Embracing Diversity in the Virtual Class: Blended Learning in the Online Classroom

“Blended learning merges the best of both worlds by combining face-to-face learning and online learning.”

Best Practices February 28, 2022

Embracing diversity is essential in the online classroom. Inclusive education means providing real learning opportunities for groups who might have traditionally been excluded, such as children with physical or mental disabilities and speakers of minority languages. According to UNICEF, inclusive systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and “allows diverse groups to grow side by side, to the benefit of all.” One way to enhance the inclusion of all students in the online classroom is to use blended learning, which includes both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

According to studies, blended learning is associated with a higher overall rate of students successfully completing a course. This is because blended learning merges the best of both worlds by combining face-to-face learning and online learning. This blending of both synchronous and asynchronous learning is called bichronous learning.

One of the advantages of synchronous learning, according to Yamagata-Lynch, is that synchronous online learning helps students develop a stronger sense of belonging as they connect and network with their peers and instructor and stay engaged with course activities. This helps with breaking barriers and encouraging students to embrace diversity. Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, allows students to participate who are not able to attend synchronously very frequently due to different time zones, work commitments or other reasons.

Bichronous online learning uses the advantages of both synchronous and asynchronous learning to optimize the benefit for more learners. Martin and Oyarzun note that students can participate in lectures anytime, anywhere during the asynchronous parts of the course but then participate in real-time activities for the synchronous sessions. This approach is also helpful for students with varying technological competencies, as it allows both groups to work at their own pace during the asynchronous part of the learning but still encourages group unity through the synchronous portions. Bichronous online learning creates an adaptability that has great benefits to both learners and educators, allowing them to enjoy the best of both worlds and work with the diverse needs in the classroom.

This article is Part of the Series Embracing Diversity in the Virtual Class. Watch for the last Part next week!


Author

Constance Chifamba is a lecturer at Solusi University, Harare Campus. She has worked as a High School Science teacher. Currently is a Chairperson in the Education Department (Faculty of Education), Solusi University. She enjoys reading and gardening.

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