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Building Blended Learning



Blended learning is today's most innovative learning method but has unique characteristics. To implement it, teachers should first understand the LMS features to use and build the system by taking five steps: planning, designing, implementing, evaluating, and improving.

Introduction
The previous article, Blended Learning: The Best Solution for Learning in the New Normal Era, describes that online learning or e-learning failed to facilitate quality learning for most students in Indonesia during the coronavirus pandemic due to two main factors. First, the pandemic broke so suddenly that schools and teachers could not make any anticipation. Second, most teachers have never studied or got training on how to employ online learning effectively. These made teachers at a loss concerning the strategies to optimize the various educational advantages offered by online learning on one hand and minimize its weaknesses on the other hand.

Based on research results and experiences obtained from online learning practices before COVID 19 pandemic, a proven solution to overcome these weaknesses and to augment the advantages has been invented, i.e., blended learning (BL) method, which combines the strengths of face-to-face instruction and the advantages offered by online learning. Various studies (e.g., Akbarov, et al, 2018Khader, 2016; Kenney & Newcombe, 2011; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) show that students who learn by the BL method achieve higher average scores and higher levels of learning satisfaction than students who learn by the non-BL methods. No wonder why more and more students previously learned online in the US have switched to BL.

Anticipating the New Normal Era with Blended Learning
According to the Ministry of Education and Culture, schools in various regions in Indonesia will be reopened starting in mid-July 2020. But before the coronavirus vaccine is discovered, students and teachers will meet various limitations in learning because they will be required to follow various health protocols, such as wearing masks, physical distancing, regular hand washing, and checking body temperature. To a certain extent, such protocols will hinder learning. What is more, the learning duration at school also needs to be limited. It has been suggested, for instance, that students should stay at schools only for four hours per day. Other suggested that students learn at school only once a week, and study online from home in the other days.

In the previous article, I have argued that the best solution to overcome these limitations without decreasing the quality of the learning process to facilitate students to achieve high outcomes is by implementing BL. With this learning method, to complete up to 8 subjects, students can simply follow face-to-face instruction at school 2 times (4 hours each) in a week. Other learning activities are conducted through the LMS (learning management system) employed as the virtual classroom from home.
However, to implement BL effectively, teachers need to first build the BL system they will use. To build the system, teachers necessitate mastering an adequate understanding of BL and the skills to operate it. Since the need to implement BL needs is very urgent, teachers should be immediately facilitated with an empowering workshop. Based on my experience, such a workshop can be completed in 8 sessions. If it is programmed to be taken twice a week, teachers can finish it in a month.
Building Blended Learning
Similar to face-to-face instruction that needs to be carefully designed to ensure that it effectively integrates and orchestrates the contents with its media, activities, and other components to achieve learning objectives, a BL system also needs to be well planned.  To build a sound BL system involving the curriculum, technology, students, and teachers, the whole contents, media, and activities must be relevant, meaningful, and integrated with the curriculum and are supported and appreciated by the students and the teachers. Wild (2007) asserted that learning in an LMS must be participatory, not just interactive. Through this participation, students will exert their thoughts and actively collaborate, and these two activities are fundamentals in learning (Allen,2010).

In concern with this, to build a BL requires good preparation, not only to make the time for developing and maintaining the LMS efficient but also to ensure that the BL organization is of high quality for the students. To work systematically, BL development needs to be carried out in five stages (Figure 1), which consists of planning about the integration of both online and face to face learning components and designing and developing the BL elements. When BL has been implemented, it is necessary to put notes of the constraints and the aspects necessary to improve, including the students, the LMS tools used, and the technical support staff. After that, an evaluation should be conducted to improve the BL effectiveness in the following classes.


BL building can be started from zero or by adopting the face-to-face courses. Whichever method is adopted, in practice, the design process does not take place linearly but by moving back and forth from one stage to another. Nevertheless, the principles and considerations required in each stage of the process need to be applied to ensure that each element of the system is truly integrated. The following section briefly presents some major guidelines and suggestions to be applied at each stage.
Planning
This stage includes the considerations concerning the elements to be integrated into the BL system, including the required content, resources, activities, and assessments. In general, this stage is carried out in the same way as the activities of creating a face-to-face class syllabus. However, in planning BL courses, the teacher must identify what parts and activities are most effective to be dealt with in face-to-face sessions, and what parts and activities are best to place in the LMS. The steps of the planning stages can be carried out as follows.
  1. Determining the learning goals and objectives
  2. Determining the final product students will produce as the representation of the goals and objectives
  3. Planning the learning activities that will be performed to achieve the goal
  4. Identifying the most effective parts and activities to be allocated in face-to-face sessions as well as in the LMS.
  5. Registering the learning resources and facilities that are available or urgent to provide (if they don't yet exist). 
Of these five steps, the fourth and fifth steps are most likely new for teachers who have never managed BL. These steps can be conducted only if the teacher is familiar with the LMS she will use. Edmodo, for instance, has the facility to create classes and small groups in one class, a discussion board, where the teacher and students discuss or write messages to other class members, a library where the teacher can store files, videos, audio, pictures and other archives that can be linked to the discussion board so that students can access and download them, a quiz making tool with which the teacher can create an automatic assessment, the Assignment Post where the teacher places assignments, supported with deadline settings and scores recording, "What's due", where the teacher evaluates and records the scores of the assignments students have submitted, and a place to link and attach documents to the discussion board. Her familiarity with the functions of the LMS facilities will help a teacher decide which activities and learning sections to allocate in the LMS.

Designing and Developing
Designing BL needs to be based on the following principles. First, the learning goals and objectives must be integrated into the assessment. Thus, all content and activities must support students to achieve the goals and objectives, and all assignments must be aligned with the learning activities and goals. Second, learning activities must be meaningful and authentic. Therefore, each learning topic must be learned in a real-life context. Third, the content and the assignment level of difficulty must be realistic and in harmony with the learning content and time. 

To make the BL design and development easier, teachers are recommended the Flipped Classroom model which has proven to be effectively used in various institutions throughout the world. In this model, the teachers’ lectures and presentations usually conducted in the face-to-face classroom to convey the concept of a topic are transferred to individual learning (Hamden, et al.,2013) which students do by reviewing modules supported by relevant video, audio, images, and/or PowerPoint slides available on the LMS. While learning these materials personally, every student constructs new concepts and combines them with his prior knowledge to form new knowledge. Through these activities, the students employ "remember" level of thinking. Each student is then instructed to rewrite or explain the new knowledge to himself using "understand" level of thinking.
After that, learning is performed in small groups or with all class members by assigning them activities in which the students should use the new knowledge in other situations with similar contexts. Through such activities, the students practice the "apply" level of thinking. In the groups, students are also assigned to carry out activities in which they should sort information into sections to see the relationship between the parts. These will activate their “analyzing" level of thinking. The following activities can be taking an online quiz aimed to measure the students’ mastery of the concepts they learned. In the following session, the students learn in the classroom to apply the "evaluate" and "create" levels of thinking by assigning them to do case studies or make a project ended by presenting the product. To get a more detailed description of "flipped classroom", please click here.
Implementing
Even a very carefully planned and designed BL system can fail or bear obstacles in its implementation if the issues related to implementation are not well considered. Therefore, before implementing a newly built BL, the followings should be prepared.
  1. Make a list of guidelines or regulations for students who will take part in the BL course.
  2. Orient students to ensure they are familiar with the system and the prepared regulations.
  3. Try out the BL class. 
During the implementation, the teacher must keep on monitoring and motivating students to actively participate in all learning activities. If a problem arises, it must be overcome immediately. The teacher should also record the obstacles or problems related to the course’s substance and the technical aspects so that every necessary improvement can be made for the next classes.

Reviewing and Improving
Similar to other learning methods, obtaining relevant "feedback" to all aspects of the BL system (content, design, activity, and assessment) is crucial for the curriculum development and learning process for improving the teacher’s professionalism. Receiving inputs from all stakeholders, including the students, are very useful for making improvements. To facilitate this, every teacher is recommended to make a poll at the end of a course to obtain the students’ feedback.

Conclusion
To provide students with quality learning in the New Normal era, BL is the best system or model we can employ. However, to implement BL effectively, teachers need to first build a BL system to use, and this must be done through a comprehensive approach to make the time for developing and maintaining the LMS efficient and to ensure that the BL method is of high quality for the students. This article offers a systematic approach, which includes the stages of planning, designing and developing, implementing, evaluating, and revising. To make the construction of BL classes more practical, teachers who never conducted BL are recommended to use the "flipped classroom" as a model. ***

Do you agree with the idea that BL is the best alternative for providing high-quality learning in the New Normal era? What do you think about the procedure of the BL system building in this article? We'd love to hear from you. Please share your ideas in the comments section.

The Indonesian version of this article could be accessed here.


Author: Parlindungan Pardede (parlin@weedutap.com)

Comments

  1. I do agree that BL is the best alternative for providing high-quality learning in the New Normal era. According to me the procedure of the BL system building is very well.
    The implement BL effectively, teachers need to first build a BL system to use, and this must be done through a comprehensive approach to make the time for developing and maintaining the LMS efficient and to ensure that the BL method is of high quality for the students , in this case teacher have a big responsibility .

    ReplyDelete
  2. As the previous article said that blended learning is a combination of f2f and online learning that provide the best element in each method of learning namely high tech and high touch which will benefits education process -that I have experienced it. So, I think that Blended Learning is really the best learning method to be implemented in this new normal era. But, it is unfortunate that not all schools or universities are ready in implementing this method yet because they have never try this kind of learning and don't even have any preparedness. Thankfully, in this article, it is discussed every components needed and steps in running a blended learning in a clear way. So, I really recommend this article to be read by all teachers or lecturers who are trying to implement the blended learning method in teaching in their classes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah, I strongly agree with this article. The implementation of Blended Learning in Learning is the best alternative that that we can do in the New Normal. "To build a BL requires good preparation to build a BL requires good preparation not only to make the time for developing and maintaining the LMS efficient but also to ensure that the BL organization is of high quality for the students. In personally, I think the five procedures contained in the article are complete and very well. For teachers/lecturers who want to implement the Blended Learning in learning, it's better if all of us to follow the fives procedures above.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I strongly agree that BL is the most innovative learning method at the moment. In my opinion, the teacher or lecturer can use the five stages (planing, designing, implementing-reviewing and improving). From the five stages above, I get the point. In the planning stage, the teacher needs to determine what activities and media will be used in the BL process. In the designing stage, the teacher needs to determine the goals and objectives of learning, the teacher provides meaningful and authentic activities because they must be learned in a real life and also the teacher balances the content and level of difficulty of the task with the learning time. At the implementing stage, teachers must monitor and motivate students to be active in learning, teachers are quick to respond to problems that occur during the learning process. At the reviewing stage, the teacher must accept input from others, including students. In my opinion, if the teacher or lecturer can use the five stages wisely, I think BL can run well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. In the previous article, 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, but this system is still poorly implemented in Indonesia, one of which is due to lack preparations from both the government and schools. I enjoyed reading this article. It presents the things that need to be done in building blended learning, and I agree the most important thing is to first conduct an education/ counseling for educators so that they are able to approach their students.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am interested in reading this article. Because the use of blended learning in Indonesia is still not as effective as in other countries. Blended learning that has not been effectively carried out by students or lecturers makes learning not run well. With this, the student fund lecturers must also confirm the confirmation before using the blended learning, and receive a degree of examination from the scholarship. Because not all students understand when learning like this. But as students, we must actually follow the existing regulations, and the five stages can build us in learning and implementing blended learning.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Surely, i agree about this article. To enter the new normal later, BL is very effective for students. Education in Indonesia should use the BL for the new normal. Its the best one education system in new normal. BL can improve Indonesia students to be independent in learning but still in a teacher's control too. So that, teachers should be able to implementing the BL for teaching.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This topic is interesting because Blended Learning is one of the methods of teaching. We must accustom Blended Learning because today's technology is increasingly sophisticated. The students will accept lessons easily by using technology. It's because they use technology all the time. And the most important thing is the teachers need to build a Blended Learning system to use. It is the one interesting thing the writer said.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with the Blended Learning phases that need to be done to run systematically. With these stages will build a blended learning system that is well integrated between teachers and students.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I strongly agree with this article. For new normal BL is a better learning alternative. To get the best in using BL, you have to follow the procedure, using 5 steps. Using this BL, the teacher and student must be able to balance in use, and also the teacher must be diligent in monitoring his students' children. This BL method will certainly receive input from students or teachers or parents of students, and all the input will later make this BL become better in the future.

    ReplyDelete

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