The Growing Significance of Blended Learning and Teaching in the Post-Pandemic World
The fact remains that the digital infrastructure today is a far cry from what is needed for seamless online learning, not just in various parts of India but across other parts of the developing world.
Covid-19 has had a major impact on nearly all spheres of human life, and education too has witnessed a significant disruption. As per statistics put out by the UNESCO on its website, over 190 countries faced disruption in formal learning and teaching impacting nearly 1.5 billion learners at one point. As per the same report about 320 million learners have been impacted in India alone. (*Source: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse)
However, quite commendably, despite the scale and impact of this pandemic, private education enterprises, as also Governments across the globe, were swift in putting out resources for the benefit of learners. In India, in addition to the efforts of all major education content and service providers, various Government initiatives such as SWAYAM (National Online Education Platform), Diksha (National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers), and PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), catered to the teaching-learning needs of teachers and students in these unprecedented times. While these initiatives ensured some form of continuity in learning and teaching, the situation brought to surface the bigger and deeper issue of the ‘digital divide’.
The fact remains that the digital infrastructure today is a far cry from what is needed for seamless online learning, not just in various parts of India but across other parts of the developing world. Print text books continue to be the mainstay of our education system and it is wishful thinking to imagine an instant flip to digital given the challenges with connectivity, hardware, resource training and the existing well-entrenched pedagogical approach that is based on text books. However, there is no dispute about the rise in the uptake of e-learning and digital ways of learning and teaching in last few years, and Covid-19 has further accelerated the rate at which digital is being adopted. Therefore, it is imperative to adopt solutions that adapt well to this mixed teaching-learning environment, where print and digital coexist. This blended approach will also take care of the need to incorporate audio-visual elements, online assessments and anytime, anywhere access for students and teachers, ensuring their continuing interest and engagement.
Blended or Integrated learning solutions seamlessly combine print and digital resources to create a consistent learning environment not just for the student but also for the teacher and the parent. Envision a print textbook aligned to audio-visual content for a digital board and mapped to an online assessment framework that reports periodic progress to parents. These solutions provide a teacher tools for ongoing and formative assessments, to identify learning gaps for individual learners, enabling them to provide remedial content specific to a learner’s needs. Solutions such as these help to put the learner at the very heart of the teaching-learning process.
Digital learning resources, test generators with question banks linked to various learning and difficulty levels, class performance analysis, automated reports for parents accessible through mobile apps are some essential tools that blended learning solutions offer along with print text books and work books. From a teachers’ perspective, a digitized setup offered through blended learning solutions provides a rich repository of print and online resources that allows the teachers to collaborate with students to create a more interactive and engaging learning environment. A blended approach to learning and teaching also makes it possible to do justice to the concept of inter-disciplinary teaching.
The recently announced National Education Policy, 2020 emphasizes on the inclusion of technology in the learning pedagogy to provide more holistic experience to the teacher and students. The NEP 2020 strongly recommends the usage of a wide variety of digital resources to strengthen the learning of students in not only understating the theoretical aspects of the subjects, but to also strengthen the cross-curricular connects, and drawing a connect between the home experiences and school-life experiences of students. It also stresses on the need to establish clearly defined learning outcomes which can further lead to a better balance between pedagogy and assessment, exactly what smartly developed blended solutions can offer.
The impact of Covid-19 has brought the education landscape to an interesting inflection point, where print content alone will not suffice our requirements in the new normal while a 100% digital approach might be inappropriate given our unpreparedness. Blended or Integrated Learning Solutions are the need of the hour and the way forward for a robust educational system to reach all stakeholders anytime, anywhere!
(The given article is authored by Sivaramakrishnan V, MD Oxford University Press, India)