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Fundamentals of Blended Learning

In: Education

In the past, if you wanted to take career-based training, this typically involved finding a nearby campus and seeing what they had to offer. If they didn’t have the program you wanted, you either missed out or had to move closer to a campus that offered your desired program. Once the internet became more widespread, online courses became a viable route. Did you know there’s a third option? It’s called blended learning.

In this article, we explain what blended learning is, what it is not, how it came about, and the many benefits it offers. We also talk about what research has to say about blended learning in healthcare education, what it looks like in the classroom, how it is implemented, and what Ultimate Medical Academy is doing to offer students access to healthcare training in a blended learning format.

What is Blending Learning?

Blended learning refers to a learning format that is part classroom instruction and part online work. With this format, the student is able to complete a portion of the assignments over the internet while going to campus on specific days and times to do lab work, attend in-person classes, or appear at other mandatory events.

The Four Models of Blended Learning

There are a few ways to provide instruction using a blended learning format. That said, many fall into four basic categories:

  1. Rotation Model – rotation of classroom and online learning in one single class; i.e. doing one month of online work followed by one month of lab work on campus
  2. Flex Model – each class requires some level of online and offline work, though not necessarily on a rotational schedule; i.e. completing homework assignments online and appearing on campus for in-person lectures
  3. Enriched Virtual Model – students receive instruction in a physical classroom, finishing their coursework online from home
  4. A La Carte Model – in this model, some of the classes for a particular course of study are offered online and others require campus appearances

What Blended Learning Is NOT

Because blended learning involves the use of digital technology, it is easy to confuse this learning format with any type of learning that is computer-based. However, blended learning is not a program that is offered entirely online. For this type of learning program to be considered blended, it must include some on-campus appearances.

History of Blended Learning

Though blended learning is a term that has become more mainstream in recent years, training began to move outside the classroom in 1840, when Sir Isaac Pitman sent the first training course through the mail. Computer-based learning, or e-learning as it is often called, began more than a century later in the 1960s. Since that time, it has been used in business, education, and by the military to advance an individual’s level of training.

Advantages of Blended Learning

One benefit of a blended learning format is that it is convenient for the student. Online work can be completed from any location that has an internet connection, providing the computer or laptop being used is equipped with the needed browsers, software, etc. Work can also be completed at any time of day. Fewer trips are required to campus, which means less time commuting and more time to study, work, or take care of your family.

Other advantages of blended learning include:

  • The ability to work on an assignment at a pace that aligns with deadlines and your priorities at home;
  • Interaction with the instructor and other students outside the classroom; and
  • Access to additional learning materials (videos, online articles, etc.).

Blended Learning Effectiveness in Healthcare Education

On October 8, 2020, the Journal of Medical Internet Research published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 56 studies involving healthcare education. The goal was to compare blended learning to traditional learning formats to determine if one was superior to the other when it comes to knowledge outcomes. Based on the results, researchers reported that blended learning showed “significantly better” learning outcomes than traditional learning.

Blended Learning in the Classroom

Part of making blended learning work involves exposing students to materials that support the different learning styles. For instance, some students are audio learners, which means that they understand information best by hearing it. Others are visual learners and benefit more from seeing or reading the materials. Then there are the kinesthetic learners who retain new information best when engaging with it physically. Blended learning offers access to all of these types of learning materials, whether by watching online videos, providing links to internet articles, or through in-person training.

Blended Learning Implementation and Examples

Schools have a few options for implementing a blended learning format. One is known as “flipping the classroom.” This involves having students do homework first, then discussing it in class to provide more context or offer additional information. An example of this would be to ask students to watch a training video, then going over its content at the next in-person meeting.

Another option is to implement game-based training. This involves assigning students to take a quiz on an app or setting up flashcards they can use. This helps instructors identify areas that need more instruction while allowing students to have some fun during the learning process. Online discussions also help gauge student understanding of a particular topic.

How UMA is Implementing Blended Learning

Ultimate Medical Academy’s Clearwater campus offers students blended learning access to diploma programs within the healthcare field. This includes Medical Assistant, Phlebotomy Technician, Dental Assistant with Expanded Functions, and Patient Care Technician.

All of these courses are in a blended learning format in which students do a portion of their work online, appearing on campus to complete the lab-based portion of their training program, as well as on-site externships for a hands-on experience. This enables you to meet your work and home obligations while also making it
possible to pursue your career-related goals.

To learn more about how UMA can help you start your career in healthcare, contact our Admissions Department today. We’d be happy to answer all of your questions!

FAQs

  • What is blended learning in the classroom? Blended learning involves doing a portion of your work online and appearing on campus, in a physical classroom, to complete the rest of your training.
  • What are the benefits of blended learning? Many students enjoy blended learning because they can do the online portion of their coursework when it is most convenient for them. They also don’t have to commute to class. Other advantages include the ability to go at your own pace, more interaction with teachers and other students in an online environment, and access to additional learning materials such as videos and internet articles.
  • Is online education as good as brick and mortar? Both types of learning have their pros and cons. However, a 2012 Survey of Online Learning revealed that 77 percent of academic leaders feel that online learning is either as good as or better than attending in-person classes.
  • Is blended learning effective? According to research, a blended learning format is superior to traditional classroom learning, especially when that learning is within the healthcare field.
  • What are the disadvantages of blended learning? Blended learning isn’t right for everyone. For instance, it may not be right for you if you don’t learn well in an online environment. Another potential disadvantage is because this learning is self-paced, it requires that you be self-motivated and submit assignments by a deadline. Some students also find a blended learning format difficult if they learn best with face-to-face instruction.
  • Is blended learning the new norm? Some research studies support blended learning as the “new normal.” However, since all types of learning require students to think as they learn, more traditional methods will likely always be part of a career training program.
  • How do blended classes work? A blended learning class can be set up in many different ways. For instance, some operate on a rotational model, which involves spending a certain length of time doing online work followed by a certain amount of time spent on campus. Others follow a flex model in which students learn both in a physical classroom and online, but there isn’t a true rotation of the two settings. Two other blended class formats include an enriched virtual model, where instruction begins in the class and ends at home, and an a la carte model, in which some classes within a course are offered online and others are held on campus.
  • What is the difference between e-learning and blended learning? E-learning involves taking a course entirely online. This is different than blended learning, where some of the coursework is completed online and some require campus visits.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.