A Blended Learning Approach that Leverages the Strengths of Technology

Among the many lessons that COVID 19 has left behind, the most important one for the education sector has been that technology can be a great friend in times of need. Our first batch in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Computing Sciences began in 2021, in the midst of COVID-related regulations. Much like other institutions across the world, we were quick to latch on to the Google Classroom and Zoom both our faculty and students grappling with many of the issues that technology brings with it. The unreliability of internet connections, the constraints of time and space and the lack of face-to-face interaction indeed left much to be desired. The move to the SaiU campus could not have been sooner!

For most institutions, technology has been confined to replicating the traditional classroom structure with learners logging into a virtual classroom, accessing assignments and uploading them on to online spaces, with email or chats providing the means to interact with the teachers and with each other. While it is a pleasure to gather in the same physical space and take cues from more than the voice and blurred image on screen, we at SaiU, have blended the virtual classroom into the physical, thus leveraging the best of both worlds. The adoption of ‘blended learning’ – an approach that combines online technology with traditional classroom methods – adds considerable value to the learning and teaching experience.

Technology has allowed us to enable interactions that would otherwise have not been possible. It is the ability to hook up to different parts of the world with little effort, that made possible the joint session that Stanford University Professor of Computer Science John Mitchell  moderated with our students and those in Stanford University.  This instance flags just one of the range of possibilities presented by blended learning, that we have exploited

Flipped classroom in which students’ complete readings prior to classes, in their own time, and employ the class time to work on live problem-solving, we have found, deepens intellectual engagement.  Students come ready and prepared to the classroom, as they have been able to review the materials in advance. Asynchronous learning creates an independent learning environment with students taking responsibility for their learning outside the pressures of the classroom.

By combining digital instruction with one-on-one face time, instructors manage to avoid the pitfalls of catering to the lowest denominator. Digital tools expand the options for what instructors can incorporate into these lesson plans. Using technology to integrate related material in different formats such as videos, podcasts and games, not only piques the interest of students but also prods them to explore further, far beyond the requirements of the course.

Without a doubt, technology is a welcome addition to traditional pedagogical practices with the potential to improve the teaching and learning experience. The blended learning approach at SaiU is in tune with the aim to equip the students by imparting 21st-century skills — strong communication and collaboration skills, expertise in technology, innovative and creative thinking skills, and an ability to solve problems.

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