Earlier this month, the DfE released a new literature review called “Online and blended delivery in Further Education”. As TILG continues to grow into an organisation that enables teachers to deliver blended learning, be it in FE or in secondary schools, we thought that it was important to engage with this topic on a deeper level. For those who may not have the time to delve into 64 pages of pedagogic discussion, we’re happy to provide some much briefer insights! (For those who are interested in getting stuck into the original paper, you can find it here.)
The key point to draw out from this paper is simply this:
“Fundamental pedagogical principles… should apply with equal force to both face-to-face and online / blended learning.”
In essence, the research has found that, regardless of the delivery vehicle, the foundation of current pedagogical practices remains strong and consistent. Additionally, the literature stresses that the quality of the teaching itself is significantly more important than how lessons are delivered. As such, the paper expands on two of the most popular pedagogical frameworks for online and blended learning: the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model and the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework.
The Community of Inquiry Model
The CoI model breaks down learning into three key elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. In the simplest sense, these concepts can be described as (further explanation in table 1):
- Cognitive presence – a student’s ability to learn and further comprehend information
- Social presence – the allowance for interaction (teacher-to-student and student-to-student)
- Teaching presence – the facilitation, and constant support, of an atmosphere for learning
The first two of these elements can certainly be enhanced through technology and online learning. Technology can allow for greater individualisation of learning content, allowing each student to better comprehend their lessons. Using chat functionality can open doors for students who typically feel too timid to participate or ask for help. It is the third element, teaching presence, that the literature reminds us to consider more deeply. Within the education sector, we must be willing to provide teachers with adequate CPD to maximise the opportunities that online and blended learning allow us.
The TPACK Framework
This model can best be explained by breaking down its name. The ‘T’, ‘P’, and ‘C’ each stand for a particular type of ‘K’nowledge that must be used, in an interconnected fashion, when teaching. Simply, educators must combine technological capabilities, pedagogy, and knowledge of their subjects, to create meaningful teaching and learning for their students.
Effective Pedagogy and Good Practice
As previously stated, the literature points to the conclusion that effective online and blended learning pedagogy varies only slightly from the techniques utilised in our traditional face-to-face settings. However, there are a few points that should be drawn out as teachers consider their practices and their curricula moving forward.
- Integrated design – the education sector must ensure that it keeps pace with the business world, in order to best prepare learners for their futures. The literature asserts, “in using digital technology as part of the learning process students are also developing skills much in demand in the world of work.” Therefore, as we improve our curricula, it is integral that technology is built into the learning process and used to its fullest extend including social media, augmented and virtual reality, and other emerging educational technologies.
- Learners’ voice – as we usher in a new style of learning, we must remember that in many cases, our learners may actually be more adept with some of these technologies than our teachers. Research from across the world has found that engaging young people, as educators for their teachers and create better teaching and thus improve learning outcomes from the students themselves!
- Support and access – a real limitation of online and blended learning is access, for all students, to the necessary technology. This issue was felt more than ever before this year as teachers and students were thrusted out of schools.