The networked computer rather complicates the choice of learning media, primarily because the Internet accommodates both synchronous and asynchronous communication. If, as a learner, you want to collaborate with your peers in real-time, you can do so with all sorts of tools from simple text chat, to online telephony using tools like Skype, through to sophisticated web conferencing systems which provide a virtual classroom experience.
On the other hand, if, as a learner, you demand the flexibility to learn as and when you wish, you can enjoy all the advantages of offline media with the added ability to connect with others at your own pace through forums, social networks, blogs and wikis. Already the Internet combines many of the benefits of face-to-face and offline media. Maybe one day it will surpass them both.
The Internet will transform learning above all because of its scalability. Sites such as the Khan Academy, providing video tuition in maths and science, have already reached more than 100 million learners. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are making it possible to deliver higher education to tens of thousands of students at a time, at a tiny fraction of the cost of an on-campus education.
Online learning will soon become the default option, at least for adults, but that does not mean it can or should be universal. We have already discussed the special benefits that can be attributed to learning face-to-face. And, until ultra-fast broadband is universally available on all devices, we will still need to carry some of our learning materials around with us.
A little pragmatism
Systematic approaches are rarely followed to the letter in the real world – after all, let’s face it, life’s just too short. What’s important is that when we cut corners, we do so consciously, applying the main principles with common sense and a great deal of pragmatism. My Blended Learning Cookbook is laden with examples of typical learning problems and uncomplicated blended solutions. If you find it hard (or simply too boring) to apply the systematic approach, you’re welcome to copy any of the recipes that you find relevant to your experience. The end result should be the same – more effective, efficient learning interventions.
That brings this series to an end. All of the posts in the series will be included in the third edition of the Blended Learning Cookbook, due to be published later on in 2013. This will include more detailed analyses of the various decision options and a revised set of recipes. We also hope to produce a video summarising our approach to blended learning.
Until then it’s over to you. Please share your blended learning experiences, whether or not you are applying our suggested approach.