Blended Learning is in itself self-explanatory, its all in the name. A blended learning program is one that utilizes more than one mode of learning delivery –for a personalized and impactful learning experience.
A successful blend is one which captures the learning objectives and is delivered within the available infrastructure. Existing capabilities of learners as well as their receptiveness towards a new learning platform also needs to be ascertained. Weighing all these factors will provide the insights to choose the right blend for your learning delivery.
- Blending Offline and Online Learning: This form of blended learning delivery is most common where traditional ‘offline’ platform of learning like classroom trainings are supported by online learning opportunities.
- The online learning platform creates a ‘flipped’ classroom model, where all reading material is shared online – post or prior to the classroom session.
- The classroom session is then utilized for one-to-one discussions and collaborations.
- In addition to documents, notes and fact sheets, learning material in other interactive forms can also be shared with the learners which align very well to the online medium of delivery.
- Short audio recordings, videos, animations and infographics provide bite-sized knowledge nuggets for a personalized approach to learning.
- The availability of an online platform on multiple devices (laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet) makes sure that the learning opportunity is accessible to the learner anytime and anywhere he or she requires.
- Blending Structured and Unstructured Learning: Structured learning has a well-established place within the corporate training structure where the learner is provided a set of pre-designed learning content and is set off on a pre-determined learning path. But the strength of unstructured learning is also being recognized within the corporate structure and the blend of both – structured and unstructured learning is often a coveted mix.
- Unstructured learning naturally occurs within an organization – through conversations, meeting or even e-mails. The challenge is to convert it into a usable learning format.
- Online social platforms like discussion boards and chat archives can be utilized to create knowledge repositories on specific topics.
- Learners can be assigned topics to share their comments – allowing knowledge to be gathered on a specific topic.
- Alternatively, these platforms can also prove to be problem-solving forums where learners can pose their questions and the whole learner community joins in to provide the suitable answer or works together to arrive at it.
- Instructors can play the role of moderators, providing the necessary direction for fruitful conversations to take place.
- Blending Custom Content with Off-the-Shelf Content: Custom courses are best for imparting technical knowledge pertaining to a particular industry, product or process. But creating custom courses for the many varied learning needs of learners within available training time and budgets is often an impossible task. Off-the-shelf courses are then a suitable solution.
- Custom courses provide technical or specific knowledge that is consumed by a specific set of learners within an organization. Being detailed and aligned to specific job-needs of the learner group, it takes time to be developed and is often an expensive proposition.
- Off-the-shelf courses are more generic in nature (like organizational soft-skills) and can be consumed by a larger audience.
- In addition to being cost and time effective, a blend of custom and off-the-shelf courses provides a well-rounded learning experience for the learner. Custom courses provide the technical know-how and off-the-shelf courses impart skills that empower the learners to utilize the knowledge gathered in their area of work.
- Blending Self-paced and Live/Collaborative learning: Technology-aided learning has created avenues for self-paced or asynchronous learning. Modern technology has also made it possible to deliver live trainings to multiple locations and learners. A blend of self-paced and live/collaborative learning, with the aid of technology is a recipe for training success.
- Self-paced trainings work well within the corporate structure but often leave the learners un-inspired.
- The impact of learning is best when there is an opportunity for interactions – with instructors and peers. With virtual classrooms and live online trainings, a classroom environment can be created that supplements the self-paced mode of training delivery.
- The session can be one-way, where an instructor delivers a session on a virtual platform – a presentation, podcast or live video. The learner can attend the session as he or she would attend actual classroom training.
- Most modern virtual classrooms, however, have built-in avenues for two-way interaction through blackboards, voice or text-chat that enable fruitful collaborations between instructors and learners.
Organizations are fast realizing the power of harnessing the strengths of multiple modes of learning delivery. Many are adopting the combinations listed above, often not confining themselves with just a single blend but including more than two modes as well. The main aim of training within the corporate structure is now to empower each learner to actively partake learning and blended learning is the preferred way to go. For more on blended learning strategies and technology platforms for blended learning delivery, write to [email protected]
Suggested further reading: www.leerbeleving.nl/wbts/wbt2014/blend-ce.pdf