BEIJING, Aug. 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Released on April 18, the 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report brought forth in-depth perspectives on Hybrid/Online Learning Modes and Hybrid Learning Spaces. The latest publication built on Horizon Reports of the past eight years, prompting the design and application of blended learning as one of the most critical trends in future development of higher education.
In particular, Aras Bozkurt, researcher and faculty member at the Department of Distance Education at Anadolu University, observed that "interest in blended learning research has remained steady, and that this interest peaked during the Covid-19 pandemic, when blended learning was applied to meet the new needs that emerged."
Why Blended/Hybrid Learning?
In A White Paper: Achieving Success with Blended Learning, Harvi Singh and Chris Reed of Centra Software pushed back on the common misunderstanding of blended learning as a simple mix-and-match of learning methods. Instead, they stressed that "Blended learning focuses on optimizing achievement of learning objectives by applying the 'right' learning technologies to match the 'right' personal learning style to transfer the 'right' skills to the 'right' person at the 'right' time."
In other words, Singh and Reed defined blended learning as an effective strategy oriented toward fulfilling personalized learning objectives.
Recent Developments of Blended/Hybrid Learning Modes
- Blended/Hybrid Learning and Flipped Classrooms
A comparative analysis of SSCI and CSSCI journal articles published from 2005 to 2015 on blended learning found that a major trend of future blended learning research may be the combination of blended learning and flipped classrooms.
Specifically, the term "Flipped Classroom" appeared on the edge of SSCI keyword co-occurrence networks. The finding indicated that researchers had begun to pay attention to the relationship between flipped classrooms and blended learning and adopt a hybrid format to design flipped classrooms.
- The Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) Teaching Model
Theorizing and investigating the Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) teaching model, Zhu Zhiting and Hu Jiao of East China Normal University stated that the approach is a fusion and innovative development of the original online and offline forms, which requires constructing a next-generation learning environment and innovative forms of teaching practices accordingly.
The OMO teaching model gives rise to student-centered learning. Through technological means, it connects various structures, levels, and types of data in online and offline, virtual and in-person learning scenarios, forming an integrated ecosystem and realizing a new teaching model of personalized learning. Moreover, the method is highly compatible with blended and hybrid learning models and promotes innovations in education.
For instance, exploring the application of the OMO model in teaching Chinese as second language (TCSL), Ma Ning of Henan Polytechnic University foregrounded that "Many TCSL teachers are trying to use the smart learning platforms like EEO's ClassIn Classroom to apply practically this mixed teaching mode."
- Online and Hybrid Learning Positively Linked with Microcredentials
On the other hand, the 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report shined an overtly positive light on online and hybrid learning in association with three practices: competency-based microcredentials, inclusivity, and eco-sustainability.
The report foresaw rising demand and future development of microcredentials. The trend is framed under growing need to align higher education with practical job requirements, marking a shift in education to become more personalized and employment-oriented.
Online and hybrid learning modes figure into practical microcredentials perfectly as they offer students flexible options, especially given the diversifying student body, many of whom may hold jobs and have families.
Moreover, scholars in Australia established that hybrid learning spaces play a positive role in enhancing student employability. They identified "a 'virtuous circle' effect of the EmployABILITY initiative by the hybrid learning space to remove the emphasis on external factors such as immediate graduate transition and refocus students' efforts on self-development and enhanced professional identity."
Hybrid Learning Spaces Applied in OMO Learning
Findings of a pilot study by international scholars indicated that teachers and students mentioned several critical elements to successful OMO teaching and learning experiences. Topics discussed included classroom infrastructure—such as interactive boards, ergonomic chairs, tables, the internet, and cameras. In describing their experiences in the OMO learning space, teachers and students believed that these were fundamental to a successful OMO learning modality.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently launched an initiative calling for more research and debate on how knowledge and education should be designed in a complex and uncertain world. Several universities in China have tested the innovative learning tool, EEO's ClassIn X, to provide students with a practical OMO learning experience in the post-COVID-19 era. This approach gave teachers more flexibility to teach online and in-person students simultaneously.
Stressing the value of employing the smart screen in OMO learning, one teacher reflected that "The equipment in the OMO classroom is much more than traditional chalks and a blackboard. We use big screens in class with advanced technologies [to] teach in real-time both group[s] of students (online and offline)."
Effective Application of Blended/Hybrid Learning
However, there is still room for improvement when it comes to the blended/hybrid learning model. Inquiring into the teaching process of blended learning through case studies and interviews, researchers from China Agricultural University and Ludong University presented the following findings and suggestions for more effective application:
(1) While the blended model raised student interest in learning, it didn't necessarily make the intellectual process easier. In fact, students needed to take more initiative in thinking critically and raising questions in class.
(2) The teaching design of blended learning should empower teachers and students. On a larger scale, effective implementation of the model relies on systematic changes, whether it is the perception of blended learning as a mainstreaming teaching method or better recognition of blended courses in the current credit system and employment pipelines.
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