Blended Learning: A New Standard for 21st Century Learners
The long awaited National Education Policy 2020 is not just a document but a commitment by the Union government to nation building through the transformation of the existing education system.
This is undoubtedly a learner-centered doctrine that reaffirms that the student is the primary actor and that it is the absolute duty of teachers to create an ecosystem that responds to the dreams and aspirations of learners. It is precisely for this reason that NEP promotes multimodal learning approaches, particularly face-to-face, online and distance or in virtual mode, associated with multidisciplinary, professional, value-added and skills development courses.
Academic Credit Bank, Graduates attributes / Curriculum based on learning outcomes, Assessment reforms to assess learning outcomes and Multiple entry and exit options further consolidate the idea of centripetal learners of the NEP. These, combined with on-demand, open-book and group exams, complete the NEP Learner-Centered Pathway Wish List. When implemented, these will ensure improved access, flexibility, quality, interests and needs of learners in real learning worlds.
These will also guarantee the freedom for learners to choose courses and institutions, learning paths, mentors, timetables, any mode learning and on-demand learning and thus help democratize the system. learning of the nation to a large extent.
The successful implementation of these imperatives can only become reality through multiple learning paths with the use and integration of technology in education.
The NEP also emphasizes the learner-centered approach in teaching by involving them in the learning process through various individual and group activities. In face-to-face learning, even if a teacher wishes to reduce one-way tutoring and plans to work in groups or work individually, there is insufficient time available for such classroom activities. As such, face-to-face formal education does not promote, at the desired level, higher-order thinking skills, holistic skills and creativity in students, resulting in skills deficit and unemployability. . The situation forces us to seek out other available alternatives, not as a substitute for face-to-face learning but as a complementary and complementary measure. The emergence of new digital technologies requires their use for effective teaching-learning processes at all levels of education.
One of the best alternatives to achieve this is to use blended learning models. Blended Learning (BL) is a pedagogical methodology that combines face-to-face and ICT-mediated activities with the integration of synchronous and asynchronous learning tools to transform learning into an enjoyable educational enterprise.
BL has never been a substitute for face-to-face learning, nor is it just a mix of face-to-face and online mode, but rather a well-planned combination of meaningful activities in both modes. A true BL environment requires students and teachers to be physically located in the same learning space. The BL environment ensures increased student engagement in learning and better teacher-student interaction, greater responsibility for learning, a more flexible teaching and learning ecosystem, promotes self-learning and continuous learning, provides better experiential learning opportunities and better learning outcomes.
As a result, various effective blended learning models can be identified based on the needs of different disciplines. The flipped classroom is a similar technique that uses technology to reshape learning experiences and maximize the efficiency of traditional face-to-face classroom time. Learning resources such as video lectures, podcasts, recordings and articles are provided to learners to create free time for teachers to support students in activities, lead discussions and facilitate engagement to transform passive classrooms into active learning spaces. BL and flipped classroom in combination thus ultimately help the student community to learn the art of learning alongside learning the content.
The Mentoring and Coaching roles of essential LB teachers are actually in addition to existing roles and this will generate a need for more teachers. In BL, teachers need to have an even deeper influence and effect on student learning. Traditionally, classroom instruction has been a monologue that requires learners to become a passive receiver of information. BL makes it more student-oriented, bottom-up and personalized. Learners in a BL environment become active learners generating ideas, engaged in brainstorming exercises, concept / mind mapping, creative presentation, real-world exposure, case study, cooperative and peer-to-peer learning, project-based learning and the assimilation of knowledge individually and in teams.
In essence, BL combines the best aspects of online learning with those of direct instruction, making it easy for teachers to do much more to meet student needs without adding to the existing workload. The BL environment actually offers a variety of learning opportunities for learners to learn in the way they are most comfortable with and more leeway for debates and arguments. Thus, the fear that teachers lose their relevance in the teaching-learning process is false. On the contrary, it can turn out to be a win-win situation for both, as it will bring a greater degree of satisfaction to both teachers and learners. Teachers will always be the master of the classroom, but with a greater sense of responsibility. In addition, BL will in no way have a negative impact on research conducted by teachers for knowledge creation.
The argument that BL lab work is not possible is also unfounded as virtual labs provide 24/7 remote access to experiments at low cost and offer better access, repeatability, reliability, safety. and security. The FOSSEE project of the Ministry of Education within the framework of the National Mission for Education through Information and Communication Technologies (NMEICT) and e-Yantra promotes the use of educational tools in academia and the research. Covid-time has witnessed the advent of many tools protected by artificial intelligence. AI technology can help map learners’ attention levels, preferred learning modes, learning speed, learning level, etc. These inputs become essential in the design of appropriate instructional and assessment strategies.
Cognitive skills such as higher-order logical thinking, concept analysis and synthesis, application of knowledge and skills, and creativity require out-of-the-box assessment strategies. BL can promote unconventional thinking regarding summative (open book, group, oral and on-demand) and formative (e-Portfolio, creative products, in-class / online quizzes) assessment strategies and many more in the assessment of learning outcomes.
The recent ICT initiatives of the Ministry of Education and UGC will be useful during the implementation of the BL and will ensure the availability of online learning resources which are open educational resources-OER (NMEICT, NPTEL, e -PG Pathshala, SWAYAM PRABHA, e-Content tutorial in UG subjects, You Tube CEC-UGC channels, oral tutorial NDL, Shodhganga, e-Shodhsindhu, Shodh Shudhhi, Vidwan, etc.), MOOCs and SWAYAM etc. These together with DIKSHA and One-Nation-One Digital Platform project of Ministry of Education guarantees the availability of online learning resources.
I am therefore firmly convinced that all the fears expressed and suspicions raised recently in the public domain about the feasibility and usefulness of BL in our apprenticeship system are unwarranted and unfounded. In fact, BL is the new standard for 21st century learners. What is recommended in the BL guidelines that UGC has uploaded to its website to solicit stakeholder opinion is: (i) universities have the freedom to implement BL or otherwise, (ii) universities / faculty members have the freedom to decide the level of blending of face-to-face and online learning according to the requirements of the discipline, (iii) universities should ensure the availability of essential ICT resources prior to adopt BL, to allay fear of the digital divide, (iv) universities should monitor the successful implementation of BL, and (v) BL should be carefully implemented and should not be used as a pretext for give up classroom instruction. In addition, every higher education institution must prepare to implement all the new imperatives stipulated in the NEP, including BL to transform and democratize the nation’s learning system and to train young people to become socially and economically relevant to rebuilding Bharat.
(The author, Professor Raghavendra P. Tiwari is Vice-Chancellor, Central University of the Punjab, Bathinda. The opinions expressed here are personal.)