The past year has brought many challenges and opportunities for educational innovation. Most of us were catapulted into unknown territory, suddenly navigating online education which demanded of us to creatively use new tools for our teaching. UM authors Barend Last and Stefan Jongen captured this experience and expanded on it with the necessary theoretical frameworks in their timely book “Blended Learning and Educational Design”. For our final Teach-Meet of the academic year called Education after COVID: Blended or Bland?, we invited Barend and Stefan to speak about what they have learnt from their research on blended education and encouraged participants to reflect on the challenges and opportunities they faced in the past year and use them to develop an educational vision for the future.
The heart of Barend and Stefan’s work lies in helping teachers develop an educational vision founded on the principles of blended learning. They define blended learning beyond simply being a technological innovation but as an approach to educational design that brings all teaching opportunities together in a logical whole. As such, the tools found in the toolbox of blended learning aid teachers to facilitate UM’s educational philosophy in their classroom, to bring a collaborative, constructive, contextual, and self-directed approach to teaching and learning. To help participants better understand the concept of blended learning, Barend provided them with a metaphor:
Imagine your classroom is stranded on a deserted island. You have nothing but you and your students. How would you teach? And what is your educational vision? One day a ship comes by and brings you pen and paper. How would that change your teaching? Another ship comes and brings you books. How would you choose to incorporate these in your teaching? Each day a new ship comes and brings more tools to facilitate your teaching. The important part to remember is that they are tools, meant to be utilised when it best fits. Blended learning is about how to make sense of the ships that arrive – not using all of the ships. It is your responsibility to choose and use well what fits with your educational vision, not to use all simply because they are now here.
This metaphor spoke to many participants and helped guide the subsequent discussions in small break-out rooms. Participants exchanged how they already used blended learning in their classroom such as for “online preparation – onsite discussion”. They also reflected on the opportunities blended learning could bring such as to “support the learning of the students in a way that fits their learning process” and that the “use of breakout rooms is really helpful to activate students”. However, they also shared the challenges they experienced with blended learning such as that the “teaching hours we receive are not enough to make proper material” and that “when some students are online and some are in the class, problematic inequalities are created”.
We hope that this Teach-Meet provided participants with the necessary space and input to reflect on their educational vision for the future of blended learning. We cannot wait to see which ships you choose for your teaching in the coming academic year. Until then, we wish you all smooth sailing!