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The Challenges of Blended Learning

03 Aug 2021

Hardly a month after the University Grants Commission, New Delhi introduced the Blended Mode of Teaching and Learning, 1800 students from educational institutes across the country signed a petition to protest the hybrid model proposed on May 20, 2021. The digital campaign initiated by All India Forum to Save Public Education - a pan-India group of students and student unions, through the signature campaign, made six demands: -

  • Make higher education inclusive by not adopting a blended mode of education,
  • Provide universal vaccination for all stakeholders including students, teachers, and staff in academia,
  • Disburse fellowships and extensions for completing the thesis,
  • Ensure that the differential policies for board exams don’t affect students’ futures,
  • Include student representatives in the task forces across institutes to deliberate on academic activities and special economic help to families of students from marginalized communities.

The Blended Mode of Teaching and Learning is a successful combination of e-Learning, traditional classroom-based instructions, autonomous study, and electronic performance support. It is perceived to become the new way of learning in 2021. In our earlier blog 2021 - The Introduction of Blended Learning In India, we have already discussed some of its advantages. The current pandemic has proven to be the first step towards this new methodology making sense both instructional and economical. But like any other change, there have to be teething problems and challenges. So, let’s take a look at some of the challenges faced.

Blended Learning Model: Challenges
Here are few challenges currently observed in the new concept of Blended Learning
1. Availability of technology infrastructure
Many higher educational institutes in metropolitan cities have the latest digital technology. From smart boards to desktops on every table, they are ready to handle blended learning. But, in tier II and tier III cities, not all colleges, and higher education places have the necessary tech support and trainers in their present system. It might take some time before they can offer blended learning and teaching to all students and teachers. At least for now, do they have the willingness to acquire software technology and hardware on an experimental basis?

2. Inadequate Training
The recent proliferation of online learning is just the beginning of blended learning. Blended learning rests on the assumption that students and teachers have a reasonable comfort level and competence with digital tools. From attending classes online to submitting projects, are students well-versed with digital tools? Also, teachers who may be close to retirement age may not be comfortable teaching online. Both these are like two sides of a coin that require adequate time and training to implement successfully. Like 5g disruptive technology is expected to change the world, blended learning to change India’s education system.

3. Overworked teachers
Yes, there will be a significant amount of work for teachers in the early stages of blended learning. Luckily, the paradigm shift happened in the lockdown. Most have coped, even if it meant overworking trying to switch to a new method. To make the hybrid teaching method successful, a teacher/trainer will have to pick the correct ratio between face-to-face and online learning. It means putting in extra hours in the next few months before they find the right balance.

4. Overloaded students
At this point, the institutes nor teachers know the right balance between online content and classroom content. There is a fear that some teachers may start over delivering content and educational activities online, resulting in a cognitive load on the students. Too much bulk content uploaded will be of no use. The new program needs to be tailor-made for the student so that he/she can cope with it. The trainers will require to use the tools to engage and motivate students through interactive elements like gamification and digital certification without overburdening them.

5. Plagiarism and credibility problem
Already these last few months during the lockdown, Universities have taken decisions not to conduct final examinations but to promote students to the next class. They were definately not prepared for online exams. Plagiarism is a well-known issue in the e-learning world. It is easy for students to refer to the internet or even copy-paste subject matter directly from the web during exams affecting fair assessment. To prevent plagiarism, the trainer will have to use plagiarism checkers. Tools like timers, randomized question sets, and secure browsers to block web navigation during online tests or courses will need to be in place.

Besides the above five challenges, there are others like:-

  • Changing traditional mindsets
  • Lesser face-to-face social interaction
  • Online distractions
  • Passive learners who only want to ‘pass’ an exam may not apply the ideas and concepts required in hybrid learning.
  • Lack of motivation to shift to a new methodology,
  • Easy to procrastinate specified tasks when there is no direct supervision.
  • With less eye contact between teachers and trainers, there are chances of more misunderstandings.
  • Not able to understand detailed written instructions of online assignments may deter the pace of learning and advancement.
  • Poor or slow typing skills.
  • Get maximum attendance at the in-person lectures.
  • Too much, too soon

Around mid-June, Abhishek Nandan, president of the student union at Hyderabad Central University said, “Right now students are unable to participate in a physical protest because of the lockdown and students being busy with online classes. This signature campaign is to mobile the student community across the country and highlight the issues they face.”

But, now it’s been few months since they started to oppose the introduction of blended learning. Abhishek Nandan and the student community - Why not give it a try? India is changing. From NEP 2020 to Digital India, there are initiatives to better the methods of teaching and learning. Disadvantages and challenges will always exist, but they are not unsurpassable. Let’s accept the challenge, as it does, promise to offer the best of both worlds – the traditional learning approach and the new tech digital approach.

(From the Author – I am neither a student, a teacher, nor in any way connected with the education system. My views are solely expressed in line with my belief - Always Welcome Change, coz unless you don’t try it, how will you know whether it is good or bad for you?)

Rukshana is a freelance content and communication strategist based out of Mumbai, India. She mingles her expertise in PR with comprehensive domain knowledge and creative writing skills to assist and propagate business, worldwide. Being a quick learner, she utilizes her diversified digital expertise to provide copywriting and content writing services to create highly profitable brands, products, and services.