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Blended Learning, Reviews

The New Learning Architect – a review

I’m very excited….. I’ve just received Clive Shepherd’s new book The New Learning Architect which is now available from Lulu and on the Kindle.

I’m going to be digesting Clive’s work over the next week or so and will post my own humble thoughts on it. In the meantime though, I thought it would be a good opportunity to re-introduce you to Clive’s Blended Learning Cookbook.

With the need to do more for less in this current economic climate businesses are increasingly coming under more and more pressure to continue to equip their workforce with the knowledge and skills to perform in difficult circumstances. Clive Shepherd’s book is an excellent place to start if you need some practical advice to provide more efficient learning and development solutions but at the same time, maintaining effective learning to take place.

The book is a refreshingly clear explanation that cuts through the fog by determining exactly what blended learning really is. It is written with an unbiased view of media which so many others fail to do. It will open up a whole new range of opportunities to organisations that is beyond what we might call traditional training methods. After all, it’s about blended LEARNING not blended TRAINING.

What it doesn’t do, and rightly so, is insist that a blended solution HAS to include specific delivery methods to be a true blend; for example, blended learning isn’t just combining classroom and eLearning which is a common misconception.

What makes this book the most valuable asset to anyone involved in providing learning solutions, whether classroom designers, eLearning designers, trainers, managers, senior managers or freelancers is take you back to basics and keeps you focused on the learning rather than the media. Quality learning has too often taken a back seat in the struggle to find cheaper, quicker ways of delivering training. This book shows you how to keep the balance.

The reason it is a ‘cook book’ is that it gives a rich collection of real blended examples – or recipes to follow. There are plenty and I’m guessing there will be one that will be close to the situation you are currently facing. Even when we eventually rise out of the current downturn, The Blended Learning Cookbook will prove a useful, well-thumbed reference for its recipes.

Without having read Clive’s new book The New Learning Architect yet apart from the back cover and Clive’s own blog posts about it, I’m anticipating that it will take blended learning beyond formal training solutions to a more appropriate and integrated approach to development that reflects how we live and work today.

Blended Learning

Learning cup-cakes

Image by Debbie Ryan from Pixabay

A modern recipe for today’s learning

Just before Christmas I was running a course about blended learning and out of the blue came up with this analogy which I’d like to share with you.

Traditional learning programmes are like a rich traditional wedding cake. Several tiers of a deliciously rich mixture of fruits. The chef would have taken time and care and started months before the wedding date. The cakes would have stood and ‘matured’ over a number of weeks. They would be carefully covered in smooth icing and decorated with fine sugar flowers and patterns. The traditional wedding cake is a perfect balance of flavours and ingredients and very appropriate for a traditional wedding but a costly and an intricate process.

Blended learning solutions are like modern wedding cakes made up of lots of cup-cakes created to different recipes, flavours and colours that would be more palatable to more people and more appropriate for the individual guests. They cup-cakes are small, bite-sized portions which can be baked quickly. They can be mixed and matched or in their own wrapping. Easier to handle and distribute and to add to. Put together in a clever and creative way, they make dazzling displays displays and very versatile.

They type of cake you bake will depend on the type of event you are catering for and the guests attending.

Blended Learning, Learning design, Online learning

Training or Learning?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In a recent post I asked the question “what really is blended learning?” after hearing many people describe it as being classroom plus eLearning. Well, before we can establish what blended learning really is, there are a few things I’d like to explore in more detail.

1. the difference between training and learning
2. what is good classroom

When asking various people how they would differentiate between training and learning, here are some of the responses they’ve come back with:

Training = formal, push information, very tutor focused, defined event(s), structured, something that’s done to them, interactive, just in case, series of events, step by step,

Learning = more learner-focused, longer term, continuous, ongoing, pull information, self-motivated, just in time, on-demand, supporting, mixture of formal, semi-formal and informal, sharing, experiential

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 2 years, you would have undoubtedly heard about how we deliver learning programmes needs to move away from formal training events and more towards more of a continuous learning process. This doesn’t mean we will be doing away with the formal training events but more about how we can use them more effectively.

When we talk about formal training events, we tend to think about classroom courses; that is, where two or more people are gathered together for a set period of time to be formally taken through a set topic relevant to their working practices. With even the most effectively designed classroom courses that engage, filled with activities, they can also be very inefficient.

Looking back over the years, great classroom courses have included a rich variety of learning activities or methods. So let’s take a look into the past and remember what we have used for great classroom experiences:

  • lectures
  • tutor-led discussion
  • group discussion
  • demonstrations
  • role plays
  • individual work
  • presentations
  • exercises
  • coaching
  • collaborating
  • case studies
  • problem solving games

A real rich mix of activities there. Hang on a minute? Isn’t that blended learning?

Well, not really. It’s blended training methods.

What it does confirm is that for effective learning our training needs to have an appropriate blend of learning activities. Today the emphasis is increasingly on learning through the conversations we have with each other. Despite classroom delivery being very effective (when designed and facilitated well) it’s often an inefficient choice.

Why? Because there is a limit to how many people we reach at any one time. There are different levels of experience in the room. There’s different speeds at which people learn and more reflection time needed by some. There are hidden costs associated with attending events such as travel and time away from job as well as the possible need to bring in temporary staff to cover.

Organisations have recognised that and are thinking of alternative ways of covering some of the learning traditionally done in the classroom. But is tagging this content on either side of the classroom as eLearning self-study the answer? Maybe – but before we can decide whether it is appropriate I have another question for you.

What really is eLearning?