Monday, 7 December 2020

We’re now three months into blended learning. So how’s it holding up?

We’re now three months into blended learning. So how’s it holding up? After our poll about online learning in June, we wanted to see how blended models enabling some (socially distanced) classroom interaction are working. For 69% of respondents, their children’s blended learning model consists of a mixture of online learning and classroom learning, while for 24% it’s alternate periods of computer and classroom learning (usually one week of each). 30% have other models like the concurrent classroom.

Is blended learning a step up from online? Overall, yes — but not a resounding yes: 79% of you see blended learning as effective in helping children absorb knowledge, but of that number only 2% say it’s very effective, compared to 52% who feel it’s somewhat effective, and 25% who term it effective. 21% of you say it isn’t effective at all. “Blended learning is the best of the worst,” says one parent. “If there’s a choice between fully-online and blended, I’d choose blended, but if it’s blended versus offline, I’d choose offline.”

You’re divided down the middle about whether your child’s blended model works well for their grade, with 44% of you saying yes, 45% saying no, and 11% undecided.

When it comes down to it, 67% of you prefer blended to online learning: Where fully-online learning has the edge is its flexibility, say some respondents. And when schools were focused exclusively on online learning, there was consistency and focus on quality that sometimes gets lost in the hybrid model, some parents note. But for most of you, the chance to have any face-to-face interaction is a big plus for blended learning. “My kids are in primary, so it’s very hectic to study online. Offline or blended will always be better,” says one parent.

If necessary, 49% of you would be willing to use the blended learning model as it stands next academic year, while 34% wouldn’t.


And ultimately if covid-19 measures continue next year, 52% of you would want to see blended learning carry on, while only 17% would rather see a return to full-time online learning and 31% a full return to the classroom.


Like online learning, blended learning is quite good at delivering course content and grading assignments, with 31% and 17% of you saying it does well in these areas. Unlike online learning, it also scores relatively highly on communication and interaction, with 24% seeing it as effective. But it’s not a great medium for facilitating group work or assessing student progress.


Difficulties absorbing information through online learning platforms is still the number one user challenge, say 34% of you. Technical challenges, safety concerns with classroom education, and not having enough room to ask questions also present difficulties. E-learning platform reliability varies considerably, with 14% of you reporting disruptions multiple times a day, 19% once a day, 27% once a week, 20% once a month, and 20% seeing none at all.

Blended learning still isn’t interactive enough: “Our daughter’s school held more interactive online classes last year, but now they’re just posting low-quality videos. My daughter can’t follow everything. We’ve had to resort to taking private lessons,” says one parent. “Younger children especially need human interaction and group work, which online learning can’t really contribute to,” says another.


For many children, feeling unsupported also remains a big challenge: 46% of you say your children’s blended learning model doesn’t help to motivate and support them, compared to 32% who say it does. 16% of you say your children feel unsupported or isolated. But this may be endemic to any online learning, not something the school can entirely overcome. “It’s not necessarily because of the learning platform they’re using. They just feel isolated from their teachers and classmates when they aren’t physically with them,” says one parent.


When it comes to safety measures taken for classroom learning, 64% of you feel schools are doing a good job, compared to 21% who aren’t. Schools are being very careful, says one parent, and nothing more could be asked of them in this area.


Most safety concerns are about social distancing: 27% of you feel schools should focus more on spacing students out, and 23% want to see break time gatherings stopped. Otherwise, parents need to see basic rules enforced on everyone. School rules should be more strongly enforced because many young people don’t take covid-19 seriously, says one parent. Schools also need to make sure parents understand the importance of safety measures, says another.

Parents still feel they’re carrying a heavy load: 68% of parents say they’re involved with the blended learning process, with 32% being very involved and 36% somewhat involved. Only 6% say they’re not involved at all. Online learning remains a burden to parents — especially working parents, says one. “I do feel sorry for parents having to juggle so much at this time, and wish companies would understand that their employees can’t work as ‘normal’ if they also have children to care for,” says a teacher.

But teachers were also thrown in at the deep end, and shouldn’t be automatically blamed for systemic problems with online and blended learning amid a climate of general frustration, the teacher adds. Blended learning best practice isn’t being implemented because school management seems to judge that the cost needed to train teachers and invest in the technology is too high. Meanwhile, Egypt’s communications infrastructure isn’t up to the burden placed on it, the teacher says: “I had to give up on most online lessons because of repeated outages, despite fitting good routers. It was teach-by-typing.”


30% of you feel teachers are making good use of blended learning models to set assignments and projects, and 14% believe they’re effectively creating a safe and reassuring classroom environment. Opinion varies on how well they’re doing explaining content — with 24% of you saying they’re doing a good job but 24% also feeling they could be doing better — and creating fun and innovative ways to learn, which 35% of you think they could be doing more of. 11% of you feel they could do better in providing extra support.

Online engagement levels remain low: Children have short attention spans, and would rather run around than sit at a computer to study, one parent says. They need more teacher-focused conversation time, says another. 20% of you feel schools need to get better at providing more avenues for research and knowledge acquisition, along with creating spaces for discussion and questions and improving the online learning experience.


And running a blended learning model has actually reduced the online educational quality of some schools: Some schools that initially ran good, interactive online lectures or seminars during the first covid wave are now churning out poor-quality content, or having teachers lecture to half a class of students while the other half follows from home, say parents. The schools are spreading themselves too thin and it negatively impacts overall quality, they add.


You want more in-person interaction — but safely: 27% of you want more classroom learning, while 17% want more online interaction. Many of you want more outdoor activities, and smaller and more frequent classroom group activities. Very few of you want more computer lectures or online research assignments.

Your top education stories for the week:

  • New private unis get the presidential seal of approval: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has signed decrees to establish four new private universities, the New Salihiyah University, Horus University, Delta University for Science and Technology, and Pharos University, Masrawy reports, citing the Official Gazette.
  • Online learning platform goes live: The Education Ministry has launched a paid, interactive, online platform to explain state curricula, to which registration will be free for a limited period, Youm7 reports.
  • Tawasol and SODIC inaugurated their second community school in Ezbet Khairallah to provide traditional and vocational programs to 500 students.

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