When the same question continually arises, one must stop to take notice. Such is the case for the question of blended learning and how to begin using it. In catechetical settings, blended learning is typically referred to as digital catechesis, or the awareness of using digital media for catechesis. Once convinced of blended learning’s potential, catechetical leaders want to know how to get catechists to actually do it. In this post I will attempt to define blended learning and suggest ways to help parish catechetical leaders and catechists begin to implement blended learning within their catechetical programs.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended Learning is a mix of online learning with classroom learning coming together to create an integrated learning experience. Students have control of the online delivery in terms of the time, place and pace. They also spend instructional time in a classroom setting face to face with a real instructor. These online and in person modalities create the integrated or blended learning experience.
It is important to differentiate between using digital technology within the classroom setting versus online delivery. Many catechetical leaders today recognize the need to implement digital technology within their sessions such as, PowerPoint, video, online games, puzzles and quizzes, and film segments. These are commonly referred to as digital catechesis. However, the emerging trend in education expands the digital technology delivery outside the classroom, hence the term online delivery. Online delivery combined with classroom instruction constitutes blended learning.
What are the Benefits of Blended Learning?
- Online content can be assimilated to provide a variety of different sources into the learning experience.
- Students stay engaged through high-quality content leading to personalized learning experiences.
- Some online content offers powerful analytics leading to adaptive instruction and better understanding of content.
- Student interaction with online content reduces manual tasks of tracking attendance and participation.
- Student motivation is incentivized and enhanced by interacting with social networks, games, and rewards.
Why Blended Learning within the Catechetical Setting?
In 2014, approximately 50% of all post-secondary students took a class online. It is reported that by 2019, 50% of all high school courses will be delivered online. In 2009, more than three million K-12 students took an online course.
With these growing numbers, it is obvious that post-secondary and K-12 students are familiar with and moving towards at least some of their academic courses being delivered online. In the catechetical setting we see a trend of disinterested students in traditional classroom catechesis. Considering the benefits of blended learning above, one could ask what could possibly be gained from moving in the direction of blended learning. Another question might be what could be lost if traditional classes do not move in the direction of blended learning?
How I Use Blended Learning for Effective Catechesis
I’ve been experimenting with digital catechesis and blended learning and have seen positive results with my classes. For the past two years I used the catechetical text eBooks, online games and puzzles, audio prayer, and video during sessions in fifth and fourth grade classes. The response was better than I had imagined with a very high percentage of students raising their hands to read, answer, or play. Along with these strategies, this year I have been delivering flipped learning videos with a few questions to answer before the class session begins. I have had on average an 80% response rate from the students. They have control of how they receive the videos (text or email) and how and when they view them (smartphone, tablet, PC). In the classroom, along with face-to-face instruction and interaction, I supplement the flips with online quizzes, games and video segments. I feel like this keeps our traditional classroom setting engaging for the students by activating prior knowledge before the session through the flip, and by allowing students to use their expensive devices during the session. It appears when they are engaged through relevant cultural media they better understand and retain the information we are presenting. I believe this serves as a very positive example that their devices can be used for meaningful activities as well as ones that may lack in any type of value!
Next week I will look at how to start a blended learning program.
Related: Flipped Catechesis: 3 Essentials for Activating Family Faith
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