Internationally there has been ever increasing interest in the uses of technology to support and enhance education. Variously described as “Information and Communication Technologies” (ICT), e-learning, Cyber education and so on, allow digitally encoded texts,, multimedia, dynamic computer models, and even virtual reality simulations to be flexibly connected by hyperlinks in conjunction with digital communication technologies.
E- Learning is a type of Technology Supported Learning (TSL) where the medium of instruction is through computer technology, particularly involving digital technologies. E- Learning is naturally suited to distance learning and flexible learning but can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching in which case Blended Learning is commonly used. Communication technology used in e-learning are categorized as synchronous or asynchronous. Asynchronous activities use technologies such as blogs, wikis and discussion boards. The idea here is that participants may engage in the exchange of ideas or information without the dependency of other participants involvement at the same time. Synchronous activities involve the exchange of ideas and information with one or more participants during the same period of time.
How e-learning enriches learning?
Electronic learning or e-learning can use tools like multimedia, digital libraries and collaborative tools. E-Learning allows teacher and student to be far away from each other and it allows students to learn outside a formal timetable. E-Learning can enrich a course that uses and lecture to learn or used to deliver an entire course. E-Learning can be used as a part of learning strategy and the term ‘blended learning’ can be described.
Blended Learning is a mixture of online and face-to-face learning strategy using a variety of learning resources and communication options available to students and lecturers. In other words Blended Learning mixes e-learning with other traditional types of learning. By practicing Blended Learning the conveniences of online courses are gained without the loss of face to face contact. In so doing, a learning environment is created that is richer than either a traditional face to face environment or a fully online environment.
Students are free to choose their preferred learning style to some extent though some components may be compulsory. Lecturers use Blended Learning because the perceive that students may not be able to cope with a fully online course, others are using Blended Learning to reduce face to face component of teaching so that part time students and those with family responsibilities have better accesses to learning.
Blended Learning combines classroom instruction and online learning. In online learning teachers can give a lesson via a live web cast where students watch the teacher in real time on a computer screen. Teachers can also post lessons and make assignments that students complete on their own. The teacher still controls the content of the course and establishes final deadlines, but online learning allows students the freedom of choosing where, when and how they learn.
Blended Learning in science
Students taking Blended Learning science class can complete the majority of their class work online by accessing course material, watching video casts and instant messaging or e-mailing their instructor with questions. This online instruction would be enhanced by in-class labs providing the opportunity to do hands-on experiments under teacher supervision. Blended learning exposes students to working online and encourages them to advance their computer skills that will be necessary in the knowledge based economy of their future.
Blended Learning can empower thousands of teachers to develop multimedia to enable them to deliver with the help of visuals, text and voice-over. The multimedia would not ‘take over’ all teaching; the ‘blended’ result would also have teachers using their own experience and techniques. Teachers can develop multimedia that would fill lessons that lasted about an hour. The lessons can have work sheet to print several activities, explicit learning objectives, text with voice-over and a science words glossary.
Blended Learning gives learners and teachers an environment to learn and teach more effectively. Learners can select the best activities to suit their own pace, learning style and level, as well as time and space. Learners can be more independent and self reliant in their own learning. They can also be more able to take decision, think creatively and critically, investigate and explore as well as solve problems they face in learning and real life. Meanwhile teachers can be facilitators, supervisors, assessors, organizers and managers of learning activities and so should be creative and able to support learners by providing various learning materials in different formats. Blended Learning increases the options for greater quality and quantity of human interaction in a teaching environment. Blended Learning can also be applied to the integration of e-learning with a Learning Management System using computers in physical classroom, along with face-to-face instruction.
The NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) encourages the use of Blended Learning experience for science students as well as for science educators engaging in profession development in traditional, informal or distance learning environment. NSTA supports Blended Learning as a promising way to:
- More effectively provide access to certain science concepts and pedagogy
- Gives science educators opportunities to experience firsthand use of technology in teaching and learning.
- Meet the needs of students who have learning styles conducive to and preferences for learning and interacting in an online environment.
- Provide diverse learners.
- Engage a greater number of teachers in ongoing, high quality professional development.
- Provide remote access via computers and network to scientific investigations.
- Provide future workers with strong skills and fluency in the convergence of media which are critical to succeed in the 21st century workplace.
With Blended Learning students benefit both from the traditional classroom method of instruction as well as computer aided method. Blended Learning gives students the opportunity to receive the personal attention and discipline of classroom learning and at the same time build independence through online learning.