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  • Harri Candy

How blended is blended learning?

I wrote the following about the implementation blended learning in businesses back in 2014:

“Our understanding of blended learning is changing. Long gone are the antiquated ideas of tacking a bit of on-line content onto a classroom course and calling it 'blended'. There is no rule, formula or calculation for figuring out how much of the overall course content should be delivered in the classroom vs on-line or what proportion should be teacher driven vs teacher guided. Each course will have its own requirements, dictated by the subject matter and/or the learners. Certain courses may even benefit from an on-line biased division in content delivery. And therefore it is our job as designers to ensure that we plan our courses carefully. Learning design must take precedence over the shiny new technologies that allow us to over complicate the learning experience. If we forget this, we risk creating courses that fail to deliver the desired learning, fail to engage learners effectively and fail to encourage future learning.

Furthermore, we must acknowledge that 'blended learning' relates not only to the mode of content delivery but also to the flexibility it affords learners. From time and hours of study to geographical location and preferred learning style, a true 'blended' solution allows learners to cover the required content in a way that suits them with the level of teacher instruction they desire. This allows learners to take ownership of their learning and therefore creates a more valuable learning experience.

Overall, blended learning is evolving and our course design must evolve with it. We need to focus on the learning design and the flexibility it affords the learners. Only then should we turn our thoughts to the technological vehicles by which our learning interventions will be realised.”

Five years on and it pains me to admit that as an industry as a whole internal L&D teams are often still presenting learners with the carbon copy formula of online prework + necessary workshop + online post workshop quiz. Often the pre-work isn't completed and there are no materials to assist those who fail the post workshop quiz so ultimately that becomes a source of frustration and annoyance for our learners. What we end up with is a basic, traditional workshop masquerading as a blended programme. This is disappointing because we have so many options available to us as learning professionals yet we are often fearful of moving away from the norm.

We need to be the ones to stick our heads above the parapet and try something new.

Can you allow for distance learning options to run alongside workshop ones, both equally valid in their learning so your learners have options? Can you devolve validation of learning to managers and reformulate it as a guided discussion and demonstration rather than a quiz? And if you are using pre-work and post-work make it worth your learner's time. Use well crafted handouts, give managers support guides for the training their team are completing, use videos, webinars, blogs, forums, anything you have at your disposal that will enhance the experience for your learners.

Truly blended programmes can help remove barriers to study and progress, make your teams feel empowered to choose the training journey that best suits them and can in turn improve performance and retention.

So I challenge anyone who has read to the end of this to reflect on their own blended programmes and think about how blended they really are. If you're ready to broaden your approach, get in touch and we can craft this new blended journey together.

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