Browse Tag by facilitation
Blended Learning

Why we shouldn’t call it blended learning!

Image by Полина Андреева from Pixabay

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 classroom 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 performance required: 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 are the people: what are their needs, gaps, experience, motivation?
  • What are the practicalities: what do we have available, 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 the need, we will use the data gathered to help us outline the most appropriate learning approach, structure, and effective combination of 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. 

The model below, illustrates how a (blended) 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). Blended Learning Infographic showing the blended learning framework as the base foundation bar and support in the workplace as the top bar. In between there is shown a range of 6 learning method examples. Group 1 is designing live online and self-paced learning and the facilitation of both. Group 2 is classroom design and facilitation. Group 3 is elearning tutorial design. Group 4 is coaching and mentoring. Group 5 is on-demand media content and group 6 is learning on the job in the workplace.

Remember, each situation is unique so each blend will be unique that may use a mix of some or all methods below. A blended learning approach is a whole workplace learning approach. 

But if not ‘Blended Learning’, what should we call it?

Miscellaneous

Revolution for the Classroom

Redesigning the learning environment

My vision of face to face learning events of the future is not a ‘classroom’ but more a social meeting area.  If we are going to embrace the change in learning that has to happen and soon, we should also rethink the environment our learners visit when attend a face to face learning event.

To me, the word classroom conjures up a memory of chairs all in a row.  Sometimes, these chairs may even be locked together so we can’t move them.  Some of them have little tables attached.  Have you ever tried to sit at these strange contraptions?  For me they are certainly not comfortable and very restrictive not to mention difficult to adjust my seating or cross my legs.  Then there are those conference chairs.  I have short legs and often find that the majority of conference / classroom / training event chairs leave me with legs a-dangle cutting off the circulation.  If I wear my killer heels this is slightly better but then by the end of the day I can’t walk!

The alternative to the rows upon rows of lecture-style layout  in corporate training rooms is the ‘horseshoe’ style with the premise of making the experience much more friendly allowing the trainer more opportunity to become more accessible to their learners and allow learners to see each other, thereby interacting more easily.  A lot better than the first option but the trainer often still stands at the front ‘in charge’.  With the barrier of tables it can be tricky to break down the walls of formality.  I’ve tried pulling a chair round and sitting at the front.  This feels odd but a little less formal.  I’ve tried sitting on the table but then I’m almost on top of some people and a little distant from others.  It’s also uncomfortable (short legs and no circulation again).

If I had my way, I would redesign the environment so it’s no longer like a classroom but an inviting area where learners feel at ease on a range of comfortable chairs and sofas, where the the trainer becomes a facilitator.  There will be coffee tables and any slides are viewed on a flat screen TV from a laptop.  Individuals will have a much more comfortable experience and a more informal approach to learning.  Where computer based activities are required, of course safe ergonomic considerations are needed but I feel this would also benefit from a more informal feel to it.

Considering that with more emphasis these days on blended learning*, where we will be using face to face events more appropriately and collaboratively I think it’s time to adapt the environment accordingly.

*note that blended learning doesn’t necessarily mean face to face is included.