In the last few months, blended learning — where online learning is combined with traditional place-based classroom methods — has become a mainstay. How will this benefit current and future students?
The sense of community, campus life, and an overall coming-of-age experience has always made traditional classroom lessons the preferred method of learning, especially in comparison to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and their notoriously high drop-out rates.
Blended learning lies in the middle of the spectrum, and although schools have introduced varying degrees of e-learning in the past, the pandemic has caused widespread adoption of this approach across the globe. This has brought about an array of benefits — most significantly being able to overcome the restrictions caused by COVID-19.
FLEXIBILITY TO LEARN AT YOUR OWN PACE
Overall, there is evidence that learning outcomes from a blended approach can be equivalent if not better than an in-person format. It is also probable that criticisms against remote learning tend to focus on younger children – and this may not hold for university-age or adult learners who have the drive, discipline, and focus on striving for their academic goals.
Instead, replacing the structured accountability of being in a classroom with flexibility, when in good hands, can be put to good use.
For example, at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus, students are divided into two groups to match the timezones across the globe. Lectures are conducted on campus, streamed online, and recorded for those unable to make the timings.
For many, like second-year Global Bachelor of Business Administration (GBBA) student Ajrin Choudhury, this means accessibility. The 21-year-old can continue her studies despite being home in Bangladesh and limited by COVID-19 travel restrictions and work during her most productive hours.
Third-year GBBA student, 20-year-old Chen Siyi, who is doing her exchange with the ESSEC France campus from her hometown in Guangdong, China, has also used this flexibility to gain work experience — she interns at global financial services giant Morgan Stanley during the day and attends classes at night.
For MBA or EMBA participants who may have to juggle between work, family, and studies, blended learning may just be the ideal solution.
INCREASED RETENTION OF INFORMATION
Studies comparing online, blended and in-person learning have also found that while the online section suffered from increased attrition, there was no difference between blended and in-person participants.
Quality of learning can improve because “in a face-to-face lecture, there are times you miss out on things the professor says. So a major benefit of online learning is the ability to refer back to the lectures when we have doubts,” Simran Hathiramani, from Kolkata, India shares.
The 21-year-old GBBA student has found that, if anything, her learning experience has been enhanced since classes were moved to the virtual realm.
Blended learning also frees lecturers for problem-solving and mentorship during class time.
For example, to foster class discussion, some lecturers in the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus record their classes and share them with the students ahead of the lecture. This allows for more time for class discussion during the lecture.
BUILDS RELEVANT DIGITAL AND SOFT SKILLS FOR THE NEW NORMAL
A large number of companies, including but not limited to tech giants like Twitter and Square, have announced long-run plans to work from home, and internships with Google and EY have already been moved to the virtual medium.
This looks to continue in the next year as President of Global Workplace Analytics, Kate Lister, estimates that between 25 to 30 percent of the workforce will work from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
Yet, challenges abound, including but not limited to team communication becoming fragmented and struggling to remain visible to your boss. So the sooner you learn to manage teams and communicate effectively online, the better. And what better way to develop these soft skills than through blended learning while at school?