There are benefits and drawbacks to almost every instructional strategy, whether it be face-to-face or virtual, synchronous or asynchronous. The key is to closely examine the strategies for these benefits and drawback and design instruction to capitalize on the strengths of both environments. In a blended learning environment, instructors can use online instruction to address limitations that often exist in face-to-face learning environments.
Face-to-Face Drawback: Because of set time limitations, it is often challenging for every learner to have the opportunity to participate in every class discussion, especially in classroom with large numbers of learners. Instructors often address this using think-pair-share and small group work, but it is impossible to ensure that every learner has adequately engaged in the same level of discussion.
Online Benefit: Online discussions happen asynchronously, at the learner’s convenience. This ensures that 100 percent of the learning group can effectively participate in the discussion, and provides a record of their understanding and engagement level for the course instructor.
Face-to-Face Drawback: Differentiated learner needs are often one of the most discussed topics in adult education. Onsite instructors often have to focus their pacing on the majority during instruction, leaving struggling learners overwhelmed and advanced learners underwhelmed.
Online Benefit: Learners set their own in pace in online learning. Instructors can offer lesson expansion activities for learners who easily comprehend the content or are interested to learn more, while struggling learners can slow down and review material as many times as necessary for comprehension.
Face-to-Face Drawback: Learners have a variety of learning preferences, and it can be challenging for educators to address each of these modalities within the construct of class time.
Online Benefit: In an online environment, multiple learning modalities can be offered where learners have the autonomy to choose the modality in which they prefer to learn. Additionally, if a learner struggles to comprehend content using one modality, they have additional options in which they can access the lesson’s content.
Face-to-Face Drawback: Class size and differentiated learning needs can make it challenging for educators to personally interact and connect with every learner. Instructors often set aside office hours to meet with and connect individually with learners, leaving it up to the learner to create these interactions.
Online Benefit: Online interactions promote the use of email, text, and/or video chat. These methods are two-directional, flexible, and meet the needs of both learners and educators.
Face-to-Face Drawback: Educators often have to wait until the class meets to assess the level of understanding of homework assignments. This makes preparation for the lesson challenging and more time consuming, as they have to plan for a best and worse-case scenario.
Online Benefit: Online coursework provides real time data for educators to assess student learning and appropriately plan for the next class session.