Blended learning is not new to training. Remember the days when you looked forward to field trips to the planetarium, hovering over a formaldehyde preserved frog with your lab team, or seeing the movie version of Lord of the Rings on a Friday afternoon? Yes, you probably do remember and that’s the point of blended learning.
Not New, But Improved
Make no mistake, today blended learning goes beyond merely tagging on a movie or performing a Web Quest on the internet. The “new” blended learning means finding the right balance of learner participation and instructor facilitation. This involves actively redesigning and rethinking the teaching and learning relationship, and often including technology as a key partner. The outcome is that the learner becomes the leader of their own multi-modal experience, while the instructor assumes a supporting role. To take this a step further, it’s no longer acceptable to take the same content and simply give it a fresh coat of paint with technology. It requires careful analysis, planning, creativity, and follow through on the part of training departments to design meaningful experiences. However, the integration of face-to-face interaction with technology has the potential to create transformative learning experiences, both inside and outside of the traditional training classroom. Suffice it to say, the four walls of the conventional classroom have come crumbling down and are being rebuilt in exciting new settings without borders.
Today’s learners expect a different kind of learning experience. They want information to be relevant to their needs and presented in a variety of ways which appeal to how they learn. A blended learning approach can help you meet these expectations. Let’s look at Melanie’s learning experience to see how a well-designed blended learning program can help improve the learner experience.
Without Blended Learning. Although she loves learning new things, Melanie has always been an introvert and is pretty shy around others. Working in groups makes her very nervous as she prefers to observe and think about what to say first. The courses she’s required to take to maintain her certification are all instructor-led and based entirely around group activities, which make her anxious and uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes she’s so distracted by her discomfort that she doesn’t speak the entire session. From a learning perspective, it’s debatable whether she actually learns anything.
With Blended Learning. In hopes of saving time and increasing learners’ base knowledge, the association offering Melanie’s certification has sent out a link in advance of the face-to-face training with some key information. The online resource is a simple Wiki which includes a course outline with planned activities, reading materials, and a pre-assessment that helps learners understand their strengths and weaknesses. Now that Melanie knows what to expect, she takes time acclimating to the material, taking notes, and coming up with additional questions relevant to her specific job. When she arrives at the in-person class, she knows what will be discussed and feels more comfortable asking questions in front of others and participating in her group. This is how blended learning can not only help your association cover more ground, but improve the overall learner experience.
For associations, it’s not always easy to incorporate change in training programs. There are questions about resources, economics, and stakeholder buy-in to consider and resolve before moving forward with new initiatives. The question always arises, “If we spend the money/resources/time, how does blended learning benefit our association and members?” Blended learning not only provides engaging, experiential opportunities for learners, it also has other benefits. We know that face-to-face training is not only costly, but also time consuming for learners and instructors. However, many organizations are reluctant to take away that personal interaction between learner and instructor.
The hybrid nature of blended learning allows organizations to transition learners from traditional instructor led training while maintaining a personal connection with learners. It’s also an opportunity to develop talent within training teams by cultivating skills with eLearning platforms and other technologies, at a reasonable pace. Ultimately, even small steps towards blended learning can make change more digestible for learners and more manageable for training teams.
Where to Begin?
If all of this sounds great but daunting, fear not! Start with baby steps. Integrating small changes into traditional ILT makes the process a lot easier. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Initiate online assessment
- Deliver pre-work online
- Integrate in-class surveys with real-time feedback, for example, using Google Forms
- Incorporate course wikis or blogs for collaboration
- Create “how-to” webcasts or videos, using programs like Camtasia or Jing and upload them to YouTube
- Leverage online chat or messaging capabilities for access to experts
- Use audio/video conferencing for regular check-ins
- Create online discussion groups as part of training and ongoing learning
- Try online virtual classrooms or worlds, such as Second Life
- Send follow-up “push notifications” to learners via text, email, or messaging
Blended learning allows you to improve the learner experience, manage change, save money, foster a strong technology-oriented training team, and reclaim hours and hours of time all around. What’s not to love? While the transition to blended learning may pose initial challenges, if you can start with small changes, you’re likely to reap big returns for both your members and your association.
If you’d like to learn about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.
For more great information, check out our resources page.
Ready to find out what Digitec can do for you?