In a meeting at work yesterday, one of my colleagues, a techno sceptic, asked the question: What’s the difference between e-learning and online resources?

This is good question which gets to the heart of one of the main problems surrounding blending learning at the University (Bologna) where I teach English as a second language  – the general lack of enthusiasm by students to engage with online material.

I have come to the conclusion that one of the principle reasons for this apathy is that the resources are viewed merely as no different from exercises in grammar and vocabulary based text books. The fact that they are online doesn’t instantly make them more attractive.

I don’t think flashy graphics are the answer – I believe the only way to motivate students is to introduce an interactive dimension to the tasks.

All this essentially means is the old-fashioned pre-digital idea that the teacher actually looks at the work the student does and gives some constructive feedback. In other words, instead of completing exercises in a virtual void, the work will be checked and help show the instructor where the students’ strengths and weaknesses lie.

This obviously means more work for the teacher in setting stimulating homework tasks and giving feedback in a way that is more personalised. For too many,’Blended learning’ is regarded merely as a straight division between frontal lessons and online material. Instead, the latter should consolidate and build on the work done in the classroom rather than covering topics that the teacher hasn’t got time for.

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