Building Blended Learning

Parlindungan Pardede

parlpard2020@gmail.com

Universitas kristen Indonesia

Blended learning is the most innovative learning method with unique characteristics. To implement it, teachers should first understand the LMS features to use and build the system by taking five steps: planning, designing, implementing, evaluating, and improving.

Introduction
The previous article, Blended Learning: The Best Solution for Learning in the New Normal Era, describes that online learning or e-learning failed to facilitate quality learning for most students in Indonesia during the coronavirus pandemic due to two main factors. First, the pandemic broke so suddenly that schools and teachers could not make any anticipation. Second, most teachers have never studied or got training on how to employ online learning effectively. These made teachers at a loss concerning the strategies to optimize the various educational advantages offered by online learning on one hand and minimize its weaknesses on the other hand.

Based on research results and experiences obtained from online learning practices before COVID 19 pandemic, a proven solution to overcome these weaknesses and to augment the advantages has been invented, i.e., blended learning (BL) method, which combines the strengths of face-to-face instruction and the advantages offered by online learning. Various studies (e.g., Akbarov, et al, 2018Khader, 2016Kenney & Newcombe, 2011Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) show that students who learn by the BL method achieve higher average scores and higher levels of learning satisfaction than students who learn by the non-BL methods. No wonder why more and more students previously learned online in the US have switched to BL.
Anticipating the New Normal Era with Blended Learning
According to the Ministry of Education and Culture, schools in various regions in Indonesia will be reopened starting in mid-July 2020. But before the coronavirus vaccine is discovered, students and teachers will meet various limitations in learning because they will be required to follow various health protocols, such as wearing masks, physical distancing, regular hand washing, and checking body temperature. To a certain extent, such protocols will hinder learning. What is more, the learning duration at school also needs to be limited. It has been suggested, for instance, that students should stay at schools only for four hours per day. Other suggested that students learn at school only once a week, and study online from home in the other days.

In the previous article, I have argued that the best solution to overcome these limitations without decreasing the quality of the learning process to facilitate students to achieve high outcomes is by implementing BL. With this learning method, to complete up to 8 subjects, students can simply follow face-to-face instruction at school 2 times (4 hours each) in a week. Other learning activities are conducted through the LMS (learning management system) employed as the virtual classroom from home.However, to implement BL effectively, teachers need to first build the BL system they will use. To build the system, teachers necessitate mastering an adequate understanding of BL and the skills to operate it. Since the need to implement BL needs is very urgent, teachers should be immediately facilitated with an empowering workshop. Based on my experience, such a workshop can be completed in 8 sessions. If it is programmed to be taken twice a week, teachers can finish it in a month.

Building Blended Learning

Similar to face-to-face instruction that needs to be carefully designed to ensure that it effectively integrates and orchestrates the contents with its media, activities, and other components to achieve learning objectives, a BL system also needs to be well planned.  To build a sound BL system involving the curriculum, technology, students, and teachers, the whole contents, media, and activities must be relevant, meaningful, and integrated with the curriculum and are supported and appreciated by the students and the teachers. Wild (2007) asserted that learning in an LMS must be participatory, not just interactive. Through this participation, students will exert their thoughts and actively collaborate, and these two activities are fundamentals in learning (Allen,2010).

In concern with this, to build a BL requires good preparation, not only to make the time for developing and maintaining the LMS efficient but also to ensure that the BL organization is of high quality for the students. To work systematically, BL development needs to be carried out in five stages (Figure 1), which consists of …

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