How can they both go hand in hand?

Human minds work in complex ways, and every child is different. Their comprehension level and learning rate differs when it comes to learning. However, despite all these differences, traditionally, all students are expected to learn from the same material at the same time. This is not fair to the students as some of them may have a slower learning pace than others. Hence, there is a general consensus that a personalized learning experience is necessary because each student has distinct needs and learns at a different rate. There are several solutions for providing personalized learning to students, such as flipped classroom models, online learning platforms, one-on-one tutoring, virtual science lab simulation and open spaces. However, the most crucial of these methods is "blended learning”. Blended learning combines conventional learning methods along with virtual learning.

Conventional learning vs. Virtual Learning

Before getting into the minuscule details of what blended learning entails, let us first understand the basics of conventional learning and virtual learning. Conventional learning (or traditional learning) is the oldest method of learning. It is basically the textbook method and is the physical mode of learning. Conventional learning is curriculum-based and the mode of learning is teacher-centered.
In direct contrast to that, we have virtual learning. Virtual learning is the mode of teaching where education is imparted through online learning platforms. Rather than being teacher-centric, this mode of education is student-centric. Students have the flexibility to access their study materials from anywhere at any time. Virtual learning platforms allow students to learn at their own pace. It is therefore learner-centric. Despite certain fundamental distinctions, both conventional learning and traditional learning offer advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Conventional Learning: Conventional learning facilitates the cultivation of a social community, which is not possible on virtual learning platforms. Conventional learning also facilitates instant feedback from the teacher over the asynchronous distance of virtual learning. Online learning, on the other hand, is not for everyone and can lead to frustration and social anxiety. In the case of conventional learning methods, web access is not a requirement and education can potentially reach all strata of society.
Advantages of Virtual Learning: Virtual learning is cost-effective as compared to conventional learning. Virtual learning platforms are flexible and have an added advantage over the physical and time constraints of conventional learning. Virtual learning allows for the global reach of knowledge. Additionally, virtual learning is also time and effort-conscientious. For example, virtual science labs for physics, chemistry or biology can be accessed by the student from the comfort of their homes and do not even require teacher involvement.

Understanding Blended Learning

With the current pandemic, all of us have become acquainted with the phenomenon of virtual learning platforms. The digitalisation of education, and the gradual relaxation of the offline classroom have facilitated the advent of online learning and hybrid learning.
To understand blended learning better, let us look at this example of science studies. CBSE class 9th science requires the traditional method of teaching. However, there are some practical parts that can be tackled through remote or online learning. Additional assistance is required along with the traditional methods of learning. Additional assistance is provided through science learning apps such as LearnEon. The theoretical curriculum of CBSE class 9th science is already digitalised on the online learning platforms. However, there are important practical experiments that need attention and demonstration for proper understanding.
Nowadays, virtual science labs are also available. An example is Eon VLabs. Remote or hybrid learning is also facilitated with the lab simulation virtually. These labs impart knowledge through the use of animation, games and lab videos. There are various virtual labs for physics and biology under the broad genre of virtual scientific labs. Virtual chemistry laboratories are also a useful resource for helping students understand the concepts behind laboratory investigations.
Traditional methods of learning are therefore combined with virtual learning methods in order to provide holistic blended learning. Blended learning can also be defined as attending some traditional classes for a particular portion of the curriculum and attending remote classes or online classes for the rest. Blended learning helps students save time or pursue some other ambition whilst still accessing their studies at the same time.

Approaches towards Personalized Learning

Personalized learning refers to instructions that are paced to a student’s needs and tailored to a student’s learning preferences and requirements. With the advancement of technology, virtual learning is a great alternative and solution for personalised learning. However, the best and most customized learning experience is presented to the students by combining both the traditional method of learning and online learning. There are different models that instructors adapt to suit the needs of each student.
Flipped Classroom Model: The Flipped Classroom model incorporates virtual learning into traditional classroom settings. For example, a class 9th cbse science teacher can create a virtual database of online lab experiments for the students to go through. This would provide students with an invaluable learning experience by participating in lab simulations. Hence, the flipped classroom model is a great solution for providing a personalized and tailored learning experience.
Open Spaces: The blended learning of virtual learning and traditional methods of learning results in the creation of open spaces. Open spaces present another opportunity for holistic learning through the division of a large class into small groups, which receive education either through one-on-one interactions or virtual assessments and practice. For example, through the facilitation of virtual science labs, students in a cbse 9th class are divided into different virtual labs based on their subject choices of biology, chemistry, and physics.
Hence, it is crucial to note that through the integration of online learning platforms with traditional learning, a holistic personalized learning experience can be curated for each student. Incorporation of virtual learning methods, such as lab simulations, are not only important for the retention of knowledge by students but can also help to boost the confidence of students.
Personalised learning moves away from the teacher-centric model to a newer model, wherein the students and their preferences come at the focal point. Online science learning apps, virtual learning platforms etc. can be used to effectively provide such a personalised experience. In this way, teachers can empower students through education that is tailored and customised to suit their varied learning needs and pace.

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