Personalization through Blended Learning
The desire within teachers to personalize learning to unique student needs is nothing new. For decades, teachers have sought ways to make this a reality. Today, technology has opened doors to new and promising teaching methods, paving the way for deeper personalized learning for students. Specifically, the use of online and blended learning have become modalities for personalization, allowing teachers to disseminate and adapt content as needed.
Blended learning combines the best of both worlds: traditional classroom encounters with online tools and learning paths. If appropriately implemented, and with care, blended learning can be a catalyst for personalized learning. Generally speaking, successful implementation of blended learning requires that face-to-face and virtual learning work hand in hand to create meaning experiences, experiences that ultimately lead to greater student understanding of the content being taught. Blended learning cannot be successful in a silo.
Personalized learning allows students several opportunities. First, it will enable students to choose when and how they best learn. Second, some virtual platforms allow students to create online profiles, which identify for teachers how each student can master content. The latter is critical since not all students are strong test-takers. Historically, test scores have been the one-way schools determined which students were doing well, and which were struggling, when in reality some students, who were deemed to be struggling, may have just needed a different modality to show what they know.
Personalizing Learning Via Blended Learning
To work together, it is best to start with an understanding of what blended learning and personalized learning, in essence, are. In short, blended learning is a vehicle. It is a way in which information can be shared by educators and learned by students. However, on its own, blended learning is not necessarily productive.
A teacher, for example, can share content in person and then online, but without a strategy to help students understand and apply the information, it may become lost in translation. Personalized learning occurs when strategies are applied alongside the dissemination of information, strategies that help students engage with content in a way that makes the most sense to them.
Blended learning thus supports personalized learning. For example, adaptive learning is a form of personalized learning. It occurs when content is adapted to progress, or regress, with the learning needs of an individual student. With the use of technology, teachers can use virtual learning paths that guide students through content, flexing where necessary, and emphasizing modules that may need additional attention.
When students and teachers meet face to face, an opportunity now exists for both parties to ask questions, apply knowledge, and gain deeper understandings of the situation at hand. This may mean that the student asks clarifying questions to the teacher about the content being taught, or that the teacher can help the student apply the content within now in-person contexts. Thus, personalized learning is achieved by leveraging online learning tools and platforms, as well as traditional brick and mortar classroom sessions.