Thumbs Up for Blended Learning

In 1780, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, German musician, composer, and son of Johann Sebastian Bach, broke from years of tradition by introducing the usage of thumbs to keyboard technique in his publication “The True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments.” Bach claimed that “the thumbs give the hand not only another digit, but the key to all fingering.” It’s hard for us to imagine playing the piano without using the thumbs today, but at the time, the idea of using the thumbs regularly in addition to the fingers was revolutionary. This innovative technique opened up new opportunities that had been dormant and has since become standard practice for keyboard technique.

eLearning techniques are the “thumbs” of teaching and learning. The addition of eLearning to the traditional classroom (blended learning) opens up opportunities for learning that would not be available to us otherwise. For example, Dr. Kim Smith, Associate Professor and KPMG Fellow, School of Business, used a simple approach to record homework solutions and post them online for student’s to review at home instead of using valuable classroom time to go over homework solutions. The feedback from students was very positive. The students liked that they could rewind and repeat listening to a concept multiple times because they did not always understand the first time. This simple addition of recordings opened up opportunities for Dr. Smith to use classroom time for more valuable activities and for struggling students to understand concepts that were previously out of reach. To hear Dr. Smith talk about her experience, view the eLearning Community Recording for March 2012 in Blackboard. Instructions on how to access Blackboard can be found on the Blackboard tab above.

Bach did not suggest that musicians replace the traditional finger technique with thumbs only. Rather, he proposed that the thumbs and fingers each had a purpose in keyboard technique and could be combined for greater outcomes. So it is with eLearning. Wonderful outcomes can come from the traditional classroom. eLearning may enrich the classroom and add different, but equally wonderful, outcomes. We can enhance learning by combining techniques to form a blended model which offers multiple delivery methods that better meet student learning needs and preferences.