Blended, sometimes called hybrid, learning is more than another passing educational fad. It’s not only growing in its use, but it’s proving to be an effective means of instruction. As more public schools begin embracing blended learning, with some states even mandating the practice, universities are seeing a new need for high schools to fill. Colleges have embraced e-learning, but retention is a serious problem in many online school courses, making clear the need to better prepare students for the unique skills of studying in an online world.
For over a half-century, public schools have taught the youngest students the social norms expected for success in classrooms. As technology played a bigger role in schools, the expectations for student skills and behaviors expanded to include using computers. Now that online learning is a regular part of schooling, new standards are being created to address these new needs. Three variations on existing skills can go a long way in preparing the students of today for the e-learning environments they’re sure to experience tomorrow.
Time management techniques
In the private sector, nearly all the great sales trainers whose skills are sought by industry leaders have one common area of focus: time management. In public schools, what is arguably one of the best innovations in the past quarter century is the student planner. Like any tool, though, effective instruction on how to use that implement is needed for real results. Teaching time management in general is a critical skill needed for life and one that is indispensable for college.
If you look at discipline as the outcome of good time management skills in practice, the added discipline required of online coursework demands that students entering higher education need to already possess those traits.
Students need to learn that finishing assignments take precedence over pizza with the gang. This doesn’t mean that a balance shouldn’t be struck between needs and wants, but the former has to come first.
- Plan backwards.
Learning how to break down a big assignment into logical, smaller steps is a project management skill that can be applied to many aspects of life besides school. From the smaller components of a project, like a paper or presentation, learning how to fit those pieces into already identified blocks of time can do wonders for a GPA.
- Build in routines.
While student life can have plenty of unplanned interruptions, often in the form of temptation, having established times to work on specific courses is imperative.
Great online courses are not exceptions to the need in all teaching for the use of differentiation. Building in the practical framework for flexibility can go a long way in student retention, a natural bi-product of matching student needs with instruction.
One dichotomy of online learning is that communication can tend to be passive, especially for students who don’t normally interact with instructors in traditional classroom settings. In a classroom, an eye to eye contact or observation of a look of frustration can be acted upon in a timely manner. For classes in which online communication may be limited to chats, e-mails or discussion boards, those students most vulnerable to simply disappearing need to be engaged on many levels. Differentiation is one intervention and scheduling specific, individual, interactive conferencing, perhaps by phone, chat or in person can improve retention.
With the widespread use of video chats such as those offered by Skype, Google+ and within many proprietary systems at schools, having that face-to-face contact is particularly important for instructors looking for cues that a student may have unspoken obstacles to success that can be addressed.
Preparing tomorrow’s college students for the rich learning experiences that are the demonstrated potential of blended learning must be purposeful. The independent skills required by both online and classroom learning have components that are known to educators but have not fully been articulated in many school curriculums. Incorporating these best practices into existing school activities is both possible and suitable for assessment to be used to remediate any gaps in those skills. Good habits aren’t costly in terms of dollars and cents, and yet the payoff for students who learn to successfully negotiate the online learning world of tomorrow is likely to translate into more than good grades.