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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Blended learning: What it is and why it’s important

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"In the 1980s, there were a lot of high expectations of elearning and this new thing called the Internet." according to Steve Penfold, Customer Success Director at Elucidat

Photo: Elucidat (blog)

This marriage was going to open up a world of learning opportunities that weren’t available to us before. As a result, the pendulum swung towards elearning, but a lot of money and effort went into initiatives that often didn’t deliver, for all kinds of reasons:
  • The technologies and tools were immature.
  • L&D (and other learning institutions) weren’t skilled at applying the new technology.
  • Learners were still shy of the relatively new technology.
In short, elearning got a bad rap, and the pendulum swung sharply away from elearning in many quarters, back to an instructor-led mode.

But over time, technologies and tools improved, and L&D recognized that learning doesn’t have to be all elearning or all instructor-led. They realized that it was possible to mix the two modes, and the term blended learning was born.

Why blended learning is important 
Not only is it possible for a single learning initiative to have elearning and instructor-led components, but it’s often better than using only one approach or the other. By taking the best attributes of both approaches and applying them in ways that maximize their respective benefits, learners can be more engaged, learn more, and learn in less time.

For example, imagine a conventional one-day workshop for managers on Handling Difficult Employees. This would probably work well enough. The problem is that it takes managers away from their desks for a full day. Two hours will be used to bring participants up to speed with the terminology and background knowledge on which the rest of the day will then build. And then the rest of the day will be taken up with doing things around hypothetical situations that may, or may not, apply to all of the participants.

A blended approach to this same event would see the managers do all of the terminology and background learning via elearning before they attend the workshop. This elearning could include video and activities to demonstrate to the managers how important this training is. Perhaps the elearning would also include activities where managers could practice some of the skills that they’ll be refining during the workshop. The elearning could end with a questionnaire asking the sorts of situations the managers are most likely to encounter or feel least prepared to face. These could feed through to the workshop facilitator, who could then tailor the workshop scenarios around these pain points.

Now, when the managers attend the workshop – which is only half a day because the participants are already enthusiastic and primed – they can spend their time practicing nuanced soft skills customized to their needs, which might be more difficult to practice with elearning. This is liable to stimulate conversation and to leverage the learning, as learners ‘compare notes’ on their real-life challenges and exchange what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past.

On returning to their desks, the managers would also have some online interactive resources to help them through tough employee situations that they may face.

It’s easy to see that the blended model gives a more customized experience that’s more efficient, comprehensive, and powerful.

Related link 
5 minutes with...Steve Penfold

Source: Elucidat (blog)

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