The Impact of Blended Learning on Student Engagement
Student engagement is often one of the most important indicators of student learning. It reflects the quality of teaching strategies, as well as the effectiveness of the instructor. Engaged students reach higher levels of success and personal satisfaction from their learning. Undoubtedly, blended learning impacts student engagement, but because of the profound inequalities across schools and districts in the U.S., we have to consider both the positive and negative impacts.
Blended learning has a positive impact on student learning when…
Students have an opportunity to study and use their own data.
With the use of technology, blended learning can provide students with the opportunity to identify their own strengths and weaknesses through data analysis. This is a powerful tool for learning. Students become actively engaged in their growth when they track their progress and learn how to use their data as a guide. When students know their data, it transitions conversations about progress from abstract, generic goals—like, study more or try harder—to student-created, targeted goals—like, increase my reading level by 1.5 years or master 90 percent or more of my learning targets—and provides them with skills to track and monitor those goals.
Students are respected as digital natives.
Our students are digital natives, meaning they were born into the age of digital technology. Students feel at home and completely comfortable in a digital environment, but we can likely agree that they are susceptible to overstimulation and distractions with technology. How often do you see a student writing an assignment while streaming music and checking Twitter? On the positive note, these digital natives are visually-oriented, fast-paced, asynchronous, always-on learners. Blended learning gives them the freedom—in a sense—to tap into what comes naturally to them.
Teachers incorporate personalized learning.
Additionally, when educators layer in elements of personalized learning, students benefit from having a voice about what they’re interested in and more choices about how they learn and demonstrate mastery of learning. Since personalized learning gives students the flexibility to learn when, where, and how it makes most sense for them, they feel empowered and engagement comes more naturally.
Blended learning has a negative impact on student learning when…
Students suffer from digital inequity.
On the other hand, when students lack access to adequate technology and internet connections at home or school, blended learning can cause student engagement to take a turn for the worse. Digital inequity—as a subset of larger equity issues in education—cannot be remedied with a one-size-fits-all solution and despite all the promises of technology, it’s important to remember that the mere presence of technology and equity are not inevitable partners. As educators, we must keep in mind that simple access to computers and the internet is a necessary first step in balancing digital equity. However, it’s how teachers and students use technology that impacts blended learning for the better.
Teachers do not receive proper training and development.
Professional development plays a role here, too. Teachers often do not receive proper training and development on blended learning as an effective instructional approach. This, in turn, can translate into these educators coming bringing the most basic level of technology integration back to their students: using technology as a substitute for traditional methods. Take an overhead projector, for example. Presentations, instead of being drawn on a blackboard, can be transmitted via this electronic tool. While technology is being used, it does not functionally change the method of teaching.
Teachers do not take advantage of the full scope of technology integration.
Blended learning lacks effectiveness and, therefore, positive impact when technology integration isn’t being used at its ultimate capacity. When educators can go beyond the level of substitution, beyond taking advantage of the functional changes that technology allows, and beyond redesigning teaching based on digital tools, we can completely redefine teaching methods that were previously inconceivable.
Hopefully, by being aware of both the negative and positive impacts of blended learning on student engagement, we’re able to transform teaching and learning for good in a time when we are required to transition anyway.