In the last year or two, I’ve seen a real push within our field to embrace blended learning. I think that’s a wonderful trend and one that has the potential to really change face to face classrooms and bring them into the 21st Century. However, at the same time, I think we need to think about and embrace the role that fully online education has in the spectrum of what we call good instruction.
Ultimately, blended learning fills a niche in our field but so does online learning. For lots of different students, an online education is the only way to help them achieve their educational goals. Here are just a few of the populations that need a fully online opportunity:
- Young parents
- Students who work full-time to support their families
- Students with significant health problems
- Students with mental health issues including anxiety that won’t thrive in a classroom environment
- Athletes, dancers, singers, and other talented students who travel in pursuit of excellence in their field
- Students who are credit deficient and must accelerate their learning
- Students who can’t learn in a traditional classroom environment–for whatever reason
And this doesn’t even include the students who simply prefer an online environment, one that closely simulates the work environments they may face in the future. While I think the promise of blended education is significant, I also think that fully online education has its place. I fear that some in our profession are losing sight of the beauty and uniqueness of a fully online education in pursuit of the latest new model. I’d encourage all of us to remember our roots and try to create the best educational opportunities for all students, including those for whom an online classroom is, hands down, the best fit. They need best practices too. Let’s ensure that we’re hanging on to what’s working and encouraging all unique models, not just those that fit the latest trend.