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Blended Learning – Opportunities and Challenges (S. Assa Aravindh)

(Adj. Professor, University of Oulu, Finland)

As the saying goes, every challenge also comes with new opportunities. This is also true in the case of the COVID pandemic as it has opened a new normal in various fields , and one among that is the remote learning and teaching methods in education. All over the world, students attended courses online, schools remain closed for a months and even more than an year in certain places. Everyone got so used to this online mode of instruction such that even after the pandemic gets over, it is going to stay in various forms, or may be in a hybrid form which combines both online and offline mode of instruction and learning. One such term that describes this new paradigm is Blended Learning (BL).

Like every new technology or method, BL also comes with its pros and cons. BL essentially means combining in person instructions as well as utilizing online resources, tutorial sessions, lectures and group activities to teach a particular subject or skill. The advantages of BL is that online learning platforms can be widely used by many people at the same time, and students can also learn at their own convenience. This allows flexibility and efficient time management. Courses can be developed for more than one institute and many parties can access the content, rather than many people preparing the lectures and delivering in different places. 

This saves lot of time, effort and resources. One can sit anywhere in the world and access courses in his own convenience and this helps for the universalization of education. Successful examples include Khan Academy, Course era, Udemy etc. However, the term BL should not be confused with online learning, while online learning is just one of the many components of it. Since various techniques and tools and combined in BL, the pace of learning can be customized according to the learning capacity of the students.

When it comes to the challenges, like every new technology BL also suffers from implementation issues ranging from the huge digital divide between rural and urban areas as well as the opposition from traditional mindset of the educators. In a country like India, where a large population lives in small towns and villages, the internet connectivity and access to other resources may affect its implementation if not done properly. Furthermore, the teaching community also has to transition from the traditional teacher centric method of teaching to student centric instruction methods. 

This needs proper infrastructure, training, continuous upgrade of skills and rigorous evaluation methods. Teachers also need to acquire technological skills and learn to handle high quality Information Communication Technology (ICT) Tools. Moreover, the teaching community has to actively involve in delivering tutorials, quizzes, group activities etc, which are much more demanding than the conventional lecturing-only method.