Posted on : July 16th, 2015
Over the last decade, technology-aided learning is being adopted for corporate learning for different learning needs and varying audiences. This is opening up the limits of a classroom-only approach. Gone are the days when training would be limited by distance and cost. Employees can now avail multiple learning modules every day to enhance their learning.
Though online learning is certainly showing results, for many organizations Blended Learning is often a preferred route. Blended learning delivery includes online learning, classroom-based instruction, electronic performance support, paper-based, and formalized or informal on-the-job solutions. Inspite of proven evidence that a solid online learning design makes sense instructionally and economically, there are various challenges that can create hindrance to learning success. Here are some of the most common challenges of implementing blended learning and the ways to overcome them:
- The Challenge of Too Much Too Soon: Learning technologies are getting more evolved every day as well as increasingly accessible. As developers of learning solutions, we might be tempted to use them all or use the one with the most features. But, just creating learning solutions with the latest technology doesn’t mean that your learners will be successful using it. Putting out too much technology can make blended learning programs appear too flashy and participants may not take them seriously. Also, with newer technology, glitches can be expected. If learners encounter too many technical difficulties that cannot be easily fixed, the content may be abandoned completely. This lack of technical success can lead to the failure of the complete learning program. To minimize the challenge, it is not wise to include all available technologies at once, but utilize the simplest technology possible — especially when introducing online learning for the first time. Also, make sure that technical support is available for technology-aided learning platform and the facilitator, who is leading the learning initiative, can answer basic queries as well.
- The Challenge of Traditional Mind-set: Learners often have pre-conceived notions that traditional classrooms are more effective because they believe they can be successful learners in that familiar scenario. They understand the nature of the classroom and can assess their inputs in terms of behaviour, effort, and participation. Technology-aided learning changes these parameters and there is too much ‘unknown’. It takes effort to make a self-directed learning program successful. L&D professionals, Managers as well as Facilitators should have the confidence to fully support the program. Participants should have an introduction to the entire learning program – including directions about how to install and use technology, and participation and attendance/completion requirements. Managers should have an orientation about what their employees will be experiencing, and how the managers can help to ensure learning takes place. Facilitators should be comfortable with the concept and help the learners within and beyond the classroom.
- The Challenge of Misdirected Strategy: When e-learning is introduced, more attention is often paid to the technology implementation, and actual design of learning content is secondary. Learning designers may have too little time and budget to create a successful program. When learning strategy is discussed, most of it is concentrated on the ways of adopting technology to make learning content available. The conversation is about “How to deliver”, and not about ‘What’ to deliver. It is important for e-learning designers to go through a design process and determine the portions of the learning content that require face-to-face time, portions that require collaboration, and learning content that can be self-directed. Only after careful segregation, should learning content be developed for multiple channels of delivery.
- The Challenge of Managing and Assessing Learner Progress: Trying to keep track of Learner progress can be the most difficult challenge to address. But this aspect of blended learning cannot be ignored, as Learners can complete an online course, but if they don’t have a strong understanding of what they have completed, the learning impact will be nil. Both classroom and self-paced components of blended learning have to be tracked to ensure learning success. To ensure learning takes place, Assessment should be introduced for online as well as classroom lessons. Results can be monitored, tracked, and used to ascertain that all learning requirements have been met. Also, facilitators or online administrators should interact with participants to ensure that learning outcomes are understood, and thus expectations are met.
- The Challenge of bringing all elements of the blend together: Blended programs have multiple layers, and roll out for an extended period of time. It is important to have proper coordination and oversight, or learners tend to complete the ‘easy’ parts of the learning program, or complete only the scheduled/compulsory components. Too much information can put an unnecessary load on the learners and they will not be motivated to complete the self-paced learning requirements. Too much of it will spill over to the classroom platform and the Facilitator may be overwhelmed by the amount of items that need to be managed. A course map and schedule for online as well as classroom learning events can help learners plan their learning better. This can be put up on the organization LMS, including links for content, virtual classroom schedule, and other supporting learning materials. The contact information for the facilitator and technical support should also be included. A Frequently Asked Questions section can provide ready answers to common problems and help the learners work through technical or logistical glitches.
Blended learning requires adequate planning and that is the only way by which it can be successfully implemented for organizational learning. All aspects — technical, organizational, and instructional should be taken into account. Only then can the benefits of blended learning be truly enjoyed by the learners and the organization alike.
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