Using an online learning platform, online discussions, and/or work online to complement your class can:
1. Save Time
Teachers spend hours each week creating, copying, collating, stapling, and hole punching handouts, assignments and activity sheets for students. Much of this time is eliminated when a teacher transitions to an online education platform where handouts can be uploaded and attached to questions, topics and assignment descriptions.
2. Save Money
Copy machines, ink, paper and repairs cost school districts thousands of dollars annually (monthly for some larger districts). Most school sites spend between five to nine cents per copy. My school district currently spends seven cents a copy, which means one handout for each of my 164 students costs $11.50.
In less fortunate districts, teachers are forced to spend hundreds— if not thousands – of dollars of their own money to supplement classroom resources.
Teachers can save money and paper by posting assignments, directions, notes, reading materials online. This also helps those “organizationally challenged” students who tend to lose or misplace everything handed to them. All information is in one easily accessed place.
3. Spend Less Time Grading
Online discussions and collaborative group work free teachers from their role as the only source of information and feedback. When students engage in dynamic online discussions, they become valued resources in the class. They ask each other clarifying questions, compliment strong ideas, provide suggestions for improvement, and offer alternative perspectives. This also creates for improved student engagement and immediate peer feedback.
It is easy to eliminate worksheets that have limited potential to inspire, when students are actively participating in dynamic online discussions related to the curriculum.
4. Spend More Time in Class Doing What You Love
With less time spent in copy centers and grading paperwork, teachers can focus on designing innovative learning opportunities that employ the limitless resources available on the Internet. The classroom can become a more student-centered environment because there is less pressure to cover all the content in the physical classroom. The online space can be used to introduce information or allow students a place to have conversations about that information. This allows more flexibility in the classroom because students can spend more time working in collaborative groups to do creative tasks related to the subject matter.
5. Increase One-On-One Interactions with Students
Teachers can use online tools to engage in conversations with students they may not normally have. Some students are shy or anxious about speaking with a teacher in class; however, online discussions provide students easy access to one another and their teacher. They can post questions and get answers outside the confines of a normal school day, in a setting familiar to them.
6. Provide Students Opportunities to Practice Standardized Exams Online
Most teachers do not want to spend valuable in-class time drilling students on standardized exam questions. Teachers recognize test preparation as necessary in this era of high stakes standardized exams, but most can’t afford to spend much precious class time on test preparation activities.
Instead, they can use collaborative online education platforms, like Collaborize Classroom, that offer multiple question types to facilitate test practice for students. It provides a space for them to work together to develop stronger test taking strategies and skills.
7. Facilitate Group Work That Works
Any teacher who has facilitated a group work assignment in class knows the frustration of time wasted. Online collaborative group work allows students the flexibility to participate asynchronously when they have time, and eliminates wasted time in class. Technology also creates transparency because it is easier to see who has done what, making the work online more equitable. This work can then be woven back into the classroom where students can present to their peers about work done online.
8. Communicate More Effectively with All Students
Collaborize Classroom and many other online learning platforms have built-in message systems that make it possible for teachers to communicate with individual students or groups of students easily. Teachers can make announcements, amend assignments, change due dates, and address questions using the message option – without having to wait until the next school day.
Teachers who are inclined can also arrange “virtual office hours” using Skype, Google Hangout, or other real time chat tools, to support students outside the classroom.
9. Build Community and Relationships
Teachers can use the online space to build student relationships. Online icebreakers are a fun way to get students talking, using each other’s names and practicing online etiquette. These fun informal conversations translate into a stronger in-class community. This is one of the blended learning benefits that I personally have experienced, much to my satisfaction and delight.
10. Have Fun
The Internet gives teachers access to more information than ever before. Most educational platforms allow teachers to embed pictures, videos, PDFs and documents making it easy to take the best online resources and present them in the safe space of your online learning platform.
The term “blended learning” is picking up traction in education, but the definition is so amorphous that many educators are not exactly sure what people mean when they use the term. The uncertainty shrouding this term has the potential to create anxiety for teachers in the traditional school setting.
Quite simply: Blended learning is any combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning. It is the weaving together of instructional mediums— in person and online— to maximize learning outcomes for students.
I recently stumbled across Ben Lenz’s blog post on Edutopia asking “Is Blended Learning Worth the Hype?” I had a knee jerk response to this question. “YES!”
Then I began to consider some of the issues that I address in my book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student Centered Classrooms (to be published June 2012 by Corwin Publishing). I discuss many of the of the fear factors associated with blended learning:
- Less face time in an adjusted schedule
- Less control over curriculum design and delivery
- Disrespectful communication or exchanges online
- Time required to facilitate the work done online
These fears are all valid especially for teachers who are in a district that is adopting a blended learning program. These top-down programs can range from schools with adjusted schedules where students attend fewer classes and complete a portion of course work online to classes in a computer lab with the computer delivering content to online courses that have a teacher facilitating the course. These blended learning models are a sharp departure away from traditional classes. Many teachers feel these models do not value the role of the teacher as essential in the learning process.
I understand that many districts are moving towards these more extreme blended learning models to save money, allow motivated students to move at their own pace, and create opportunities for credit make up. However, these are not the only approaches to blended learning.
In my book I advocate for teachers to claim this term and make it their own. There are millions of teachers who have spent years perfecting their craft. These teachers are more likely to embrace technology if they have a voice in this transition. There are a plethora of technology tools and resources available online (many for free) that can be integrated into traditional classes to create a blended learning model.
Teachers are faced with a growing list of pain points associated with their profession:
- Larger class sizes
- Tons of paperwork and grading
- Less access to resources
- Pressure to raise test scores
- More diverse student populations
These pain points, which make teaching challenging, can be mitigated—in part –when a teacher incorporates technology into his or her existing curriculum.