How Blended Learning Enhances Skill Development

Blended learning, a learner watching the teacher on the desktop

Blended learning is one of the most flexible learning approaches that can be used to reach learning goals or develop our skill sets. In 2013 a study predicted that blended learning (BL) will become the “new traditional model”. It is also defined as a mix of traditional face-to-face and digital instruction.

Keeping up with technological and social changes is essential for everyone in our fast-paced world. AI tools are pushing everyone to update their skills. Nevertheless, for most of us learning all the time new things doesn’t come easy. We need strong motivation and encouragement to surpass past learning patterns and embrace new forms of learning and thinking.

By comparison with traditional learning methods, blended learning comes with flexibility and the advantages of both self-paced online learning and face-to-face instruction. A well-designed blended model should mix dynamic learning activities, digital content and collaborative projects. It can integrate different didactic, social and technological tools to generate an appropriate and supportive learning experience.

Overall, the blended learning technique aims to reach an equilibrium between digital learning and face-to-face traditional methods. Research revealed that implementing blended learning in higher education is influenced by beliefs and attitudes about teaching. However, its success depends on institutional context, workload, and interactions between learners and technology tools.

What are the characteristics of the blended learning technique?

Most studies show that blended learning models can positively impact learning results, but it requires careful planning around learners’ needs. The two components of blended learning, face-to-face instruction and digital learning are to achieve better results while keeping the learners engaged and connected.

The main advantages of this learning technique are a flexible learning environment and the availability of interactive content combined with in-person training. Digital learning uses tools like online learning platforms providing access to interactive content and learning videos available on learning platforms. Also, it offers self-paced learning modules that allow learners to study independently and revise or revisit concepts as needed.

Face-to-face interactions foster collaboration and communication skills development through classroom sessions, workshops, or one-on-one discussions. Integrating both modalities creates a dynamic learning experience that combines the benefits of digital tools with the human element of education. In these learning conditions the teacher, trainer or educator becomes a facilitator for learners.

Advantages and disadvantages of using blended learning

Research results about student engagement and learning analytics indicated that using blended learning models led to better learning effectiveness in comparison with other traditional learning interventions. The study revealed the importance of interactive activities and diverse learning resources as participants showed improved performance and learning satisfaction.

Moreover, a meta-analysis of the effects of this learning technique in different countries showed improvements in learning flexibility in terms of time and space. Also, it revealed improvements in knowledge delivery, students’ disposition, language use, listening, speaking, and critical thinking skills. However, the researchers concluded that to reach positive results, educators should consider the needs of learners and the environment when implementing a blended approach.

Generally, the blended learning technique appears to be a compromise between traditional education and digital learning. Though scholars are debating how to adopt and implement blended learning in formal education, it can easily be implemented in a corporate environment or as independent learning.

Create your personal learning model

To embrace lifelong learning mixing various learning strategies makes learning new skills a more enjoyable experience. The blended learning approach involves choosing appropriate learning content and planning learning activities while providing face-to-face interactions and structured guided study time. Its success depends on finding a balanced blend between digital resources and having a solid structure for learning activities.

A study reveals it mostly depends on the individual’s self-motivation to take responsibility for their learning.  Because this technique moves learning responsibility towards the learners it is more suitable for self-study and personal development. Of course some fields of study like IT are more appropriate than others to use blended learning models. But, overall we should consider that using online learning platforms, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos can substantially reduce our costs and facilitate interactivity.

Find out what is your learning style

Understanding how you learn and what is your preferred learning style and environment can help you design your very own blended learning model. Different learning styles and inventories are designed to assess the learning skills we tend to use more.

There is a general agreement that there are three basic learning styles auditory, visual and kinaesthetic and we may possess one style or a mixture of learning styles. The most common learning styles known are Kolb and VARK. However, different free learning style questionnaires can help you get insights about your learning styles and habits.

Depending on your motivation and time you can create your blended learning plan according to your skills and preferences. You can be a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner preferring different learning environments like structured logic-based platforms, or collaborative discussion-based projects.

However, blended learning environments are more suitable for independent and self-motivated learners. No matter your learning style you can use learning tools that provide interactive and engaging ways for learners to understand, analyse and apply new ideas and concepts. You can adjust the model according to your needs learning preferences and available time.

Draft your learning plan

Typically a learning plan consists of defining learning goals, planning activities, assigning those tools and resources to activities and assessing for each activity. Considering your available time and space, you can customize learning sessions according to your habits and skills. The main learning styles auditory, visual and kinesthesis can be mixed in a personalized learning plan. Here you should include tools, methods and resources proportionally with the percentage of each of your learning styles.

You can plan to use self-paced online courses that provide access to video lessons, reading materials, and questionnaires. Webinars and virtual workshops are more suitable if you are interested in current industry trends and follow-up discussions. Podcasts and audiobooks are a first choice for auditory learners.

The exposure to different learning tools increases performance and improves retention. You can introduce learning resources that are very comfortable with your main learning style to increase your learning success. However, studies show that using the least comfortable learning style can surpass learning limits and improve your skills. Also, it is a modality to keep the brain healthy by combining different learning techniques to become comfortable with lifelong learning.

Use AI tools to become a lifelong learner

AI technologies, specifically large language models (LLMs) are transforming education and adult learning. These systems can support self-guided learning due to the possibility of accessing huge amounts of information. With the help of user customizations, these generative language models allow us to merge personal learning needs and the flexibility and diversity of online learning resources.

So, if you intend to become a lifelong learner generative language models can help you create various learning paths and strategies while enhancing your learning skills. AI tools could be used as a good helper to keep up with your learning plans. You can prompt it to explain basic concepts, suggest learning objectives, tools and resources, design exercises, and assessment tests.

However, you should be aware that these tools can’t properly assess or verify the acquisition of new skills. Though NLP capabilities are improving, they still lack a deep understanding of complex concepts and real-life problems. Still, AI tools could be accessed to teach people basic language skills and most STEM-related topics at a medium level.

Implementing a blended approach based on experiential learning and continuous improvement principles can empower us to develop new skills. But, there are also challenges to be dealt with like access to technology or biased learning content. However, it’s up to every one of us to embrace lifelong learning as a valuable skill and create individual learning strategies for personal and professional development.