5 classroom management strategies in a blended learning environment
Blended learning—the practice of combining elements of online digital media with traditional, instructor-led teaching methods—is widely considered to be one of the most effective ways to teach, and blended programmes can now be found at all levels of education.
However, managing students in a flexible learning environment brings a unique set of challenges. Here’s how to successfully manage an online classroom.
- Create an engaging online community
One of the disadvantages of online learning is that students can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from their peers. You can encourage a stronger sense of community among your virtual class by creating virtual spaces (such as a ‘lounge’ or chat room) where students can connect and get to know each other. Encouraging students to interact socially as well as academically will facilitate communication during group projects and prevent some of the frustrations that can arise from online group work.
- Set clear expectations
Students who are unfamiliar with blended learning may initially find the syllabus confusing. Set clear deadlines and expectations about what you expect them to accomplish each week (including stopping points so they take time to absorb what they have learned without skipping ahead). Give time estimates for self-paced lessons so students can manage their time appropriately, organise digital resources so they are easily accessible, and provide several communication options for students (email, messenger, Google Hangout) so they can get in touch if they are confused or struggling. Be aware that some students may be more adept at technology than others and take their capabilities into consideration when planning assignments.
- Be available
Although blended learning is great for encouraging independent study, it’s important to keep a close eye on participation levels to make sure students aren’t getting left behind (or slacking!) Make sure the entire class is participating in discussion threads and add your own comments and thought-provoking questions if participation tails off. Check in regularly with students during group projects and set clear guidelines and expectations regarding plagiarism to make sure students’ work is original or correctly cited.
- Let the students teach
Enabling students to take turns leading lessons is a great way to boost engagement and check that they thoroughly understand the material. Not every student will be comfortable teaching a class – use discussion threads and group chats to assess potential student instructors.
- Establish conventions
Recreating as much of an actual classroom experience as possible can help students who are unfamiliar with a blended learning environment. Set regular online office hours, create a structured syllabus, and include measurable assessments to track students’ progress. You can incorporate flexible elements (such as makeup days, extended deadlines, and choice of assignments) into your curriculum, but there should be a recognisable structure to your course to maximise its effectiveness.
Interested in a teaching career in Higher Education? Falmouth University’s Flexible Learning PGCHE programme focuses on the growing importance of blended learning, enabling graduates to develop an informed and critically reflective teaching practice within a fast-changing sector. Visit our course page for more information.
Top 5 tips for blended learning