The pandemic brought home learning into stark view. Most schools openly said they were simply not prepared to suddenly jump online, and for parents, the shift was just as jarring. Teachers dived admirably into the fray, as teachers admirably do, and there was a collective sense of “getting through it” together the best we all could.
Right from the start, the casting of home learning as a lesser alternative was clearly discernible as, in many contexts, engagement dropped, teachers burned out and mental health suffered all round. Learning at home got bad press.
As successive waves of lockdowns hit us, we then had to deal with the issue of learners moving from one learning setting to another and back again. In most places, it was far from smooth and fluid.
Though a global pandemic as a backdrop did not help matters, one thing, however, was not really brought into focus.
Conversations around “how do we know they are listening?” were the norm, as learners drifted off in the absence of the traditional levers of control. Why? Well, it is not just because traditional schools were not ready to shift online (though they did often lack the technology and training), but rather that the traditional system itself just did not support this way of learning.
Traditional schools are where teachers assign work, choose learning pathways, check and control whether tasks are completed, and all the rest of it. Move that off site and out of sight, and it is no wonder the problems with that approach were laid bare.
Dr. Lisa Marie Blaschke, Programme Lead of online learning at Learnlife said that unfortunately, “this is the first experience many families have had with learning at home”, and that this was “certainly a challenge” in having more positive conversations about the opportunities presented by home learning, blended learning and personal learning.
Dr. Lisa Marie Blaschke & Mark Thomson - Blended learning with Learnlife
Home learning can in fact actually be a wonderful opportunity for many families and learners, but not when you try to recreate the traditional approach in a home setting.
Learnlife addresses this challenge by incorporating a personal learning approach, where learners can express choice in where, how and what they learn. With learners at the centre making the choices, we can worry less about engagement and “control” and actually see the ways in which our lives can be enriched.
Learners engaging with Learnlife at home, do so in a truly personal way. For example, they can build a learning schedule around their own interests so they learn at a time that suits them and their families, rather than the administrative convenience of a static system. They can also participate in a face-to-face environment -- thus creating a blended learning environment, rather than purely online.
Learners co-create a personal menu for each month with their Learning Guide, where they agree on what they want to achieve, explore and learn in that 4-week sprint. Throughout this time, learners are supported by mentors and Learning Guides, as they learn the necessary skills in order to manage and regulate their learning.
Blended Learning for fluid environments
For families who need flexibility in learning, for example, families who move around internationally, or home educators who need help to “fill in the gaps” and expand on their home education plan, the opportunity to have a blended learning approach with access to physical locations worldwide is truly liberating.
Learners can connect to Learnlife from anywhere in the world, and be part of a consistent social group, with access to the support of a mentor with whom they can build and grow trust.
When near a Learnhub, such as the Learnlife Urban Hub or Nature Hub in Barcelona,, they can join the on-site community there in an environment and approach that is consistent with their online or home learning experience. This way they get all the benefits of growing up in diverse contexts, but still the consistent social network and learning approach they need to truly build skills and relationships.
For learners who have passions in their lives that demand a big time commitment, such as playing tennis, that often means a tough choice or a sacrifice they don’t want to make. Learning from home with a flexible schedule means you don’t have to choose, and can learn valuable time management and organisational skills in making both aspects of your life work well.
Blended learning can be so much more
We sometimes hesitate to use the term blended learning because again it conjures up images of a very fixed hybrid model, but it need not be. We also shy away from the term online learning because screen time is only one aspect of learning at home, and learners can carry out their projects and challenges in communities, businesses, forests and anywhere else really. Learning is wherever it needs to be.
As an example of how this learning approach looks in reality, is a very common type of home learner we have at Learnlife: the young person who is being underserved by their own traditional school and, though they are not able to learn full time with us, have opted to learn with us as a complement. They do not want to be staring at a screen after hours in a classroom, and so often opt to pursue their learning away from the laptop.
Learners who have a passion that does not “fit” in the traditional model, or perhaps who are so numbed by the mainstream system that they have no idea what they enjoy learning; joining our community for some hours each week can open the doors to that opportunity to be who they can be.
Learning how, when and where you want it
With technology, we finally have the means to offer supported personal learning anywhere, anytime and in any way that makes sense. We no longer need four walls, lockstep schedules and set curricula.
The fact is, we never did! With Learnlife from Home, personal learning is now available to a wider number of learners, as a solution for families on the move, to support home educators or for parents who simply want to help their children rekindle that innate love of learning they may have lost in traditional schooling.