Skip to main content

Blended Learning: The Best Solution for Learning in the New Normal Era


Blended learning, a system that combines online learning and face-to-face instruction is the most inventive learning method in the 21st century, and the best option to facilitate learning in the new normal era. Our entry to the new normal is the best opportunity to build Blended Learning.

Introduction
Since last March, COVID 19 has suddenly moved students to learn from the classroom to their living room or bedroom. UNESCO estimates that around 1.6 billion (90%) students in 191 countries, including 68.2 million students from all levels of education in Indonesia have been learning from home. The majority of students learn online, and some others learn offline through television or radio or books and worksheets.

In Indonesia, it soon turned out that online learning does not work. It even emerged problems for many students. Although it has consumed many students’ energy and internet quota, it does not help them achieve their learning objectives. The 213 complaints received by KPAI (The Indonesian Child Protection Commission) concerning the implementation of online learning during the pandemic revealed that most students grumbled how boring, tiring, and ineffective it is. Some of them, for example, disclose that: (1) some secondary school teachers regularly assigned students to summarize a textbook chapter in every learning session; (2) some elementary school students were assigned to copy up to 83 pages of a textbook; (3) some teachers assigned grade four students to write prayer verses in many languages, including Indonesian, Latin, and Arabic, although the verses are available in their textbooks; (4) many students are assigned to write each question before answering it, even though the question is accessible in their textbooks; (5) many high school and vocational students were instructed to write an essay in almost every subject they were taking; (6) some junior high school students had already forced to deal with 250 questions from their teacher on the second day of their online learning; and (7) some elementary school students were instructed to compose songs about the corona. They should also sing the song accompanied by musical instruments, record it in video and send it to the teacher.


The aim of this article is two-fold. First, it discusses the nature, strengths, weaknesses of online learning to see why its implementation in Indonesia during COVID 19 is problematic. Second, it introduces blended learning (BL) and shows how it is the best alternative to facilitate learning in the post-COVID 19 or the new normal.


Online Learning

Online learning has been in practice for more than 30 years. Since CALCampus launched its first generation of in 1986, it has been massively implemented at universities due to the many benefits it offers, such its great support for student-centered implementation, the flexible learning time and place, the ease for accessing the information available on the internet, the opportunities for students to use their learning style and speed, and the opportunities to interact and create a network with other students and other parties from around the world. NACOL (2006) stated that online learning also hones the 21st Century skills, such as global awareness, information technology literacy, and the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity). 

Realizing the many advantages it offers and its increasingly improved implementation thanks to the continuous enhancement based on the experience and research results, secondary and elementary schools have eventually begun to implement online learning. In many countries, more and more elementary school students have employed online learning, at least as an enrichment to face-to-face learning. NACOL (2006) estimated the implementation of online learning to increase by 30% every year in primary and secondary schools in the United States. 


To run online learning, four main elements are required: curriculum, technology, students, and teachers. The curriculum refers to the learning objectives, content, strategies, methods, schedules, procedures, activities, and assessments. Technology is the software used as the learning environment located in the cyberspace. Because all learning activities in the network are regulated through this software, it is often referred to as the learning management system (LMS). To access and study at an LMS, students need a device (laptop / iPad / desktop/smartphone) and an internet connection. Students also need technical skills to operate the tools used and guidance on how to best engage for learning at the LMS. Although the learning takes place “inside” the technology, the teacher’s role as the facilitator is crucial. How sophisticated a technology used in online learning may be, educators are highly required to facilitate, direct, motivate, and inspire the students. When it comes to education, the human touch is essential, and technology cannot provide it! 


Despite the various advantages it offers, online learning also has various weaknesses compared to traditional face-to-face learning. First, online learning requires a relatively longer time. If traditional learning is mainly based on oral communication, online learning is more dominated by written communication. Oral communication can indeed be conducted via teleconference, video calls, or telephone, but such communication patterns will reduce online learning flexibility, make learning longer, and increase costs. That’s why the use of messages or written feedback is more favorable communication means in online learning. Second, online learning students are required to be more independent, active, disciplined in time management, and responsible in their learning. Third, students can feel isolated. To overcome this, students need to actively contact classmates or teachers via email or discussion forums available at LMS. Fourth, online learning gives students great freedom. But if freedom is not used properly, it can cause the students to ignore their obligations in learning! 


Apart from the weaknesses, if planned and managed properly, online learning’s efficacy is not inferior to that of traditional learning. What is more, students today are generation Z who love to do many things online. The University of thePotomac's findings reveal that 77% of teachers and lecturers view the effectiveness of online learning, if not better, is the same as traditional learning; 70% of students say online learning is better or the same as traditional learning; and 25% of students who learn online find their learning better through online learning than the traditional way. 


The question now is: If online learning has practiced quite long and its implementation strategy has been continuously improved, why did its practice during COVID 19 lead to many problems among students in Indonesia? The problems arise simply because of two interrelated factors. First, the coronavirus pandemic came so suddenly that schools and teachers did not have time to make preparations. Second, the teacher has never held or practiced online learning. Both factors consequently made teachers at a loss. Their competence in designing learning goals, media, activities, and assessments in the traditional class could not help them. As mentioned earlier, online learning is different from traditional learning so that communication patterns, activities, media, and learning assessments must be adapted to online learning environments. Since teachers merely placed the elements of traditional learning into online learning without proper adjustments, the learning activities became sporadic and unintegrated. The members of a class also could not communicate with each other, so that they did not give and receive appropriate feedback, a very important factor to succeed online learning (see this article for details). These caused many teachers so frustrated that they just instructed students to read, summarize, or do exercises or projects that were not integrated with the learning objectives. 


Learning in the New Normal Era 

According to the Ministry of Education and Culture, schools in various regions in Indonesia will reopen starting in mid-July 2020. But the life condition in all sectors, including education, in the New Normal era, will be very different from the one before the pandemic. Before the vaccine for the coronavirus discovered, the whole community seems to still have to carry out health protocols, including checking body temperature, wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and washing hands. What is more, Kemen PPA (The Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection) had recommended students to learn at schools only 4 hours per day without breaks. Whereas Hetifah Sjaifudian, the Chairperson Deputy of the Commission X of the House of Representatives asked the government to apply the policy held by Australia, i.e., students learn at school only one day a week, and in the other days, they learn online from home. 

In my opinion, Syaifudin's suggestion sounds more realistic and effective. It substantially advocates the implementation of blended learning (BL), the system which combines the traditional learning conducted at school and online learning. This is more realistic because blended learning reduces the frequency of students going to school without sacrificing learning outcomes quality. Various practices of BL before the pandemic have shown its superiority to traditional learning. Thus, employing it in the new normal era is the best solution. 


However, the suggestion to ask students to learn at school only once a week needs to be reconsidered in order not to sacrifice learning outcomes. The portion for the face-to-face sessions needs to be evaluated following the characteristics of the subject and the readiness of the students and teachers to carry out online learning. If face-to-face learning is too minimal, learning outcomes may not be optimal. Regarding this, I suggest the students to attend face-to-face learning 2 days per week with a duration of 4 hours per day. (The arguments are presented in the next section). 


Blended Learning (BL) 

BL is defined as the learning method or system that combines the best of the face-to-face instruction and computer-mediated instruction. Osguthorpeand Graham (2003) stated that educators using BL try to maximize the best elements of face-to-face learning and the best benefits that can be obtained from online learning. So, in BL, the elements of online learning are not just added to traditional learning, but the best elements of both are effectively integrated (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). That’s why BL is a combination of “high tech” and “high touch”. The benefits of high tech are obtained through the process and learning activities in LMS while high touch is obtained through traditional learning (face-to-face). 

However, not all courses combining traditional and online learning are BL. Theoretically, to be called BL, 30% to 79% of the process, content, activity must be delivered through ICT (Allen, Seaman & Garrett,2007). As shown in Figure 1, if the course covers only up to 29% of web-based content or process, it is called a traditional course enriched with ICT elements. Thus, in a BL course, the proportion of the two elements is flexible, depending on the characteristics of the subjects and existing conditions.


Courses requiring a lot of practice and physical activity, e.g. “Performing Drama” or "Learning to Swim" naturally need more face-to-face learning portions. Conversely, conceptual courses can be given a dominant portion of online learning. In the New Normal era, the environmental matter should be one of the main concerns. If students have eight courses to attend, they might need to attend school at least two four-hour-days a week. In this scenario, students get a one-hour face-to-face session for every course per week. The remaining time needed to complete the courses in the same week is allocated to online learning.


Image 2. Combination of Face-to-face and Online  and Individual  and Collaborative Learning in BL
(Image credit: http://www.staloysiusla.org)
To illustrate, in the BL system learning begins by introducing the topic so that students get a certain degree of understanding of it. This is done individually online by asking the students to access and study text, mind maps, PowerPoint slides, and videos concerning the topic available on the LMS or other sites on the internet. After that, still in the LMS, activities for deepening students’ understanding of the topic was carried out through discussion and feedback exchange between students and students and teachers and students as well. These activities can be conducted in small groups or class context. To assess each students' mastery of the concepts, the teacher can assign them to take an online quiz. If some students could not do, let’s say 80% of the quiz items, they can be asked to repeat studying the topic. Their ability to answer not less than 80% of the quiz indicates that the students are now ready to collaborate in groups for analyzing, solving a case, or making a project in groups, and then present it in the face-to-face session. After that, learning new topics can begin.

The illustration above shows that BL essentially does not only combine face-to-face and online learning elements but also individual and collaborative learning patterns (see Figure 2). When studying a topic, students not only individually interact with the learning content and media but also collaborate with other students and teachers.

On the one hand, the presence of face-to-face learning in BL can effectively overcome online learning weaknesses, especially the students’ feeling of isolation and the absence of oral communication. The employment of online learning elements, on the other hand, enables students to obtain the benefits offered by technology. Osguthorpeand Graham (2003) identified six benefits of BL: (1) flexibility that allows learning designs tailored to students' individual goals and needs; (2) broad access to knowledge; (3) opportunity to develop social interaction; (4) facilitation for the development of students’ competencies; (5) cost efficiency and opportunity to reach students in all corners of the world in a short time and with consistent semi-personal service; and (6) ease of learning content revision. 

Another advantage of BL is its compatibility with the principles of constructivism the learning philosophy viewing that in learning knowledge is built by students from experience and the thoughts about that experience. Unlike the objectivist approach which believes that the best way to master knowledge is through transfer or dissemination from an expert (teacher) to the recipient (student), constructivists emphasize that knowledge is gained by creating meaning from experience. 

Furthermore, social constructivism emphasizes the creation of meaning to build knowledge usually takes place through social interaction because students first process information socially and then internalize it. That is why students must actively interact with various sources of information and share ideas with other students to complement each other. In BL, with the help of technology, students can easily interact individually with learning content and collaborate with various parties (teachers, fellow students, or other related parties). Individual interaction with content builds personal understanding, whereas collaborative interaction provides a variety of cultural and contextual perspectives, which reinforce each student's understanding of a concept and the context in which it is applied.

Various studies at the levels of primary to tertiary education show that BL increases learning outcomes and skills and develops student attitudes. Because of its superiority, the majority of students who previously attended online learning in the US have switched to BL. Salama (2005) asserted that BL is a logical alternative to online learning scientifically acceptable. It provides higher learning outcomes, costs less, and can combine various types of sophisticated learning techniques. Research results (Kenney & Newcombe, 2011; Garrison &Kanuka, 2004) showed that students who learn in the BL method achieved higher average scores and got a higher level of learning satisfaction than students who learn by the non-BL method.

Basic Elements of Blended Learning 
To build an effective BL four elements are required: teacher, students, curriculum, and technology. Teachers who want to employ BL should master the subjects they want to teach, basic ICT literacy skills, pedagogical competencies, and willingness to go online frequently. To attend a BL course, students require the infrastructure to access LMS via the internet and understand the learning objectives and the procedures participating in the BL system. Students, therefore, need to be equipped with guidelines they can access anytime. The curriculum in BL must be have been designed in such a way that it clearly illustrates which parts and activities in the syllabus are carried out through the face-to-face sessions and which are most suitable in the LMS. Technology refers to the LMS. As explained earlier, teachers in a school possessing an LMS is advantageous. But, although a school does not have LMS, the teachers can still implement BL by utilizing the applications available on the internet, such as Edmodo, Moodle, Khan Academy, Schoology, and Google Classroom. 

Building Blended Learning 
Based on my experience, to be able to run BL, teachers who are provided with proper ICT infrastructures and the internet connection can build BL for their courses by transforming the face-to-face courses into BL system after practicing in an eight-session-workshop. If the training session takes place once a week, about two hours per session, the workshop is completed within two months. If the training session takes place twice a week, the workshop will be completed within a month. Since the workshop is conducted through a BL method, teachers do not need to abandon their main duties as educators. After undergoing the workshop, teachers can directly teach their subjects through the BL system. Just like other skills, the skills to run BL will also continuously develop along with the increasing experience. The procedure for building BL can be seen in the article titled Building Blended Learning

Conclusion 
The experience we got while undergoing "learning from home" tells us how strategic online learning is. However, we could not optimize it due to our unpreparedness and some of the learning system's natural weaknesses. Life condition in the coming New Normal era makes it risky to "force" our students hold face-to-face learning every day and for a long time at school. Therefore, it is time for us to start building BL as the best option for successful learning. Because the basic skills to design and run BL can be trained quickly (one to two months), it is very strategic if each school facilitates workshops like this. If each teacher has been able to apply BL, we can expect that students can keep effectively learn in the future even though the New Normal era requires everyone to follow certain health protocols. BL has been proved the best educational method for the 21st Century and an era requiring some protocols implementation. Accordingly, if we do not take this momentum to optimize the use of technology to build an effective BL, then we will lose a great opportunity to transform education for our nation. *****


What do you think about the essence and urgency of building Blended Learning in schools in Indonesia? Please write down your opinion in the comments section below.

The Indonesian version of this article could be read here.

Author: Parlindungan Pardede (parlin@weedutap.com)







Comments

  1. I agree if we use blended learning in the new era.

    Blended learning is nothing new for students in Indonesia. Even in some universities and schools have implemented it. It's just that implementing it is still not effective. Now is the time for students to do blended learning with the maximum possible. I also agree with the opinion of the author who says that it would be nice to face-to-face learning done for 2 times each week. In my opinion the learning is done only to outline what students will learn in the future and also an explanation of the tasks given by the teacher. However students experience a little difficulty when the teacher explains the material through an online platform.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I strongly agree with this article, Blended Learning is the best solution for learning in the new normal era. In 21st century, I think some of universities have implemented Blended Learning method, including Christian University of Indonesia. This method make students be more productive, because it's students' centered. So from now, let's us together to bulid Blended Learning in schools and universities in Indonesia.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that's right that blended learning is the most suite yet useful method to be implemented in running the education process in Indonesia. Cause it's provide the integration of the best elements of online learning (high tech) and the best elements of traditional learning (high touch).
    By then the student will still get the objective of the learning and still will not feel isolated. Also, by accustomed with technology will also refine students ability to get the better of technology which is an important skill in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree that blended learning is the best solution for learning in the new normal era. However, there is still a lack of preparation and some weaknesses of Blended Learning. Therefore, we can use this opportunity optimally to do blended learning. In my opinion, the four basic elements are very important for blended learning so they can run well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree that blended learning is the best solution in the new normal era, but I might not be one of 70% of students saying online learning is better or the same as traditional learning. Especially if Indonesia also applies policies held by Australia (students learn at school only one day a week, and in the other days, they learn online from home), it will only make learning in Indonesia unbalanced. I do agree with the existence of blended learning, but I agree more if traditional (face-to-face) learning is more than online learning.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I completely agree with this article. Blended learning is already widely used by students in Indonesia. But in Indonesia, blended learning has not yet achieved effectiveness in learning. You could say blended learning in Indonesia is still not effective. With this new era, it can make us do blended learning effectively so that learning in Indonesia becomes more effective every year.

    ReplyDelete
  7. i'm very agree with this article. Blended learning is very efficient in this era moreover in this COVID-19 pandemic and in new normal later. Blended learning will be very helpful and effective for students in Indonesia

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm very agree with this article. These days Blended learning is the best solution for learning media. But many do not like blended learning, because many obstacles to use this method.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Absolutely!
    You said that to build an effective BL four elements are required teacher, students, curriculum, and technology. I have to side with you on this one. Blended Learning will not be complete if it lacks one of these elements. It's like tea without sugar. It will bland. And the Blended Learning Method is not useful. That is why, Blended Learning is very important and captures many important things. Especially in this New Normal Era. Since the COVID pandemic, everything has gone online. Especially in this New Normal Era. Since the COVID pandemic, everything has gone online. It is possible that after the pandemic is over, Blended Learning must continue. This method is very helpful in the learning process. In this New Normal period, we must be careful in keeping our distance from others. Because it's not completely safe now.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I strongly agree with this article, that Blended Learning is the best solution for learning in the new normal era because we can stay at home and and have a lot of time to study. Since I was in high school my teacher has implemented a Blended Learning system but it is rarely done, and the application that we used for Blended Learning is Edmodo because it is easy to use and I was surprised because this application was used on my campus as an application for online learning. I think Blended Learning is good choices for learning between teacher and students in this era.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Flipped Classroom: Model Pembelajaran Campuran yang Efektif

Pendahuluan
Flipped classroom adalah inovasi metode pembelajaran terbaru di era dijital. Metode ini merupakan salah satu model blended learning yang begitu efektif hingga para pendidik yang sedang mempersiapkan diri melaksanakan blended learning direkomendasikan untuk menggunakannya. Penelitian mengungkapkan metode ini sangat efektif untuk mengubah siswa dari pasif menjadi menjadi aktif, dari pembelajar yang ‘ogah-ogahan’ menjadi bertanggungjawab untuk menguasai konten pembelajaran, karena metode ini mengaktivasi dan mengembangkan keterampilan berpikir siswa, baik secara mandiri maupun kolaboratif. Dengan metode ini, guru lebih berperan sebagai fasilitator, pembimbing dan motivator. 

Hakikat Flipped Classroom Sesuai dengan namanya, ‘flipped’, yang bermakna ‘membalikkan pola, posisi, urutan, susunan, atau arah sesuatu, flipped classroom merupakan metode pembelajaran yang membalikkan atau mengubah pola pembelajaran tradisional. Karena kata ‘flipped’ bersinonim dengan ‘inverted’, flipped cl…

In times of Coronavirus pandemic, we can make a difference.

Practicing kindness to others not only enables us to make a difference but also makes us happier and stimulates others to perform kindness.
COVID 19 hit the world by surprise and is quickly spreading like wildfire across the globe. Up to the time this article was written, it has been infecting more than 3 million people, causing more than 200,000 deaths, and sending billions of people into the stay at home or lockdown to help 'flatten the curve' of infections. And since it is a new virus, we now have only relatively limited information about it and there is no yet vaccine or preventative treatment for it. Having limited knowledge and seeing its devastating effects, it is understandable why people are anxious and frightening. 

What can we do in such a critical moment? Should we just let our governments do everything? No! Precisely while facing a radical crisis and when survival is threatened by an insurmountable problem that we have a great opportunity to do good to make a differ…

Terrorized by Coronavirus Pandemic: Do we need Superheroes?

We need superheroes because their role models motivate us to be aware that any of us is capable of becoming a superhero, and by collaborating, we can fight any disaster that threats the world.
The coronavirus hit the world by surprise and keeps on spreading like wildfire across the globe. Only in four months, it has been affecting more than 200 countries and territories around the world, infecting more than 2 million people and killed more than 140,000. To limit the number of people’s exposure to the virus to slow down its spread, some countries or zones are locked down, offices, schools, and public places are shut, and our lives are on hold. Many people are despondent because they cannot meet their beloved ones. Some others are depressed about being unable to do the routines they used to have. Some even think their freedom is robbed.

The sheer terror and horror of this fast-moving infection are intensified when we hear that the number of death it causes keeps on increasing so sharply t…