As part of the Outstanding Teaching Learning & Assessment projects, Plumpton's exploration of Blended Learning was inspired and motivated when several skills issues were identified within the teaching of further education, and the integration and effective use of technology within the classrooms.
This was seen as a potential limitation on how positively technology was impacting practical lessons for students, and restricting the use of technology within the vocational field, which is now more than ever looking to the future of the industry.
What did we want to do?
To address this, Plumpton decided to explore ‘Blended Learning’, where traditional paper-based classroom instruction is combined with digital learning and practices, as a model to help evaluate whether using new technologies in classrooms and teaching practice would be effective.
The aim was to test out paperless multimedia learning experiences, which could be applied to practical further education learning environments, to explore how the learning experiences in the classroom, at home and at work could be integrated using new teaching methods. These included Blended, Flipped and Remote learning. At the beginning of the project, Plumpton assigned several aims which would drive the research:
- To evaluate the effectiveness of Blended Learning in the classroom
- To identify suitable resources for Blended Learning, and consider how best to support Blended Learning in other colleges
- To improve students’ interest, satisfaction and access to information through using Blended Learning
In order to achieve these aims, Plumpton also decided that the main outcomes of this project would be a suite of evaluated and tested Blended Learning teaching methods, which would be used in the classroom. Alongside this, there would be a set of useful critical skills that were needed in order to effectively use technology for Blended Learning.
Types of Blended Learning
To achieve the main goal of the project, which was to improve students’ learning experience at the partner’s colleges, the types of Blended Learning and their pros and cons needed to be established. Improving students’ learning experience could involve: quicker progression in students due to more availability to engage in learning by linking classroom and non-classroom based learning; an extension of the students’ education throughout their time in college; improved preparation for the workplace.
- Lab: the most teacher-centric e.g. PowerPoint presentation to whole groups or whole-group activities in an IT lab
- Stations: different activities using different tools in the same classroom
- Flipped: use of online resources before a class
- Flexible: students choose whether to attend a class or work online independently e.g. for
- Virtual: e.g. a lesson delivered entirely via the VLE
Experimenting with Resources for Blended Learning
During 2017, Plumpton experimented with and evaluated resources which could be used either in-classroom and remotely for Blended Learning. We attended and presented at Brighton University’s eLearning Conference 2017, and went to various conferences and networking events to try and identify which were the best resources to push this project forward. Eventually, 8 were distinguished: VR, Office 365, Turnitin, iPads, Laptops, VLE, Nearpod, Padlet, Video, Touchscreens.
Each of these was evaluated within teaching lessons – did the technology improve student attainment? Was the use of this technology noticeably positive with regard to student engagement? How did using these technologies improve student satisfaction?
Case Study - VR Environments
Creating a Virtual Reality learning activity where students had to identify as many hazards within a motor vehicle workshop, hazardous learning environments were made accessible to students. Headsets were used in class, and students were exposed to a hazardous learning environment without the risks involved, as part of the need to understand health and safety within their motor vehicle programme.
Case Study – VR Remote Environments
During the summer 2017 period Plumpton collaborated with the Sussex School of Archaeology to capture Virtual Reality scenes of the Plumpton Roman Villa, after its excavation. The site is inaccessible during the summer months, and so provided a positively impactful example of using VR to show-case a remote environment to students. This was displayed to students during their induction programme in September 2017, to demonstrate new learning technologies.
Identifying how best to support Blended Learning
Plumpton developed it’s ‘Three E’s Framework’ for further education, in order to support and provide best practices for teachers beginning to use a new technology. After developing this, it was important to start actioning these stages within Plumpton’s own teaching staff, and was put forward as ‘Blended Learning Month’. Sessions were organized which show-cased one resource, and suggestions of how to use this technology in the classroom through the ‘Three E’s Framework’. Plumpton also created a Blended Learning ‘hub’ online, a CPD programme which encouraged teachers to learn more about Blended Learning models, and begin to implement this into their teaching.