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Blended learning online - helping students prepare for 21st century work

By Danny Harrington

The delivery of education is changing dramatically around the world. Institutions are looking for  options to provide for the supply and demand of skills required by an increasingly global workforce. Students/learners need and demand options to maximize their ability to gain these skills. They often fear that without them they will be left behind. In  2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the urgent need to develop skills for the modern world. Skills that enhance students’ abilities, according to the report, are communication, collaboration, creativity, and ability to connect one learning opportunity to another. Further, the OECD recognises knowledge intensity as a precursor to which will be economically successful countries. Countries with high knowledge intensity are innovative, have strong education systems, economic incentives, and current technology available for people. A virtuous circle is created which increases the demand for a more skilled workforce which improves knowledge intensity and so on.

A study based on this report by Florian and Zimmerman (2015) looked at how the use of blended learning in secondary school impacted on students preparation for the future knowledge based economy through the development of the skills identified by the OECD report. The premise was that while blended learning is integral to post-secondary education [and in the best institutions has been around since before the term was even invented to describe what they do] the modern world cannot wait that long to introduce it to learners, hence the study at secondary school level.

The study found that the introduction of a planned, blended learning approach using the almost ubiquitous educational platform Moodle led to an adjustment of the school’s pedagogy. When the students undertook the world’s foremost comparative test – the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA – they performed at the very highest limits of the global range of scores. While larger studies are required, this is an encouraging statistical back up to what many educators feel they know – that variety of learning modes, including self-directed and guided learning as crucial components of the learner experience, produce students better prepared to cope with the demands of the modern workplace.

You can read the full study, originally published in the MERLOT Journal of Online learning and Teaching march 2015, here: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol11no1/Florian_0315.pdf

ITS Education Asia operates the ITS Online School which uses a blended learning approach, fully delivered online with a combination of live classes, online forum and doc share and self-directed learning to help students gain international qualifications such as IGCSE, A-level and BTEC HND no matter where they are in the world.

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