By David J. Rosen
For more information on blended learning, David J. Rosen will be presenting a session at the National College Transition Conference on Monday, November 9th. Not at the conference? Don’t worry! There will also be a one-hour webinar hosted by World Education’s new EdTech Center on November 13th at 2:00 Eastern Time: “Blended Learning in the Adult Education Classroom”. The webinar is free, but registration is required. Register today!
If you work in an adult basic skills program (including ESOL) and want to develop an online presence for your students, there are so many resources — free and commercial, individual apps and completely integrated learning systems — how do you get started? This step-by-step article explains how. It is based on a new, free, online guide, Blended Learning for the Adult Education Classroom of which I am lead author. Throughout this article, I will reference particular pages in the guide where, if you wish, you can learn more.
Before you start, however, here are three questions that you might have:
1. What is blended (or hybrid) learning?
Blended learning refers to a teaching and learning model that has a face-to-face class or tutorial component integrated with an online learning component. (pp. 3-5)
2. How could blended learning help my students and school or program?
Here are seven ways blended Learning could help. It:
- May be more effective for adult learners than only face-to-face learning or only online learning. (pp. 5-6)
- Can extend learning time so students can reach the new state College and Career Readiness standards. (pp. 6)
- Can help your students to acquire digital literacy/digital readiness, and online learning skills. (pp. 7)
- Enables students to “make up” missed classes (pp. 8)
- Can make homework more convenient and appealing (pp. 8)
- Enables you to more easily monitor student progress (pp. 9)
- Fits well with competency-based (performance-based or mastery) learning models, and with workplace basic skills, including workplace English language learning. (pp. 9)
3. What does Blended Learning Look like?
There are many different successful ways to develop blended learning. Section Two of the guide has several vignettes of adult education blended learning classes and tutoring programs. (Pages 10-30)
HOW TO BEGIN
Below are four steps, in a reasonable but not rigidly prescriptive order. Adapt them to meet your students’ and your program’s needs.
1. Describe what kinds of technology and web access you have in your school or program and classroom. Your description might be a “worst case,” “typical” or “better/best case” scenario. Blended learning is possible, but may look different, with each. (pp. 34-36)
2. Find out and describe what kinds of technology and web access your students have available at home, work, at their public library, community computing center, or elsewhere. (pp. 31-33)
3. Decide on and implement an online learning platform that meets your needs, the needs of your students and the needs of your program or school. There are two very different approaches: an (often purchased, but sometimes free) turnkey program or a build-it-yourself approach. The advantages of the turnkey model are that the content is in place, it usually combines an instructional and assessment system, and that it may take less time to implement. The advantages of a build-it-yourself approach are that all the content is created or chosen by you (and your teaching colleagues) so it may more easily align with what you do face-to-face in class. (pp. 41- 50)
A quick assessment is available to help you determine if the best choice for you, in starting out, is a turnkey or a build-it-yourself approach. (pp. 43-44)
If you decide on an online learning platform, you may need some help figuring out what to look for, so we have provided an “Online Learning Platform Checklist.” (pp. 47- 49)
4. Once you have an online presence, you will need to think about how to introduce it to your students. There are many good ways to do that but they depend on what kind of access you and your students have to the Internet in your program or school. (pp. 36-38)
If you have decided to build your own online presence so that it is well-aligned with your existing face-to-face curriculum, and/or your state-approved adult basic education content standards, you will probably need several (often free) online tools to do that, including: online filing tools (such as Pinterest, Evernote, Livebinders, Dropbox, Google Drive or Scoop.it); shell platforms (such as Edmodo, Blendspace, Schoology, Google Classroom, Blackboard, or Moodle); web pages; email accounts for students; ways to assess students’ computer and digital literacy skills; and free online curricula and content, such as open education resources that can be easily and freely adapted to meet your needs.
If you decide that you want to purchase a turnkey online presence, you will want to have some review criteria (pp. 47-49) and some suggestions of online commercial products. You may also want other tools and apps useful for blended learning such as: polling and classroom response software; adult reading, writing and numeracy apps; student reminder software; real time chatting, screen sharing and video conferencing software; threaded discussion platforms and others. You will find specific examples of all these and more in the guide’s Appendix. (pp. 74-81)
Blended learning, while relatively new, is here to stay. A mainstay in higher education and in K-12 education, it is also growing quickly in adult basic education. I hope this will help you and your program or school to become an effective blended learning model.
David J. Rosen is the President of Newsome Associates in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. He is the editor of the COABE journal Web Scan column, a long-time active contributor to the LINCS Technology and Learning community of practice, and the author of the Adult Literacy Education blog davidjrosen.wordpress.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.