authors have referred to blended learning as mixed-mode, hybrid or blended (O’Byrne and Pytash, 2015; Bowyer and Chambers, 2017), but, although “blended” and “hybrid” are terms that are often used indiscriminately in pedagogy, the difference lies in the fact that in hybrid learning online components are meant to replace part of the time physically spent in class. Online interactions may be synchronous, that is, the student interacts online in real or synchronous time, in classes taught over Zoom, for example, or asynchronously, that is, the students interact online at different times, such as the case of online discussions (Siegelman, 2019), and, as we will see, there are even certain hybridization models that combine in-person and remote attendance by students in the same class.
The best of both worlds… but on pedagogical foundations
Online learning is excellent in a number of aspects, with students gaining access and flexibility in terms of time, place, pace, learning style, content, assessment or learning path (Müller et al., 2018).
Other researchers, however, argue that despite the fact that e-learning effectively increases students’ knowledge, it is less advantageous when it comes to improving their social skills and competencies (Bączek et al., 2021). At this point, we could question whether the resources are the reason for this ineffectiveness or whether, in contrast, the pedagogical approaches should be more demanding in terms of covering the sociability factor.
They could incorporate elements from methodologies such as constructivism, which falls under the category of social learning. It involves recasting teachers in the role of guides in the process; problem-based learning, competency-based learning and case studies, and the use of interactive, multimedia or multimodal materials, and stresses the importance of interaction and communication among the students via forums, chats or email in the assessment of the course (Kopp and Lackner, 2014).
Such strategies could include the use of social media to reinforce students’ social activity and facilitate the sharing of educational content and results. Selwyn and Stirling (2015) highlight the role of social media in this regard, given that they allow mass socialization with online interaction by providing a collaborative platform where students can meet up and share knowledge.
Spin-off hybrid methodologies
Various models that blend in-person and remote presence have appeared over the course of time, moving from being revolutionary developments in classrooms to becoming established methodologies in use at universities all around the world.
One such model is the type of courses known as HyFlex (hybrid flexible) (Beatty, 2019). According to the definition provided by the university that created it, San Francisco State University (SFSU), this model is conceived as “class sessions that allow students to choose whether to attend classes face-to-face or online, synchronously or asynchronously.” The name was coined by SFSU, and Dr Brian J. Beatty is one of its greatest pioneers, although it is a model that has been successfully used for more than a decade at numerous higher education institutions.
Another popular model is the flipped classroom, which was developed by teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. They realized that many of their students were missing out on content when they were absent due to illness or other reasons, so they started to record their lessons on video to allow them to catch up (Bergmann and Sams, 2012). This led to a methodology in which teaching staff design and publish an online experience and class time is used for active learning: it facilitates student participation through activities such as answering their questions and doubts and holding debates, allowing the teacher to focus on the individual learning needs of each student.
Blended and hybrid learning methodologies offer students a series of opportunities by combining the best aspects of in-person instruction and online learning.
For more than a decade, mixing formats has allowed a great deal of students to access quality education tailor-made to their particular needs and the requirements of their courses and programmes. The types that combine blended learning, connections and remote working proved to be something of a godsend in periods in which it was difficult to access education centres due to health restrictions, allowing classes to continue without interruption.
Given the panorama of change we are witnessing on a global scale, with signs that the incursion of technologies such as the metaverse and virtual reality will lead to innovation in educational presentation formats, it seems clear that new types of interaction between the virtual and in-person models will continue to be developed.
Bączek, M., Zagańczyk-Bączek, M., Szpringer, M., Jaroszyński, A., Wożakowska-Kapłon, B. (2021). Students’ perception of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey study of Polish medical students. Medicine, 100(7), e24821. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000024821
Beatty, B. J. (2019). Beginnings: Where does Hybrid-Flexible come from? A Beatty, B. J. Hybrid-Flexible course design: Implementing student-directed hybrid classes. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex/book_intro
Bergmann, J., Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Washington DC: International Society for Technology in Education.
Bowyer, J., Chambers, L. (2017). Evaluating blended learning: Bringing the elements together. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment Publication, 23(1), 17–26. https://bit.ly/30klvF9
Garrison, R., Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The internet and higher education, 7(2): 95–105. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1096751604000156?via%3Dihub
Kopp, M., Lackner, E. (2014). Do MOOCs need a special instructional design? Edulearn14 Proceedings. Barcelona: IATED Academy. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263784897_Do_MOOCs_need_a_Special_Instructional_Design
Müller, C., Stahl, M., Alder, M., Müller, M. (2018). Learning effectiveness and students’ perceptions in a flexible learning course. European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning, 21(2), 44–52. https://doi.org/10.2478/eurodl2018-0006
O’Byrne, W.I., Pytash, K.E. (2015). Hybrid and Blended Learning: Modifying Pedagogy Across Path, Pace, Time, and Place. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 59(2). https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.463
Selwyn, N., Stirling, E. (2015). Social media and education… now the dust has settled. Learning, Media and Technology, 41(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2015.1115769
Siegelman, A. (2019, May). Blended, hybrid, and flipped courses: What’s the difference? [blog post]. Temple University’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching blog: EDvice exchange. https://teaching.temple.edu/edvice-exchange/2019/11/blended-hybrid-and-flipped-courses-what%E2%80%99s-difference
Yan Ju, S., Yan Mei, S. (2018). Perceptions and practices of blended learning in foreign language teaching at USIM. European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research, 12(1), 170–176. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325118490_Perceptions_and_Practices_of_Blended_Learning_in_Foreign_Language_teaching_at_USIM
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