Re-imagining blended learning
Blended learning has been around for the last 50 years or so. It's 2019 now, and yet, somehow, we seem to continue thinking about blended learning exactly as we did when it was first coined. In terms of two buckets – offline and online. Two separate, distinct buckets. And we do so at our own peril.
How do I know this? Because I ran a small experiment using Google search and a word cloud. Here’s what the top 10 definitions of blended learning looks like. An almost equal mix of online and face-to-face or traditional learning.
But why? Why have we restricted ourselves so? Our workplaces are evolving. Our communication and collaboration tools are evolving – is there a reason our learning shouldn’t evolve too?
As blended learning evolves, its traditional definition is being challenged. The ‘online’ component of blended learning is growing, and that is where we need to start asking more questions. For instance:
- If a learning program comprises of several online-only components – would we still call it a blend?
- Can we completely preclude any instructor led training?
I would like to think so.
For me, these artificial definitions don’t mean much. I see a blend as layers of learning experiences that are simply fit for purpose – be it a face-to-face classroom session, mobile micro learning, VR, one-to-one coaching or newsletter video tips. The method of delivery should be dictated by learner profile, business objectives and the content, rather than retro-fitting into face-to-face and online buckets.
I spoke at the L&D Innovation & Tech Fest last week, giving an example of how Kineo implemented blended learning for a client. The transcript is available below.
I want to leave you with some tips on how you can implement blended learning in your organisation:
- Consistent approach - I cannot stress enough the importance of having a consistent design for your learning programs. Several fatalities on the road of learning are caused by multiple drivers. When both the face-to-face facilitator and the instructional designer create their own parts of the program and then fit the pieces together it leads to a disjointed experience for the learner.
- Powerful determinants - Always start on a blank slate. Your brain loves shortcuts. So slow down and consider the following:
- Your audience - Who are they? What are they qualifications? What would make them want to do go through this learning experience? What would stop them from doing the same?
- Your business objectives - What is the problem you are trying to solve? Do you have a plan for evaluating this? What changes do you want to see in your learner? Do you have learning objectives?
- Your content - Is your content ready for delivery? Can you simplify some of the content? Can you curate some of the content rather than creating it?
- Delivery method - Only after you have thought through and completely understand the answers to the above questions, should you start thinking about delivery. It’s never about the technology or tool you use, but about enabling learning.
- Data and evaluation – One of the best ways of improving your learning programs is to use data and evaluate how it’s working. It takes a couple of the iterations before you can get the program right but having an evaluation plan at the start helps inform data driven decisions.
Learning philosophies have changed drastically in the last few decades but also, ironically, learning practices have remained largely the same. Learner experience that promotes deep, active learning is key and delivery methods (whatever they may be!) that have the right interventions, for a specific purpose and for a specific audience, are the way to richer learner journeys.
Shaheen is a Senior Learning Designer working out of her sunny home in Sydney. She is an ex-marketer who decided one day that the world had seen enough bad online trainings. Uniquely placed with experience working both in higher education and the corporate world, she has set out in the world to make it a better place. One eLearning at a time.