The impact of replacing classroom time with an online learning environment
Blogpost written by Navyug Singh
- The demands placed on employee skills increase or change throughout their career because of the digitalisation of society. To meet those growing needs, higher education should be made more accessible to broader sections of the population.
- Several universities consider replacing some of their classroom instruction with online instruction. This can be done by offering their teaching online, or having a mixture of face-to-face classroom teaching and online, which is called blended learning.
- The data assume that blended learning environments aren’t associated with poorer learning outcomes but are equivalent to conventional face-to-face instruction.
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Many education institutions are trying to offer more flexibility and individualisation. Online or blended learning can assist in meeting this goal by implementing the latest technology. Providing those needs becomes more and more relevant due to the demands placed on employee skills or change throughout their careers.
In order to realise the growing needs for highly qualified employees in the labour market, higher education should be made accessible much easier to broader sections of the population. But in order to meet those demands of a digital society, it is expected that educational institutions provide greater flexibility and individualisation. Through this, learners have the opportunity to adapt the learning process more easily to their needs.
Flexible learning meets the needs of learners and enables them to take more responsibility for the learning process. Flexible learning places the needs of learners at the center. Learners can decide when, how and where they want to learn. Using today’s technology makes it possible to be independent and not restricted to a place and time.
And this is not just a statement that comes out of nowhere! Current research confirms that technology can actually create an interactive and engaging learning environment. This may have some positive effects on gaining knowledge or acquiring skills according to a recent study by Müller and Mildenberger.
Especially since the COVID pandemic, we have seen the need for such alternatives. To hold their seminars or lectures, educational institutions had to switch to digital platforms. At this time, it didn’t really matter anymore where the learners were. Even if learners awoke after a beautiful dream, they could still continue their education.
Although the situation is currently much calmer than during the pandemic, many universities are considering replacing some of their classroom teaching in the future with an online learning environment. But this can only be done if face-to-face classroom time can be replaced with more flexible learning conditions without reducing the performance of the learner.
With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves whether the replacement of some classroom time with online elements allows more flexibility without compromising educational quality and performance.
Thanks to Müller and Mildenberger, who did a systematic review study, who investigated the impact of replacing classroom time with an online learning environment, we can have some insight into the answer which may help us to understand the effect of implementing technology in the environment of classrooms.
In general, learning can take place in many different forms. It can be fully online, with all lectures, seminars, and examinations conducted online only. It can also be a combination of using technology for virtual and asynchronous learning, while still having face-to-face classroom instruction. This method of having virtual and asynchronous learning while still having face-to-face classroom instruction is referred to as blended learning.
There are many definitions which Müller and Mildenberger included in their review study for blended learning. One interesting and suitable definition comes from Garrison and Kanuka, who described blended learning as: “the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences.”
Following our introduction to blended learning, we should discuss the basis of their research. We should also discuss the kind of effect it can have on traditional classroom time when it replaces it. As mentioned before, Müller and Mildenberger have done a systematic review study. They analysed various meta-analysis about the effectiveness of blended learning that have been carried out in the last century.
Müller and Mildenberger’s review study, which applied strict inclusion criteria regarding the research design, the measurement of learning outcomes and the implementation of blended learning, found that despite reducing classroom time by 30 to 79%, blended learning environments are not associated with lower learning outcomes, but are equivalent to conventional classroom instruction. Rather, the study encourages higher education institutions to offer students greater flexibility in terms of time and place. This will make higher education much more accessible to a broader section of society.
In my opinion, I am looking forward to seeing many educational institutions provide their knowledge to a broader section of people so that we all have access to the knowledge that each institution has. In terms of numbers, the review study may not show any significant difference between blended and conventional classroom learning. However, as many students like me faced the harsh reality of a pandemic, it should be clear that such measurements like having the opportunity to take classes from home should be a common thing in many educational institution. Furthermore, in addition to Müller and Mildeberger, I think it is crucial for the provision of higher education to those who can’t afford it that institutions or the state provide the necessary hardware. Everything costs money, but not everyone has it.