No wonder there is a mist between the present and the near future, but the mist has to eventually give way to sunshine. And, a right blending of the mist and sun can make a rainbow. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the teaching, learning and assessments became online, which for many has been misty or unclear at the beginning. Simultaneously, the visuals of the immediate future of work and life has turned hazy. Therefore, the craving for physical spaces is much like the sunshine after a prolonged phase of mist. The craving eventually led to a beautiful thing - the blending of the offline with online education, right like never before, and thereby inviting the rainbow of Blended Education (BL).

Such instance of right blending can be seen in the past; with computer and communication that invited IT, also the raison d’etre for BL. The beauty of BL lies in its anytime-anywhere capability, self-chosen competencies and multi-modal capacity to exchange, evaluate, express, and experiment teaching and learning in live face-to-face. It also allows extension of learning later with post-produced value additions. Moreover, it makes room for flexible and dynamic routines to accommodate international time zones and instructional diversity.

Businesses today are working non-stop for crazier disruptions in the zest to offer new solutions. Well, they also germinate new problems. And, problems or failures make the seeds for education and research. In the words of Einstein and Edison, “Success is a failure in progress” and “I will find the way that will work”. Arguably, in the digital natives’ perspective, such seeds create the right diversity in the ecosystem of education where they can thrive in BL spaces. They witness new situations, new challenges, new skills, and new choices in their yardstick of progress. They want their kind of education to be progressive and adaptive to their aspirations aligned to their choices. According to Nathan Wei Chen, a 3-time world champion figure skater, and himself a digital native, “It is crazy how fast time flies and how things progress”. Here crazy would imply the blend of fantastic and fuzzy.

A recent study on the skills of the future by the World Economic Forum made it clear that the world is changing – and some jobs are changing faster than others. According to the latest research, soon we’ll only be as good as the skills we possess. In this regard, BL will have an active role in transforming the traditional education with suited technologies, choice-based extended learning; space; and pace to foster and sustain a thriving ecosystem for learners They will learn to collaborate, co-create, engage, and enjoy becoming the best versions of their individual selves.

Imagine the building blocks of the BL system are codified in the future. Something similar to the Alphabets and Numbers systems that provide unlimited possibilities to all types of learners across generations to express; to be universally understood, and get connected with like-minded people from all over. Flip BL, for instance, a learner L chooses to create a product P. That way L wants to learn better by problem-solving and gets a personalized P with a higher return on investment. In that pursuit, L exercises the BL choices of codes and combinations to derive the required knowledge, skills, and abilities. Also, L is able to readily connect with a community of right mentors, co-creators and mobilize resources to progress with problem-solving. All through it has been L’s choice on learning outputs and outcome under an assigned bloom’s taxonomy range of levels (L1-L6); and L’s decisions. Now, L can also fail. L can try again. And, again. With each such value-addition, P finally transforms as Pn, a better version of P! “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal” - Anonymous.

BL-based outputs and outcomes have to be supported - with continuous evaluation and assessment of project handing and problem-solving - for learners in groups and in individual capacities. To augment BL, educational institutions have to innovate their approaches to create activity-based curiosity, pertinent inquiries, creative and critical thinking. Frankly, BL has to be all about experiencing the journey of active learning every step along the way! That will be how a beautiful mind in the educational journey can see a rainbow.

“The learning of Health Management Information System was enriching despite the pandemic woes. We were 80 odd in 4 groups, each with an assigned theme to explore, organise, evaluate, report, improve, and share. We majorly used the digital spaces apart from limited on-site surveys, thanks to some of us interning in hospitals. Our group mentors facilitated us. Overall, we learnt a lot with engaging participation and without any online fatigue” – Debarpita Ganguly and Danish Ahmed, Class Representatives, MHA 2020-22, NSHM College of Management and Technology, Kolkata.

This article is authored by Krishnendu Sarkar. He is a senior academic at NSHM Knowledge Campus, West Bengal, India and can be reached by email at krishnendu.sarkar@nshm.com PWR PWR