The concept of blended learning has become a widely acclaimed trend in the global education sector over the past few years. The idea of ‘blending’ together a formula of traditional learning with a touch of modern technology has been appreciated among education professionals the world over. And one of the best things about blended learning is that it applies not only for elementary school education, but can work just as well in the higher education sector.
But in order to put together a successful Blended Learning environment, there needs to be a suitable digital platform that works as a link between the traditional classroom and the digitalized learning experience. And this is where Learning Management Systems (LMS) can be of great help.
Two models of education
In the 'old school' learning method (pun intended), the student mainly takes the role of a receiver of knowledge whereas the teacher is a giver. This one-way method of education prevails throughout much of the history of education itself. This encouraged many experts and theorists around the world to come up with ways to transform education so that it becomes more of a bi-directional experience where both the teacher and the student are receivers and givers of knowledge at the same time.
One such notable attempt to achieve this was in Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In that book, Freire compares two models of education: the banking model and the problem-posing model. In the banking model, according to Freire, education becomes “an act of depositing in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor”. (p. 72)
As an alternative to this, Freire suggests the problem-posing model in which the vertical pattern of “teacher-of-the-students and students-of-the-teacher” ceases to exist and is replaced by a new pattern: the “teacher-student” and the “student-teacher” (p. 80). In this pattern, Freire explains, education becomes more of a bi-directional process in which knowledge travels horizontally between the teacher and the students rather than vertically.
The role of blended learning
Generally speaking, one of the greatest benefits of information technology was the invention of the Internet that has provided such access to knowledge that humanity has never witnessed before. With one click of a mouse, one can find just about any piece of information they are looking for. As such, it has created a massive revolution in the way and convenience of receiving and spreading knowledge.
But as everything has its flaws, the main downside of this new form of learning is that not all resources found on the web can be considered credible. It has been established that looking for information on the Internet requires carefully choosing trusted and officially-accredited websites and resources. This is where traditional learning comes in to provide professional guidance in the learning process. The teacher or instructor helps us differentiate valid facts from made-up pseudo-science. And by combining, or blending, the traditional method of learning with the great advantage of the tech-driven learning model, we can thus win the best of both worlds.
How can Learning Management Systems (LMS) help?
Despite the impressive features of blended learning and the benefits, it adds to the educational process, implementing it successfully remains quite a challenge. This is due to the fact that incorporating traditional learning with tech-driven learning in a balanced way can often be a tricky process. With the help of a feature-rich and user-friendly LMS, however, blended learning can become more organized and systematic. Some of the main features of LMS in this regard include the following.
Coursework and assignment management
With an LMS, you can easily link your in-class coursework and assignments to its web-based counterpart in your curriculum. For instance, it enables you to provide your students with all the necessary resources they need to study as part of their course material. You can also provide them with additional, extra-curricular materials that they can access should they be interested in more information about a particular topic. Furthermore, you can give your students additional assignments and activities that they can prepare in order to enhance their knowledge of the course material. The students also have the ability to upload and submit their assignments to the system. An LMS also makes it easy to conduct take-home exams.
Learning progress monitoring
Aside from giving your students assignments, an LMS can help you as a teacher examine their performance more closely throughout the duration of the course or semester. By comparing their grades and their in-class progress, you can constantly learn more about what methods of teaching may suit them better.
A very useful technical aspect of an LMS is that it provides a file management feature where all documents exchanged between the teacher and the students are stored and organized.
Enhance the student-teacher relationship
A feature-rich LMS software can provide you with features that help extend the scope of teacher-student communication outside the limited boundaries of the physical classroom. Through features such as comments, notes, surveys, announcements and private messaging, students are simply able to get more in touch with their teacher and vice versa. This can contribute to making the educational process more collaborative than purely instructive with the help of the blended learning method.