Best Practices In Blended Learning

Best Practices In Blended Learning

10 Strategies for Design

blended-learningOriginally, blended learning referred to adding an online component to instructor-led training or classroom education.

But now that technology offers so many varied options, a blended approach has evolved to mean the use of more than one delivery method to provide and enhance training and support. This is the way of the future.

Advantages of Blended Learning

Some of the advantages of using an effective blended strategy include:

  • Designers and learners are not limited to one medium or delivery channel to meet the learning objectives.
  • It promotes a continuous learning approach which is more effective at creating change and deep learning.
  • It provides more opportunities for social learning, collaboration, increased participation and informal strategies.
  • Using both synchronous and asynchronous approaches can provide more opportunities for learners to cultivate skills and apply them.
  • There is the potential for faster development and reduced costs depending on the approaches that are selected.
  • Technology-enabled delivery can reach a geographically dispersed audience.

Examples

In workplace training, blended instruction can incorporate any strategies that improve on-the-job performance and satisfaction. For example, a blended approach could mean a webinar enhanced with forum discussions and outfitted with mobile support tools. Or it might involve a flipped virtual classroom and working with a mentor.

Ten Best Practices

Designing for blended instruction is going to be different than designing for a stand-alone course. In an effort to identify effective design strategies for this approach, I researched journal articles, books and white papers and synthesized the following ten best practices.

1. Design to meet learning outcomes, not to use specific technologies. Choose approaches that will fulfill the learning outcomes, rather than focusing on a specific technology. The appropriateness of meeting the learning objectives should take precedence in the design.

2. Design to meet organizational drivers.
Know the underlying purpose for using a blended approach. Is it to reach a wider audience or to meet the needs of varied learners? Whatever the organizational drivers are, be sure to also meet those goals.

3. Design for synergy.
Determine how the components of a blended strategy will fit together as a whole. Link the learning experiences from each component of the blend to each other so they work to reinforce and augment each other. Think in terms of weaving a tapestry.

4. Consider learner preferences and use cases.
Take learner preferences into account during design and development. Survey the audience to discover the learning environments they prefer. For example, if audience members are isolated from their peers, such as a widely dispersed sales force, they may wish to partake in an online learning community.

5. Design from scratch rather than redesign an existing course or curriculum.
In The Handbook of Blended Learning, authors Bonk and Graham recommend taking a fresh start with your blended design. A blended approach needs a new perspective. If you re-work an existing course you are already constrained by the previous approach.

6. Consider the full range of options.
Learning designers have more options now than ever before. There are numerous online technologies and apps. One thing to remember are the on-the-job options, such as coaching, mentoring and shadowing experts.

7. Find ways to make social and emotional connections.
Provide ways to build community, when this is appropriate for the audience and content. Make interaction and engagement part of the blended approach. Social learning is powerful.

8. Ensure the asynchronous components are considered as valuable as the live components.
Although this may be obvious to eLearning professionals, those who are coming from an instructor-led background could have a bias toward thinking that classroom training is more important than other approaches. Value all the components that are part of your blend.

9. Evaluate the program with a pilot.
To evaluate a blended program, start with a pilot version. See if learners can understand how it works and watch to see where people may stumble. Note which aspects are motivating and which are frustrating. Implement a continuous improvement strategy.

10. Prepare the learners.
Because a blended strategy will be new to many employees, it is important to provide an orientation and rationale for using this approach. You may need to introduce it at an organizational level, getting buy-in from upper management.

What about you? Please add your best practices in the Comments below.

References:

  1. Bonk, C. & Grahm, C. The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. Pfeiffer, 2005.
  2. Glazer, F. & Rehn, J. Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the AcademyStylus Publishing, 2011.
  3. Kineo & The Oxford Group. Blended Learning Today, 2013.
  4. Oliver, M. , & Trigwell , K. Can “blended learning” be redeemed? E-Learning , 2 ( 1 ), 17 – 26, 2005.
  5. Schuhmann, R. & Skopek, T. Blurring the Lines: A Blended Learning Model in a Graduate Public Administration Program. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(2), 2009.
  6. Singh, H. Building Effective Blended Learning Programs. Educational Technology,
    43 (6), 51-54, 2003.

E-learning 2.0

Is Microlearning The Solution You Need?

Microlearning (a.k.a. micro learning or micro-learning) is an emergent learning strategy known for quickly closing skill and knowledge gaps. It seems to be an ideal instructional approach for many situations because:

  • Information changes quickly
  • People find it difficult to keep up with things
  • Resources are freely available online
  • Newer technologies support it

What is Microlearning?

Some in the industry conceptualize microlearning as a small andmicrolearning informal self-directed learning experience arising from one’s personal learning environment, such as watching a Ted Talk or taking a lesson from Khan Academy.

Others think of microlearning as the planned organization of brief learning experiences designed to meet an extended learning goal. Still others think that microlearning is synonymous with performance support or mobile learning.

Characteristics of Microlearning

Regardless of whether it is used informally or as part of a structured learning experience, microlearning has a few consistent features.

  • Brevity: Microlearning events are short, though there is no defined duration.
  • Granularity: Due to their brevity and purpose, microlearning focuses on a narrow topic, concept or idea.
  • Variety: Microlearning content can be in the form of a presentation, activity, game, discussion, video, quiz, book chapter, or any other format from which someone learns.

Benefits

Like any type of learning intervention, microlearning has strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few of its benefits.

Immediate Results. One benefit of effective microlearning is that it enables a person to quickly close a small knowledge or skill gap. For example, some universities are using a microlearning strategy to help students learn about collaborative and social technologies, such as how to set up a Google+ account.

Diverse formats. For both unstructured and structured learning, microlearning has the potential for using a very blended approach to instruction.

Budget friendly. Production costs for microlearning should be much lower than the costs for a major course production. The vision of microlearning is smaller and laser focused.

Quick achievements. Because people can typically process around four bits of information at a time, it’s easier for a learner to achieve success from a short learning intervention. I’ve found this myself when studying a foreign language.

Ideal for tagging. Small chunks of instructional content can be tagged for easy search, access and reuse.

Fast-paced culture. Microlearning is a solution that busy workers will appreciate because it is not as disruptive as a day of training or even an hour or two of eLearning.

Disadvantages

There are some disadvantages to using a microlearning strategy. Here are some to consider:

Lack of research. There is insufficient research to know whether microlearning is an effective strategy for reaching long-term learning goals.

Learning fragments. For long-term learning goals, microlearning interventions could end up as content fragments that are not tied together.

Lack of cognitive synthesis. We can’t be certain that learners will synthesize content from microlearning well enough to construct appropriate mental models.

Potential for confusion. If a microlearning solution includes a wide variety of formats, some learners could have problems switching between them.

Most likely, many weaknesses in the approach can be fixed by sound instructional design practices, such as providing overviews, recursive content and ensuring there is sufficient content integration.

Some Ways to Use Microlearning

Very brief lessons and learning activities are becoming more common. When the audience and content can benefit from extreme chunking, well-designed microlearning seems to be a good strategy. Some example uses:

  • Learning languages or topics that require repetition
  • Learning a software application
  • Business processes and procedures
  • Interacting with case studies
  • Practicing micro skills that build into larger skills
  • Applying best practices

Where You Can Find Microcourses

A few platforms and/or websites offer microcourses. Here are a few.

  • Grovo: Teaches professional skills with 60-second videos
  • Coursmos: Platform that supports micro courses
  • Daily Bits Of: Short courses delivered by email

References:

  1. Grovo. Bite Size Is the Right Size: How Microlearning Shrinks the Skills Gap in Higher Education
  2. Hug, T. Microlearning in N. Seel (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning, Springer, 2011.
  3. Hug, T., & Friesen, N. Outline of a microlearning agenda. eLearning Papers, Nº 16, pp. 1–13, 2009. http://www.academia.edu/2817967/Outline_of_a_Microlearning_agenda
  4. Kovachev, D., Cao Y., Klamma, R., and Jarke M. Learn As You Go: New Ways of Cloud-Based Micro-learning for the Mobile Web in Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 7048, 2011, pp 51-61.
  5. von Rosing, M., von Scheel, H, and Scheer, A. The Complete Business Process Handbook. Morgan Kaufmann, December 6, 2014.

Source : E-learning 2.0