Those who know me will certainly be taken aback. After all, I admit, I must sound like a broken record; I’m always banging on about how blended learning is the foundation on which successful learning solutions is built on.
So why am I advocating a change of name? Because there is still a lot of confusion around what the term ‘blended learning’ describes.
What do some people think it is?
- eLearning tutorial+classroom+eLearning tutorial (what I call the eLearning sandwich)
- A classroom course with some computer work included within it
- Has to include a classroom element with virtual classroom and or online tasks
- A mix of different learning methods
- Has to include some computer-based or online activity
- A collection of diverse resources to dip into when you need some on-demand help
Well, it may surprise you to hear that none of the above are true – and yet – all are true to a greater or lesser extent. How can this be?
We are in a time where digital has become our first means of communication. The world COVID crisis has removed the option of any (or mostly) face-to-face learning delivery. Our default has become digital – it had to. But an effective digital learning solution is a blended one. And no, blended learning doesn’t necessarily mean there is any classroom in sight.
So what IS blended learning?
Well, it depends.
“Depends on what?” you might ask…
It depends on the situation and because there are too many variables in any given situation, there is no one right blend template. The only right blend is the one that has been carefully designed for a particular set of circumstances. Every blend should be as unique as the situation it addresses.
How can we get the right blend?
We can only do this if we investigate thoroughly before making any decisions.
- What’s the need: What’s happening that shouldn’t or not happening that should? What impact does this have on business performance? Where do we need to get to?
- Who is the audience: what are their needs, gaps, experience, motivation?
- What are the logistics: what do we have available, what do we need, what can’t we get, what are the limitations, what are the strengths etc
Our investigations will help us establish whether formal training is the solution (or part of) and where it fits. It will help us identify where less formal approaches such as coaching, just in time resources, and an ‘in at the deep end’ will play a part.
Once we’ve established there is a learning need, we will use the data gathered to help us outline the most appropriate instructional/learning strategies, a clear structure, and effective combination of learning activities.
We will be able to decide on how we can deliver these activities that makes the best use of the resources we have and that will work well for the particular learning activities we’ve chosen.
In his ‘Blended Learning Cook Book, Clive Shepherd refers to this process as The Logical Approach. Wouldn’t you agree that it is aptly named?
This framework is helps us to make the most efficient choices in delivery tools whilst maintaining (and often improving) the quality of the learning that supports performance throughout.
The model below, illustrates how our learning framework leverages all contexts in which people learn from formal training (live virtual classroom, self-paced online content, classroom, elearning tutorial), formal learning facilitation (live virtual classroom and self-paced tasks) performance facilitation (coaching and mentoring), supporting continued learning and performance and on-demand resources. On top of this sits ‘support in the workplace’ whether this is from the learning and development team, line managers or peers).
I firmly believe that ‘blended learning’ is the foundation of any learning solution and why it should be the first step for everyone for determinig the best learning and performance strategy for their organisations.
A blended learning solution is a whole workplace learning approach.
But if not ‘Blended Learning’, what should we call it?