It’s not exactly a new idea, but blending learning is set to become a much more prominent teaching aid in the COVID-19 age, mixing online instruction with face-to-face teacher/student interaction.

Think of it as a way to keep the best of the traditional approach, complete with all the social benefits that come from being in a bricks-and-mortar school, while adding the advantages of the vast online library available at the touch of a keyboard. Quality classroom furniture can play a pivotal role in bridging the old and new, blending it all into a successful education model.

So, what is blended learning and where did it come from? By some accounts, the origins of the model can be traced to the distance learning efforts of Sir Isaac Pitman, who, in the 1840s, gained attention by mailing shorthand texts on postcards to students, who then completed the assignments and mailed them back to be graded and corrected.

In today’s context, blended learning combines traditional classroom-based teaching methods with online research. It is a model that requires both student and teacher to be physically present. Students use online tools to research, bringing the teacher in when questions need to be asked, so that the teacher can also spend one-on-one time with students who need the attention.

COVID-19 has Taken Blended Learning from Being a Choice to Being a Necessity

The evolution of ‘distance education’ leapt forward with the introduction of the internet, and the inception of eLearning. Now, with COVID-19 changing the educational landscape, what was once a choice before the pandemic has become a necessity.

Research from Steelcase showed that during the remote experience, students missed the interaction that came with school life: the friendships, school events, sports, and more. But it also showed the value of blended learning, which includes:

  • Practicing deeper learning: The model prompts educators to reimagine options for deeper learning experiences, especially when students can find the answers for themselves.
  • Personalized learning: Blended learning shifts the relationship between teacher and student to one that is more collaborative and led by the student. This approach helps to develop critical thinking skills, and greater use of technology to achieve goals and results.
  • Harnessing digital transformation: Technology is changing the way we learn, moving away from a static place and time. This will only accelerate as the cost of technology drops and blending learning becomes more affordable.
  • Creating new expectations: Blended learning opens doors to the development of skills needed to succeed in the working world, such as new technology talents.

Additional research from the remote experience revealed what worked and what didn’t, giving educators insight into best practices for the classroom. Clarity of purpose and equal access to technology were identified as key drivers in the success of blended learning. In particular, four key insights were identified:

  • The classroom experience is shifting from the traditional teacher/class interaction to one more tailored to specific educational needs. For instance, blended learning allows students to find required content online, and for teachers to spend time with students on solving problems, communicating, and collaborating.
  • Blended learning allows students and educators to go beyond familiarity and comfort levels with technology, the right classroom furniture, and with the right amount of support.
  • The model also checks the isolation that can come with remote learning.
  • Schools will need to find ways of expanding learning spaces to adapt to online learning, making sure that learning environments are multi-functional.

New Classroom Furniture and Designs Needed to Meet Density, Division, Geometry Rules

The layout of classrooms will need to conform to density, division, and geometry specifications designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Increasingly, blended learning will shape the look and feel of educational spaces. Here’s a look at some designs for the new reality:

  1. Rotational classroom: In this unique blended learning space, students rotate through different zones: self-directed learning, group learning, educator directed learning. Digital and analog tools are available to all students as they navigate their learning.
  2. Personalized learning lounge: A flexible personalized learning lounge offers multiple options for students to connect socially or work independently. They can work on comfortable lounge options or in shielded focus areas.
  3. Large active learning media lab class: This large active classroom incorporates many blended learning design principles: social connections, flexibility, hosting and tech integration. Remote students can be seen on wall displays, and they can see and hear their in-person classmates through context cameras and ceiling mounted microphones.
  4. Recording studio: Preparing materials for students in advance requires a recording space and acoustic privacy. A thoughtfully placed acoustic pod can provide space and tools to support distance learning and can be used by multiple faculty members.

The experience of remote learning is playing its way into classrooms and schools as stakeholders realize the advantages of blending learning. Contact the experts at POI today for advice on creating a successful blending learning environment, and how classroom furniture can help make it work.