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6 Disadvantages of Blended Learning Educators and Students Should Know

While blended learning is a viable educational model, here's a look at potential disadvantages and how to mitigate them.

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By Scott Winstead

Disadvantages of Blended Learning

While the blended learning model offers a number of exciting benefits for students, there are some shortcomings that can’t be ignored. By understanding and addressing the disadvantages of blending learning, we can better overcome them to ensure improved outcomes for students.

What is a Blended Learning Strategy?

Blended learning is a successful combination of eLearning, traditional learning in the classroom, and autonomous study. It’s been gaining popularity in recent years, in response to the amazing proliferation of online learning (especially since the pandemic), as well as consistently strong positions of traditional school.

Some might think of a blended learning experience as a trade-off or yet another version of the Buridan’s ass paradox. Indeed, neglecting the fact that we live in the 21st century has been a definitive showstopper for a multitude of great initiatives.

That said, I have to say that despite being one of online learning’s biggest proponents for more than a decade, I can’t help but think that completely abandoning the battle-hardened educational system with its solid methodology, academic backup, strong instructor figures, and developed intellectual and psychological bonds, is hardly a wise thing to do.

In fact, in my analysis of education during the pandemic, it has become clear to me that while virtual learning has come a long way, at this point it can’t fully replace in-person learning – especially for younger learners. However, the traditional classroom is also undoubtedly outdated, so a blending learning approach is likely the best overall solution.

The Biggest Blended Learning Advantages

Just to be clear, I’m an eager proponent of blended learning. In my opinion, the blended learning advantages firmly outweigh the drawbacks, if we are putting the issue into perspective.

Some of the advantages of a blended learning model include:

  • Advanced collaboration tools. Online discussions, quick messages, and feedback from the instructor and peer students.
  • Increased accessibility. An online course and online materials can be accessed 24/7 – any time from any location.
  • Improved communication. Better connection between lecturers and part-time students.
  • Assessment 2.0. Facilitated student evaluations with comprehensive online testing and granular reporting. Automatic grading offered by many learning systems is also a great relief for the teacher.
  • Personal approach. Caters to each student’s own pace and learning style, creating a more comfortable environment for both slow runners and sprinters. If the learners are struggling with a particular topic, they can reach out to complementary digital resources or get quick help from their instructor.
  • It’s just fun! Blended learning courses have proven to be more engaging for various student groups – from elementary school to post-graduates and advanced trainees.

The Disadvantages of Blended Learning

For the sake of fairness, I have to point out the disadvantages of blended learning that I have found. Increased cognitive load, steep learning curve for conservative teachers, lack of direct supervision… Let’s take a look at the cons suggested by the eLearning community.

1. The technology challenge. Infrastructure

There are at least two angles to this problem.

The first is building the essential infrastructure within an educational institution or particular class. Does the facility have the required IT workforce? Can it allocate the right budget, or does it, in fact, reveal any willingness to shell out on an experimental case?

Acquiring software technology and hardware for your blended learning program can be costly. Even more so if you are dealing with a large campus or multiple branches.

However, there is a long-term silver lining to it.

By investing into the right tech set today, you are probably saving loads of cash that would otherwise be spent on supporting an obsolete brick-and-mortar framework.

2. The technology challenge. Mentality

The tech resources employed in blended learning need to be reliable, easy to use, and unanimously accepted by all stakeholders of the learning process. Otherwise, the initiative will most likely be gathering dust until some remote milestone is reached.

The other issue is IT literacy, which may be a significant barrier for teachers rather than students. While someone like myself who lives and breathes eLearning technology, a veteran teacher who is not up-to-date on the latest technological advances and software may be slow or even unwilling to adapt.

The availability of solid tech support and trainers is an absolute must.

I’ve seen firsthand that it can help not only ease the transition to blended learning, but can also have a positive impact on educator’s attitudes towards the model.

It’s also important to nurture a blended learning community to evangelize the value of training technology. Any hiccups and lack of organization may bring along the looming danger of failure. Old school supporters always have an ace up their sleeve: a long track record and verified methodology.

Innovators really have to go the extra mile to convince the hesitant and reveal the benefits rather than disadvantages of blended learning models.

3. Pace of advancement

What primarily looks like an upside turns into a downside when you come to review specific learning scenarios.

For example, the use of lecture recording may actually result in learners lagging behind on the course flow.

Some students may choose to linger around for a while and then watch a bunch of video classes in one sitting, while others would rather make the interactive class part of their daily/weekly routine.

At the end of the day, an instructor trying to sync up both streams with ongoing offline activity is faced with a daunting task.

4. Negative impact on teachers. Overwork

It’s hard to disagree that there’s a significant amount of extra teacher’s work involved in the primary stages. Managing a blended learning experience can certainly be time-consuming.

The paradigm shift is not exactly a trifle.

A teacher adopting blended learning has to pick the right syllabus, the right ratio between face-to-face learning and online learning, and to the best of my knowledge, there’s no universal recipe to it.

The WebQuest model might be worth checking out, as a sample of successful ‘hybridization’.

Also, technical training is key.

The broader your horizons, the easier to find a best-fitting solution to make a blended learning program work.

5. Negative impact on students. Cognitive load

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the disadvantages of blended learning is the cognitive load.

New to the blended learning model, some teachers may start overdelivering content and educational activities.

The new blended learning program may become a friend if tailored to individual student needs, and a foe if applied in bulk, as is often the case with traditional classroom learning.

On the bright side, the instructor now has tools to engage and motivate students in the 21st century fashion, using interactive elements, gamification, digital certification, etc.

6. The plagiarism and credibility problem

Naturally, once your class is officially Internet-friendly, it’s hard to withstand the temptation of looking up things on the web or getting instant tips from fellow students. This may affect fair assessment and quality of online course work.

Besides, the teacher needs to make learners aware of the perils of unverified online resources, such as bias, distortion, and misrepresentation of facts.

A Final Word on Blended Learning Projects

Every learning methodology has its pros and cons, whether it’s traditional learning in a classroom, online learning, or a hybrid approach. And that goes for the blended learning approach as well.

As always, you need to measure your requirements against existing options. Blended learning can be a hybrid solution as opposed to the online learning vs. classroom learning binary debate.

Will the combination of e-Learning technology with face-to-face instruction and self-paced training benefit your audience? Do the rewards outweigh the risks? Are your students ready to embrace the new way of thinking and learning?

An unrestrained and versatile educational environment may be an invaluable motivational factor for some, and a source of cognitive dissonance for others.

The disadvantages of a blended learning approach exist, but they are not insurmountable.

The negative impact of a blended learning approach can be minimized or even channeled into productive activity if the instructor keeps an eye on student feedback, improves technology skills, and delivers quality courses.

Besides, some benchmarking would never hurt in this complex field. Look around, your colleagues may have already cut their teeth on blended learning, so they can give you a few pointers. That said, every experience is unique and can hardly be duplicated under different conditions.

As always, I’d be happy to hear your opinions. Keep me posted on other disadvantages of blended learning – and efficient ways to handle them. I’m positive, if there is a will, there is always a way to make a great blended learning environment.

Share your thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of blended learning below. Have any questions? Leave those as well and we’ll help you out.

3 thoughts on “6 Disadvantages of Blended Learning Educators and Students Should Know”

  1. Children teenagers students all over need to know what they are learning is essential for their future. So much nonsense has been and is being pushed to be learned that future has nothing to do in using it. Learn teach learn what needs to be taught instead of unknown invention topics have nothing to do with job. .i have been to college in past years forced to require learning topics never touched brought up in rest of my life so far. Teaching tools need to match real world topics reminder

  2. People need people not just computers human contact is essential for future existence. Otherwise Earth is going to be robotic world. Scary

  3. Blended Learning has long been in existence and applied by devoted teachers. Learning environment can be more compelling and engaging if FACILITATED by experienced educators.


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