Despite (or as many argue, due to) a rampant lack of funding in school districts across the country, more and more schools are finding ways to incorporate online tools like learning management systems into the classroom. They are doing so in innovative ways that tap into many different resources, technological and otherwise. The blended learning strategy requires just that–a blend of both face-to-face and virtual instruction, a smart blend of new and traditional teaching techniques, and simple resourcefulness.
The implementation of online tools should never be haphazard, forced without educators’ understanding and/or desire for it, or done for novelty’s sake, as a shiny new toy for a school. Nor should it be, in my opinion, a last resort.
Which is why I admit to feeling a little dismayed when last week, Anthony Salcito, the vice president of Worldwide Public Sector Education at Microsoft, wrote a blog post entitled: H1N1 Virus Forces Academic Institutions to Think More Aggressively About Online Learning.
“The H1N1 pandemic highlights the need for institutions to think more holistically about blended learning environments,” Salcito wrote, “…that these online and distance learning solutions are valuable not only when you have to respond to classroom outages or school closures, but also creates an opportunity to connect and share information between a student and teacher beyond the classroom all the time.”
While this is all well and good, when did online learning become a last-resort method, something provoked by tragedy and absolute necessity? Honestly, does it take a pandemic for online tools like learning management systems to be embraced by educators who haven’t begun to use them yet? And if so, in what ways are these tools being deployed–as a last resort, or in a comprehensive way that honors the principles of blended learning?
To instill the next generation of Americans with 21st century skills and the ability to thrive in an increasingly tech-savvy and collaborative world, the integration of online tools must cater to the uniqueness of each student. The trend has to move away from bulk-produced, one-size-fits-all instruction and toward more customized teaching strategies. And first, they need to be embraced by educators themselves.
Most educators understand that every student is unique and has something special to offer. Using online training platform to track student progress and deliver curriculum can save educators a great amount of time. And accordingly, the means to efficiently provide each student with learning systems that work for them.
Online tools provide the opportunity for students to obtain a tailored education that caters to their unique learning styles, skills, abilities and interests. Using smart and structured blended learning, students can be engaged in a variety of instructional modes, including teacher-led instruction, one-on-one tutoring, self-paced and independent learning, collaborative projects and virtual tutors.
People both in and outside the learning management system community should stop thinking of online tools as simply fulfilling a need (caused by swine flu, lack of funding, etc.), but as offering new and exciting possibilities, and transforming the way students are being educated in our country.
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