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Academic research found blended learning to be more effective than online learning Photo: Shutterstock/fizkes


certainly a problem, and access to computers is one thing, but access to the internet is quite another. On the other hand, with


blended learning, each child is in school every afternoon, which enables the teacher to give out assignments to be completed the next morning. If these assign- ments are self-contained (perhaps given out on flash drives), no access to the internet is needed. If access to the internet is required, some children may be able to visit the local library to access it (unless the library is too far away or until the library’s internet resources are overwhelmed, of course). Otherwise, these chil- dren will need to go into school in the morning also, not to be involved in classroom instruction, but to use the school’s internet facilities for their independent research. Tey could bring in their own devices to link to the school’s internet. Access to actual computers is


less of a problem. Many chari- ties and governments have been working hard to supply comput- ers and data to disadvantaged children, and although the numbers supplied still fall far short of the numbers required, this problem has at least been ameliorated.


while their parents were out at work? Would they be able to focus, in the absence of parental supervision? My guess is that if the pupils knew that they would be coming to school in the after- noon, when any ignorance would be rapidly exposed, they would certainly apply themselves. An issue here is the often-un- spoken child-minding function


of schools. Parents expect schools to educate, but even if they can’t do this all that well in particular cases, at least the child is not at home bothering the parent or parents, or creating chaos in the absence of both parents. However, if pupils have something con- structive to do (obviously at the right level of challenge for each pupil, so differentiation is very


important), which they know they will be held accountable for that same afternoon - or they will look silly in front of their peers - they may be better behaved at home than parents might expect. Ah, you might say, but what


about children who do not have access to reliable devices or the internet at home? Tis is


So, blended learning could work. Te research study gives more details about where it works best. Primary schools (includ- ing nursery schools) were more effective than secondary schools in delivering digital learning. Girls tended to do better than boys (so boys should not pretend to be computer whizz-kids). Pupils perceived by the school as being of “lower ability” tended to do remarkably well, contrary to school expectations. Digital learn- ing was also effective with many categories of pupils with special needs. Will blended learning be given an opportunity to work? We will see. l


Keith Topping is Professor of Educational & Social Research at the University of Dundee


FUTURESCOT | SPRING 2021 | 37


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