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The future of digital learning

Written on 7th July 2021

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What is blended learning and teaching?

The blended learning approach to education combines online resources, opportunities to learn and interact virtually with traditional classroom based learning.

The benefits of blended learning

There are several benefits of blended learning for both the student and teacher alike.  Students are able to set their own pace and take a flexible, more personalised approach to learning to suit their lifestyle. Whilst for practitioners it can increase student retention and engagement, whilst allowing for more communication.

Supporting learning through Covid-19

The blended learning approach quickly became a vital resource for the education sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. As colleges had to close their campus sites, due to government restrictions during full lockdown, online learning became a lifeline for students and teachers.

Switching to online learning and teaching during the pandemic was a simple transition for further education students, as this age group (Gen Z, 6-24 year olds) typically spends over 3.5 hours a day online via smartphones, more time than any other internet user1, so some of the transferable skills required were readily available.

By embracing online learning through EdTech, including Google Classroom, Zoom Microsoft 365 applications(including MS Teams), has enabled students to continue learning independently and in a group dynamic.

Many colleges had already started to develop their use of technology for learning, pre Covid-19, few had fully considered the potential for blended learning, particularly for adult learners. The pandemic accelerated the need to implement the use of digital technologies for remote and blended learning, as all educational organisations needed to ensure they could continue to deliver their courses, whilst engaging, challenging and motivating students during such an unprecedented time.

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GMCG’s blended learning offering

Developed as part of our GMCG Digital and Blended Learning Project and funded through the College Collaboration Fund, we provide a range of online resources for teachers, students, leaders and managers to access. The online tools support development and aim to improve the resources on offer across our community of colleges.

The virtual portal provides how to guides for software including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and SharePoint, with case studies of successful learning across our nine Greater Manchester Colleges.

There’s further student support with guides on online safety and digital literacy, alongside live online lessons, recorded content and independent learning resources.

For teachers and managers, there’s access to curriculum design, assessment tools, guides on inclusion and resources for staff development and digital strategy.

Future of digital learning

The impact of the pandemic forced the sector online, embracing the digital approach.

Virtual teaching and digital resources have allowed students to change the way they learn and develop their skills, helping to fit education around their lives, whilst still achieving the qualifications they require.

However, classroom based learning still plays a key role in education. Practitioners can ensure all students are playing an active role in their learning and development, whilst providing equal opportunities for those who don’t have the means to access the equipment needed for online learning, particularly where high specification devices and industry standard software are required.

Although it may seem like a small step backwards to return to the classroom, the benefits of the blended learning approach rely on the combination of online and in person teaching to support a well-rounded learning experience which is key for a range of qualifications and will continue to be adopted in the future.