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Blended vs. Virtual Learning: Which is Right for Your Teacher PD Program?

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“All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.” ~ Martin Fisher

Learning can happen anywhere and in any format. All that is required is a teacher and a student. While traditional classroom learning happens in person, our changing world has led to new interpretations of what a classroom can be.

At Alludo, we understand that teacher professional development must be convenient and accessible, which is why we specialized in creating an online learning environment that meets school district needs while making PD easy to access for educators. Since some districts prefer a combination, let’s talk about blended vs virtual learning and how to decide which option is right for your teacher PD program.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the Difference Between Virtual Learning and Blended Learning?
    1. Virtual Learning
    2. Blended Learning
  2. What Are the Benefits of Virtual Learning?
    1. Reduced Costs
    2. Flexibility
    3. Teacher Voice & Choice
    4. Teacher Collaboration
    5. Ongoing Access to Course Materials
    6. Immediate Feedback
  3. What Are the Benefits of Blending Learning?
    1. Improves Comprehension by Flipping the Classroom
    2. Allows Instructors to Perform More Efficiently
    3. More Engagement Than Traditional PD
  4. Types of Blended Learning
    1. Flipped Classroom
    2. Station Rotation
    3. Individual Rotation
    4. Self-Directed Blended Learning
  5. Should Your School District Implement Virtual or Blended Learning?
  6. Alludo’s Take

What is the Difference Between Virtual Learning and Blended Learning?

Let’s begin by reviewing the differences between virtual learning and blended learning. They have some things in common, including the potential to take a learner-centered approach to teacher professional development, but there are some key differences as well.

Virtual Learning

Virtual learning is learning that happens online in what may be referred to as a virtual classroom. Virtual students log in to attend class, usually through a portal, and virtually connect with an instructor, or – in the case of learner-driven environments – move through modules at their own pace. There is no face-to-face instruction.

Any virtual learning experience is likely to include a library of resources and may include opportunities for students to interact with one another.

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Blended Learning

Blended learning is an option that combines virtual learning with in-person instruction. It acknowledges that there are times when going to a classroom and interacting personally with an instructor and fellow students is beneficial to teachers and administrators.

In a blended environment, teachers experience both types of instruction. They may have the benefit of participating in a virtual learning program that’s learner-centered and allows them to choose which courses to take. Then, they may also get the benefit of being in a physical classroom with their peers.

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What Are the Benefits of Virtual Learning?

While the benefits of traditional learning have been known and recorded for centuries, some school districts still haven’t recognized the benefits of virtual learning, which can be significant.

Reduced Costs

Attending in-person classes can be expensive. Teachers who attend traditional PD must travel to get there, which means they’re adding transportation costs to the cost of PD. They may also be required to purchase books and other course materials.

With remote learning, teachers can participate from home. In most cases, the course materials are virtual and accessible online, which makes virtual learning far less expensive than traditional PD.

Flexibility

With virtual learning, it’s possible to design flexible learning environments that are tailored to districts’ needs. That’s exactly what we do at Alludo!

We can incorporate any coursework from our catalog that a district wants us to include, while providing plenty of elective options for teachers. That’s impossible to do with in-person learning.

Teacher Voice & Choice

Teachers learn best when they have a voice and a choice in what they learn. Every school district has requirements that all teachers must meet, but teachers are most likely to be invested in what they’re learning when they have some agency.

The virtual learning environment we design at Alludo is learner-centered, giving teachers the option to self-direct their learning.

Learner-Centered PD

Teacher Collaboration

In any peer group, collaboration is essential. It’s where any professional can get feedback on on-the-job experiences, offer perspective, and get advice when they need it.

Virtual learning makes it easy for teachers to collaborate because they can interact from wherever they are, even if they’re taking an online course from home on a weekend.

Ongoing Access to Course Materials

As we mentioned above, virtual learning removes the expense of buying books and other course materials. It goes a step further by providing ongoing access to course materials at no cost to teachers.

With Alludo, teachers can access any materials from courses they take whenever they need to – even after they have completed a course.

Immediate Feedback

Finally, teachers who participate in virtual learning can get immediate feedback on their progress in a course or program.

With in-person learning, teachers may wait for weeks to get feedback. The delay can make it difficult for them to assess their progress.

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What Are the Benefits of Blending Learning?

While we’re big believers in virtual learning, we recognize the benefits of blended learning, too. Alludo’s platform supports school districts that use both virtual and blending learning. Here are some of the benefits of blended learning that you should consider.

Improves Comprehension by Flipping the Classroom

One of the things we love about blended learning is that it helps teachers by flipping the classroom. Teachers can learn the theory they need remotely and then put what they learn into practice when they attend in-person classes.

Allows Instructors to Perform More Efficiently

In a traditional classroom, teachers spend much of their free time outside of the classroom engaged in activities related to teaching. We’re talking about grading assignments and preparing course materials.

With blended learning, instructors can focus their time more efficiently because some of these administrative tasks are automated, freeing instructors up to spend more time with their students and helping them develop their skills.

More Engagement Than Traditional PD

Finally, blended learning can increase student engagement because it provides students with more than one way to connect with the material they’re learning. For example, Alludo’s learning environment implements microlearning and gamification.

Student engagement can improve students’ comprehension of course material, making it more likely that they will take what they learn back to their classrooms, where it can benefit their students.

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Types of Blended Learning

Blended learning can happen in multiple ways. Here are four of the most common types of blended learning to consider for your school district.

Flipped Classroom

We’ve already mentioned the flipped classroom. This type of blended learning allows teachers to learn and absorb course materials at home, at their own pace. When they arrive in the classroom, they can put what they learned into practice with the support of both their instructor and their peers.

Station Rotation

Station Rotation is a form of blended learning that allows learners to progress through multiple stations of learning on a schedule, with one station being a form of online learning. Elementary schools often use Station Rotation because it’s a format that teachers already know and embrace.

Individual Rotation

Individual Rotation learning works like Station Rotation in many ways. The most important difference is that learners are not not required to rotate through every station, only those that are part of their personalized learning program.

Teacher choice and voice plays a role in Individual Rotation because teachers have the agency to choose what they want to study.

Self-Directed Blended Learning

Self-Directed Blended Learning is a model that empowers educators to devise a curriculum that allows them to pursue individualized learning goals while also meeting PD requirements.

The biggest challenge with this model is that learners must be able to evaluate what they’re doing and make adjustments as needed, since there is no formal schedule.

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Should Your School District Implement Virtual or Blended Learning?

The decision between blended and virtual learning is one that every school district must make. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are two key questions you should ask:

  1. Are all teachers taking the same courses? If the answer is yes, then either model could work. Blended learning allows teachers to get personalized feedback in a way that online learning might not, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.
  2. How do you want to host PD? Both virtual and blended PD come at a cost, but school districts need to weigh the relative costs of each and decide how they want to host PD. For some districts, it’s easier to have everything online, while others may not mind spending a little extra to add a personalized element to their PD offerings.

It’s essential to consider both options and what each could do for your district, as well as addressing budgetary concerns, before you choose.

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Alludo’s Take

At Alludo, we specialized in creating a virtual learning platform that works on its own or blended with traditional, in-person learning. We use a learner-driven model that provides teachers with a choice and a voice in what they learn. Gamification makes learning fun and encourages healthy competition among teachers while rewarding them for the learning they do.

The Yucaipa Calimesa Joint Unified School District (YCJUSD) came to us for help with increasing teacher engagement in PD. They were struggling with engagement due to a shortage of substitute teachers that made it impossible for teachers to take time away from the classroom to complete their PD requirements.

With Alludo’s help, they moved to a blended system that incorporated asynchronous online training with in-person classes. Very quickly, they got to 100% teacher engagement with more than 75,000 microlearning activities completed.

Teachers in districts that use Alludo’s model can complete coursework online and take advantage of in-person training when necessary. For example, they might attend a post-workshop meeting to unpack what they learned and dive deeper into a topic.

Give Your Teachers What They Need with Blended or Virtual Learning

Blended or virtual learning simplifies PD for both teachers and school districts. Teachers get the flexibility and choice they want while school districts benefit from high teacher engagement. Best of all, students reap the rewards with improved outcomes.

Experience personalized learning for all levels of educators with a free trial of Alludo’s professional development platform. You’ll enjoy:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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