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Let's talk about education

Tess van Leeuwen

15 December 2021

If the pandemic has taught universities across the globe anything, it’s that teaching students can be done in more than one way. The move towards a mixed teaching approach is nothing new. Students are required to learn independently as much as their presence is expected in the lecture theatre. However, the arrival of the pandemic has accelerated the development and implementation of blended learning methods and practice – and I would argue (overall) for the better.

Meaningful lessons learned by CARE

Blended learning became popular in the late 90s and has since been hailed for rejuvenating the learning environment and criticised for being a vague concept. In this instance, when referring to ‘blended learning’, I don’t just mean the mix of technology and face-to-face learning. Rather, I mean the more sophisticated definition as described by Mary Driscoll which describes using a mix of web-based technology (e.g., collaborative learning, live virtual classroom, and streaming video); a combination of various pedagogical approaches (e.g., constructivism, behaviourism); and the pairing of instruction and task (e.g., a ‘flipping the classroom’ approach where online instructions are followed by in-class workshops, activities, and experiments) (E-learning, 2002).

CARE takes a blended approach, with a variety of web-based learning technology, as well as a ‘flipping the classroom’ component during the live (digital or face-to-face) workshop. Participants get to test their new gained knowledge and put it into practice in the safe environment of the classroom. “The best thing about the CARE training was the interactive part; the mix of videos, questions, group work and having different speakers (…),” says one participant. The CARE training takes a stimulating, pedagogical approach which challenges the participant to critically assess and experiment before putting it into practice in the workplace. “The screener questionnaire tool was useful in helping to identify adherence issues and the training taught me how make the patient think (of solutions) rather than giving them all answers – it changed my perspective of consultations,” adds a prescribing pharmacist in training.

Critically reviewing the way we teach and learn is a challenge. It is understandable that educators are reluctant to take a more ‘blended’ approach when it feels like reinventing the wheel. Any academic will tell you there is no spare time for educational development - or figuring out Teams breakout rooms. However, some of the preliminary research around teaching and learning amid the pandemic is already indicating the promise of not only more interactive and stimulating pedagogical methods – but also the opportunity for advancing the global reach of education (Bumblauskas and Vyas, EJEL, 2021).

A blended learning approach is not about cutting out the live interaction that is dear to facilitator and student, it is about having the right tools to engage and interact even when unpredictable circumstances prevent us from being in a room together. It is not just what we learn, it is how we learn it that makes it meaningful. 

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