Blended approach enables self-paced learning

Last Updated 05 October 2021, 05:45 IST

In this new phase of education where e-learning plays a major role, there is a need to explore novel methodologies of knowledge delivery. Such methodologies are to be bankable even after we surmount the pandemic.

Self-paced learning is a fundamental feature of digital study. We must introspect on the potentials of this mode of education combined with our regular classroom teachings. In self-paced learning, the learner decides their own time frame and
physical space for study without the intervention of any institution or instructor.

In formal education, the time frame required to complete particular course work, the methodology to be adopted by the instructor, the examination pattern are pre-determined. The student is forced to follow this framework and take the examination at the end to qualify for a degree. In self-paced learning, a student will rarely not graduate because he or she did not stick to a time frame.

Flexible mode of learning

Online and digital models open up new learning environments. In offline study, the instructor and institution decide the curriculum and the time frame to complete the course with the least consideration for individual mental and physical capabilities. Flexibility to personal inadequacies not given attention to. All deadlines are applicable to the class as a whole and any individual who needs exclusion will have to submit to assignments regardless of their circumstances.

Self-paced learning shakes the foundation of this institutionalised knowledge delivery system. By handing over decisions regarding deadlines to the learner, the instructor turns into a friendly facilitator. This is not a handicap but a progressive teaching process where the teacher has a greater responsibility beyond the walls of a classroom.

When the teacher decides to adopt a lesser authoritative approach and the student decides to learn more responsibly, learning can become more healthy and meaningful. In regular modes of instruction, when all students are forced to study lessons at the same speed, some understand concepts and others go forward without grasping principles.

Sometimes, instead of restricting study in a closed classroom, the student can choose an open space with greenery and can ruminate on lessons. Here learning process is liberated from the confines of time and physical space. This is very relevant in our present system of maintaining a compulsory minimum percentage of attendance.

Innovative exam

Such a learning environment calls for a novel examination system too. An evaluation pattern that tests how much a student memorises from time-bound learning of fixed syllabus becomes irrelevant in e-learning. A student who learns to invest their required amount of time in each lesson and getting ready for rating ultimately may need a kind of self-guided evaluation rather than a fixed pattern set by a traditional system.

In such cases, in place of multiple-choice or descriptive questions, students may need an evaluation model involving scenario exercises where they can prove their capabilities of critical thinking and logical analysis. Through this, the learning and evaluation become more cumulative and creative.

Thus if we can think beyond the boundaries of our present classrooms, the learning
environment can be made more intellectually stimulating and each student can be exposed to unlimited opportunities. At the same time, we are well aware that e-learning is not possible for all subjects. There are several subjects that need fieldwork, interaction with people and lab experiments.

So as a learning tool, the scope of self-paced learning in isolation is very limited. It has to be merged with classroom teaching to uphold social functions of education and thus we should evolve a hybrid system. The blending of digital learning with offline study will reduce the need for unnecessary physical infrastructure in the form of buildings and classrooms.

Hybrid learning is a student-centred aptitude based educational method. Here learners enjoy learning by chasing their passions instead of merely listening to lectures based on a pre-determined curriculum.

(The writer is a professor at a university in Bengaluru)

(Published 05 October 2021, 05:32 IST)

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