Blended Learning in K-12/Synchronous and asynchronous communication methods

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Blended Learning in K-12
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Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Methods

In blended learning, instructors use facets of self-paced instruction and live, collaborative learning to moderate the offline setting. This is also respectively known as asynchronous and synchronous learning. These methods of teaching and learning are essential in encouraging active participation in the blended learning environment. (Im and Lee, 2003)

Online discussions have the potential to enhance students’ learning and may lead to cognitive development. (Fassinger, 1995) In addition, preconceived notions of race, gender, educational abilities or social status of the students is virtually erased. (Im and Lee, 2003) This can be extremely beneficial with the number of social cliques in both junior high and high school. The key to the learning process includes interactions among the students themselves, the interactions between instructor and students, and the collaborations in learning that result from these interactions. (Jin, 2005)

A live, collaborative learning environment depends on dynamic communication between learners that fosters knowledge sharing. (Singh, 2001) Synchronous discussions are extremely beneficial for students who might not otherwise participate collaboratively within the traditional classroom. Furthermore, they allow for fast and efficient exchanges of ideas. (Bremer, 1998) In a traditional classroom setting, participation of all students is often difficult due to time constraints or simple shyness. In live, collaborative learning atmospheres the communication process between learners is just as meaningful and vital as an educational end product. Collaborative learning emphasizes the following factors:

  • active participation and interaction among learners
  • knowledge viewed as a social construct
  • environments that facilitate peer interaction, evaluation, and cooperation
  • learners who benefit from self explanation when more experienced or knowledgeable learners contribute
  • learners who benefit from internalization by verbalizing in a conversation (Hiltz, 1999)

Asynchronous communication encourages time for reflection and reaction to others. It allows students the ability to work at their own pace and control the pace of instructional information. In addition, there are fewer time restrictions with the possibility of flexible working hours. (Bremer, 1998) The use of the Internet and the World Wide Web allows learners to have access to information at all times. Students can also submit questions to instructors at any time of day and expect reasonably quick responses, rather than waiting until the next face-to-face meeting. Self-paced instruction will often come in a variety of asynchronous formats including but not limited to:

  • Documents & Web Pages
  • Web/Computer Based Training Modules
  • Assessments
  • Surveys
  • Simulations
  • Recorded lectures, discussions, or live events
  • Online Learning Communities and Discussion Forums (Singh, 2001)

According to Hew and Cheung there are 5 phases in the active construction of knowledge that exist (2003) and are traversed through asynchronous communication.

Phases Real World Examples K-12 Examples
Phase 1: Sharing and comparing of information. Statements of agreement or corroborating examples from one or more other participant. Students can discuss an assignment with each other for clarification or share data to be analyzed as a group.
Phase 2: Discovery and exploration of dissonance or inconsistency among the ideas, or statements advanced by different participants. Identifying and stating areas of disagreement or asking and answering questions to clarify the source and extent of the disagreements. Multiple student participation ensures feedback with possible differing opinions. Differences can be examined and analyzed while using the Internet for further clarification.
Phase 3: Negotiation of meaning. Negotiation of the meaning of terms or identification of areas of agreement or overlap among conflicting concepts. Heterogeneous grouping would allow many students to share their “meaning” and define if for others. Concepts can be explained at many different levels.
Phase 4: Testing and modification of proposed synthesis or co-construction. Testing the proposed synthesis against formal data collected or against contradictory information from the literature. Students can peer edit each others work with no face-to-face threat, and may be more honest. Students can collaborate on written assignments.
Phase 5: Statement or application of newly constructed knowledge. Summarising (sic) of agreements or students' self reflective statements that illustrate their knowledge or ways of thinking have changed as a result of the online interaction. Students can analyze their group work/opinions/knowledge base and use this information to improve their own work.

These phases integrate with student goals in a traditional classroom and further extend student learning with the asynchronous component. Asynchronous discussions actively involve students and therefore improve communication between and amongst students and instructors. Inherent complications would include lack of access to technology and lack of motivation by the students.