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Blended Learning: The Concept

The pandemic has shattered the world with its raven wings. People all over the world have been affected and shattered to bits due to this pandemic. Humans of every age have been influenced and wrecked and devastated. Schools are no exception. The entire system has entered into a shock mode where the schools where children needed to go daily have been shut down and the countries all over the world had entered into a lockdown phase. As a result, the system of education did not stop but changed its course of flow from offline to the online system. The pandemic has led to the closedown of 188 countries as per official reports all over the world leading to a disruption of more than 1.7 billion children and their families (Aristovnik et. al., 2020).

The teaching and learning process should be planned in such a way that the schools can immediately go back under MCO if the situation demands so with minimal disruption and keep the process of the education free and easy. This can be best done in blended learning. This concept of blended learning was an entirely new concept just a few years back during the onset of the pandemic. But recently in the 21st century, it has become the most popular method followed by every school across the world (Hockly, 2018). Blended learning is also known as b-learning and refers to a situation where there is the presence of both the online and offline systems marked with the presence of the interaction between the instructor and the learners and the exchange of reading materials. This system takes place both in the online platforms and the physical classroom. This can be referred to as the fusion of the system of the traditional system of education along with the modern system of education. It is predominantly a hybrid concept and this idea must be focused on. It is primarily teaching means where the teaching methodology aggregates the process of teaching by the modern technological means which does not replace the traditional means but integrates along with it. With time, new concepts of education have blended with the traditional concept like the use of online systems in education or the concept of distance education and this has inspired more and more educators to seek innovative technologies. This system of blended learning aims to cater to the needs of the modern generation comprising of students for a better organized, systematic, engrossing, and personalized education. This system is interconnected with the practicality of life that technology is a part of human lives daily. The most beneficial part of blended learning is that it offers the students the advantages of the online system of education as well as the benefits from the offline system of education by being physically present in the classroom. Blended learning stimulates the mind of the young generation leading them to think critically in a way which they never did before and also to work as a united team. This has led the student to learn teamwork as well. To stand out in the crowd or rather to stay successful in the 21st century, a student must develop the skills and acquire knowledge and opportunity, both of which they obtain as a consequence of blended learning. In this constantly dynamic and fast-changing world, the students learn differently. Some students can learn by seeing only once while others need both visual and auditory effects while some students need only the book to read and memorize. Hence the advantages of both the methods are needed for the students of all types to learn quickly like –

  • Minimization of Mobility
  • Reduction in the cost, time, and energy needed to travel
  • Enhancement of time flexibility
  • Enables student assessment
  • Facilitates fieldwork
  • Availability of varied means of information
  • Encourages integration in education

Benefits of Blended Learning

There are teachers as yet who are about to start the process of teaching and learning and they must follow the principles of blended learning where the teachers can teach the content of the reading material physically in the classroom with the aid of blackboards and white chalks and then later move on to reiterating the lessons with useful online teaching materials. This can be done so that if the cases of the covid-19 pandemic increase again, then it will be easier for the schools to again re-enter the lockdown phase with ease and continuation of education (Rasheed, Kamsin & Abdullah, 2020).   

Reading and writing should be done accurately especially when the students are learning under the challenging situation of the system of online education. The teachers should take up the responsibility of teaching these reading and word attack skills to the children so that they can learn efficiently. The educators should teach their students that reading does not involve only reading out words aloud. Different teachers use different varieties of teaching the word attack skills in ESL (Pazilah, Hashim & Yunus, 2019). Most experienced educators use different strategies to comprehend the text. According to recent research, educators can and should educate these strategies to the learners who are just beginning to read. What usually happens is that when the readers are just beginning to read, if they get stuck on too many words, then it becomes frustrating for them to continue reading in this manner and hence they tend to give up. Hence the teacher should teach these word attack strategies to aid the students to pronounce, decoding, and comprehending unfamiliar words.  There are many strategies that the educators can implement while teaching these attack skills like – making predictions, visualizing, asking and answering questions, retelling and summarizing, connecting the text to life experiences, and the word attack strategies. In this paper, two strategies are mainly focused upon namely the retelling and summarizing and the word attack strategy of connecting to a word the student knows.

Many books and articles may use bombarding words which may pose a difficult task for beginners to start reading. The solution for this lies in the fact that the novices can relate the entire text in their minds and this tends to clear all the issues faced by the students faced in the language part. By retelling, the novices will feel challenged to set the target for complete retention. If the student aims to summarize, then it will allow him/her to differentiate between the main topics and the minor details. There are many steps to the process of retelling and summarizing which can be listed as follows:

  • The student should note down the main ideas or the main details when they are reading the material or the extract. Then the student can put a checkmark on the extracted material or even note down a point to chalk out the main idea.
  • Whenever the students complete reading a chapter of the book or a heading of the article, the student should review the information or the story that he/she has read and note down the predominant ideas that encompass the chapter and also the minor details that support them.
  • As soon as the student finishes reading, he/she should begin to retell or summarize the topic covered. The student should then shift his focus on the main important points that he/she had jotted down earlier and support these main ideas with minor details.
  • Finally, the student should refer to the material or the extract to complete the checking of the retelling or summarization.

The word attack strategy will become effective only when the students study word patterns which can be effectively termed as ‘word study’, for example, in the word ‘judge’ the letter ‘d’ is silent and ‘dge’ is pronounced as ‘j’, again, in the word ‘sasquatch’, the ‘tch’ is pronounced as ‘ch’ where the letter ‘t’ is usually silent. Usually, these patterns are found at the end of a word (Word Attack Strategies, 2022). There are many such words where two or three letters taken together pronounce as a single letter. These strategies make up the word attack skills. Here the skill which will be discussed is connecting to a word that the student is familiar with. In this process, the student must make interconnections to the vocabulary present in the background. The student must thereafter use an approach that is synthetic to the phonics where the decoding should run as /r/ /u/ /n/. Finally, the student can utilize an approach that is analytic to the phonics, for example, the student may determine the word 'run' when he is already aware of the word 'fun'. This is known as 'word patterns'. If the educator has to teach these word patterns, then he/she must select a group of words that focus on the pattern of a specific spelling format and then move on to sequencing these formats as per the student's learning level (WORD-ATTACK STRATEGIES, 2022).   

Teaching Strategies and Word Attack Skills

As already discussed in the earlier part, the pandemic has devastated the world. The students are no exception and could not rescue themselves from the raven wings of the pandemic. The pandemic has caused more than 1.7 billion children and their families to cut off all connections from the offline mode of education. Predominantly, what the students practically did was they switched from the offline mode of education from textbooks to the online system of education turning their focus to the websites and the other online resources. Generations shave witnessed the education system integrating the books but the online system of education is not at all time tested and has been implemented for just a few years. It is said that it is much easier for the students to read a text offline since they have been habituated with the system rather than reading an article online. As correctly put by literacy professor of the University of Stavanger in Norway, Anne Mangen, that reading from an online resource resembles doing meditation primarily because one has to focus all his attention and concentration on the screen which cannot be shifted freely like a book can be shifted. According to her, it would be healthy for a human being to sit down with something immobile that does not go on pinging as soon as the reader tries to focus on what is written in the extract by diverting the reader's attention. The psychology of human beings works in such a way that they think they understand the materials online much faster and hence read through them very fast and as a result, they end up overlooking certain parts and therefore comprehend less. They rush through the online resource without entirely absorbing the content of the material. Research has proved the fact that if the reader is reading news online or any topic that requires the reader only to read the headlines, then it is perfectly fine to surf the internet but when it comes to longer reading with complicated understandings, then it is easier for the readers to switch to the paper mode or the offline mode of reading. In 2016, the undergraduate students were given a piece of reading comprehension by Singer Trakhman, and the students were asked to read that piece both online and in an offline mode. The result was that they did not get affected by the format of the main topic, but when the students read online, they missed the minor details as compared to their reading the paper on a hard copy.

Teaching online for teachers is equally as difficult as studying online (Bedi, 2021). Teachers face numerous challenges. The students cannot study together and learn from each other and are bound to sit isolated and do classes at home. During school hours, the students used to do group work, collaborative activity, and group discussion together as a batch.  As a result, they feel very restless and distracted when they are asked to learn isolative and therefore the teachers should conduct interactive sessions more often to hold the interests of the students like chat or discussion board. The teacher might even take frequent breaks so that the students do not have on to their attention span for a very long time at a stretch. The teachers can also put her audio and video on and ask her students to do the same too so that the educators and the learners are engaged actively. Giving the students some open-ended tasks demotivates them and makes them lethargic towards study. Instead, the teacher should set the target for the students by assigning them gamified apps. The targets set by the teachers might include the time that should be taken by each student, the measurable outcome that should be produced per student, and a due date (Gao & Zhang, 2020). The teachers are teaching from home and therefore might get disturbed or distracted by the home environment since the home environment may not always be conducive to teaching students. There may be the presence of irresponsible family members who might intrude and distract the teacher. The teachers might face technical difficulties as well. It may happen that when the teacher is trying to teach something in a class by delivering a lecture, sometimes the students mischievously and intentionally mute the teacher so that she will not be able to deliver the entire lecture. In this case, the teacher might lock her virtual classroom so that no students can mute the teacher or mute any other peers from attending the class. Moreover, the teacher should be having a smooth and hassle-free internet connection to conduct her classes but at the same time, make sure that all her students also have a smooth and hassle-free internet connection. If any student is debarred from possessing the same, he/she might not be able to attend the class and thereby miss the lectures. Moreover, the teachers are not able to stand in the class and give lectures as before, they are to create online resources to teach the students. The making of these online resources takes too much effort, time, and energy to create. All the verbal instructions must be well explained in the online resource. The teacher might if he/she wants, record her lectures and post them on the online platform where the teacher and the students learn. When the teachers are online, many times, the students switch off their video and do other tasks which should not have been done during class hours. It becomes really difficult for the teacher to keep track of all the students present in the class who are doing some other activity by turning their video off. The teacher might tactically appoint some group of students for each session who will initiate the class discussions and debates and take charge of full interaction from their peers. This will increase the responsibility of the students as a whole as they are taking responsibility as a whole and also, engage their attention and help them to remain focused and active (Benson, 2020).  

References

Aristovnik, A., Kerži?, D., Ravšelj, D., Tomaževi?, N., & Umek, L. (2020). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on life of higher education students: A global perspective. Sustainability, 12(20), 8438. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208438

Bedi, K. (2021). Overcoming The Challenges Of Online Teaching. BW Education. Retrieved 8 March 2022, from https://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Overcoming-The-Challenges-Of-Online-Teaching-/05-06-2021-391119/.

Benson, K. (2020). Reading on Paper Versus Screens: What’s the Difference?. Brainfacts.org. Retrieved 8 March 2022, from https://www.brainfacts.org/neuroscience-in-society/tech-and-the-brain/2020/reading-on-paper-versus-screens-whats-the-difference-072820.

Gao, L. X., & Zhang, L. J. (2020). Teacher learning in difficult times: Examining foreign language teachers’ cognitions about online teaching to tide over COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology, 2396. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.549653

Hockly, N. (2018). Blended learning. Elt Journal, 72(1), 97-101. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccx058

Pazilah, F. N. P., Hashim, H., & Yunus, M. M. (2019). Using technology in ESL classroom: Highlights and challenges. Creative Education, 10(12), 3205. 10.4236/ce.2019.1012244

Rasheed, R. A., Kamsin, A., & Abdullah, N. A. (2020). Challenges in the online component of blended learning: A systematic review. Computers & Education, 144, 103701. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103701

Word Attack Strategies. (2022). Back to Basics: Word Attack Strategies - Decoda Literacy Solutions. Decoda Literacy Solutions. Retrieved 8 March 2022, from https://decoda.ca/back-to-basics-word-attack-strategies/.

Word-attack strategies. (2022). Reading and word-attack strategies | Reading A-Z. Readinga-z.com. Retrieved 8 March 2022, from https://www.readinga-z.com/helpful-tools/research/reading-and-word-attack-strategies/.

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