Blended Learning

Open to anyone interested in discussing how to put blended learning to best use.

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Comment by Karyn Romeis on January 27, 2009 at 15:42
@Phil Nicely put. Well said that man!
Comment by Phil Green on January 27, 2009 at 15:03
I can find nothing new from a theoretical point of view in the notion of eclecticism in teaching and learning. Much has been written on it for generations. Rousseau, Piaget, Montessori, Matthew Arnold knew about this stuff. Alan mentioned the "we need skills; we need a course" response". Whereas Alan, you say you'd prefer "we need skills; we need a learning intervention", I'd rather hear, "We seem to have some performance gap, let's investigate!" I'm no longer squeamish about the words Training, Instruction and even Teaching, after all that's what most of us do! Even teaching can be learner-centred so let's not get hung up on politically correct language, let's talk about what we really mean. Blending learning and teaching is certainly about formal and informal, but it is also, I think, about technology and classroom, didactic and Socratic, practical and theoretical, knowledge, skills and attitudes, individual and social, cognitive, affective and psychomotor, and so on. I'll never teach swimming via e-learning but I might explain something about safety in the water, proper conduct in a swimming pool, how to join a club, how to choose a costume, and so on. Sooner or later my learner has to get wet. Blended? - it's a match to learner preferences and environment, the nature of the content and taxonomy and takes account of available resources. It always includes "non-training" in the cocktail of solutions - end of story for me, but then I'm a "bear of simple brain", and prefer not to complicate things that can be worked through by simple good sense!
Comment by Katherine Chapman on January 27, 2009 at 10:26
Always an interesting question when raised with 'learning people' and not one that other other key stakeholders seem to indulge in. I feel I've achieved a modicum of success whne the B word comes up if I can get people thinking about a sequence of learning (events/solutions/interventions) rather than a single point of delivery, ie, face to face. So thinking about the different modes of learning, level of personal engagement and motivation, and building a programme around the combination of audience profile, content currency and learning need. Corporately speaking, we always do need to define what we do but let's keep it simple and focused on enabling people to perform the jobs they are asked to do in a changing environment more effectively, and adapt to change more quickly.
I use the term blended approach
Comment by Alan Bellinger on January 27, 2009 at 10:12
Ahhh ..... and that brings it full circle:-
1. Learning needs to be in context
2. Learning's a process, not an event
3. Learning's blended into work

Thank heavens for Business Intelligence!
Comment by Karyn Romeis on January 27, 2009 at 10:03
David: Perhaps the original definition was as you describe - research publications I have read have certainly defined blended learning as being a blend of e-enabled learning and face to face in a ratio of at least X:Y (where X and Y represent numbers I no longer remember!)

However, I think many members of the community have explored alternative ways of blending a solution. If a person new to the idea of blending a solution were to sit down and try to do it by numbers, I'd rather see them do so along the lines of Alan's "blend of formal and informal" than the e:f2f notion.

You are so right when you say of corporates that "very few of them have any kind of systemic model for blending or do it in scale. Not because it wouldn't help them improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the learning process... but rather because they are still stuck in the naive belief that classroom training is the best model for them."

I worked for companies like that. I fought tooth and nail to introduce e-learning, but they were adamant that it wasn't right for their (ahem) culture. Puh-lease! I went subversive on the matter. I won't bore you with the whole story - I've blogged about it before. But I proved that the culture could handle elearning and also that elearning wasn't any one specific thing.

The thing that worries me a bit about the definition as it apparently still stands is that it is likely to cause one to focus on the technologies, the delivery platforms, the toolkit, rather than on the learner, the learning, the objectives.
Comment by David Wilson on January 27, 2009 at 9:46
Actually Alan - I'd prefer to think of a blend of learning and work - that was one of the conclusions from some of our research in 2003. Informal learning is another term that with a short sell-by date as blended learning has effectively proved to be in reality.

Karyn - all I was pointing out was that the blended term did have a specific reference to the use of e and traditional learning. That means it wasn't meaningless, although whether you consider this definition to be meaningful may be more debatable.
Comment by Alan Bellinger on January 27, 2009 at 9:20
Pavlov's dog has a lot to answer for! But, for many in L&D there is a simple Pavlovian Reaction - "we need skills; we need a course"; I wish they'd think "we need skills; we need a learning intervention" And I must say I'm happier with LEARNING intervention that training or teaching intervention!!!!! But the core issue is what is the most effective learning intervention? And, to my mind, the answer to that is more likely to be "a blend of formal and informal" than a blend of technology and classroom!
Comment by Karyn Romeis on January 27, 2009 at 9:11
I'm with Mark on this one. Before I was given the opportunity to include elearning courses (and I use that word deliberately) in my solutions, it used to get my goat that the provision I had put in place was not regarded as 'blended' by the wider community. In fact, my solution was a lot more blended than many which did include such courses - many of them just tunnels of back and next buttons.

And let's face it, when we blend a learning solution, as Mark says, it's the teaching we blend... or at best, the learner experience. Maybe only the learner can blend actually the learning.

But as to Don's original question of how to put it to best use, I would say that it is a case of analysing the needs and tha nature of the target audience, balancing those against the objectives of the commissioning client, taking account of the provisions in place, being conscious of the budget available and being creative within those constraints.

Sometimes this might result in a wholly online provision. Sometimes, there might be a combination of online and face to face. Sometimes there may the requirement for an assessment (such as in regulated industries). Sometimes a book will do the trick. Sometimes formal classroom workshops. Sometimes coaching and mentoring. Almost always some measure of performance support to help learners feel safe. Sometimes it is enough to point people at existing resources and platforms on the www and shout "Go!"
Comment by David Wilson on January 27, 2009 at 9:04
Sorry Mark, I don't agree. The term "blended learning" means nothing only to those who wish to interpret it as such. Of course most learning or training has historically involved the use of multiple approaches or media. That doesn't make it "blended" as the term was originally used to imply an integration of traditional and e-learning techniques, normally in a programmatic context. That isn't a meaningless definition - it's just one that that some people find it convenient to ignore or deny in order to ignore or deny the adoption of technology supported learning.

We do a lot of research into L&D in major corporates and very few of them have any kind of systemic model for blending or do it in scale. Not because it wouldn't help them improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the learning process (my interpretation of Alan's point) - but rather because they are still stuck in the naive belief that classroom training is the best model for them. Any form of objective analysis of this position would demonstrate it is patently not true.

Whilst I've never been the greatest supported of the blended hype that existed a few years ago (read some of my back articles on the subject) - I have no doubt that blending technology-supported learning into the core training provision is a very relevant strategy that will only grow in importance as companies recognise the inadequacies of what and how they do it today.

ps. Do agree with your point about "training" though. For many talk of "learning" is little more than a bit of marketing spin.
Comment by Mark Berthelemy on January 27, 2009 at 8:36
Hi Alan,

"Blended learning" is one of those buzzwords that actually means nothing. It's simply what good teachers have been doing for centuries - using an appropriate mix of the available resources and techniques to help their teaching. The word I have most issue with here is "learning", when we're really talking about "teaching"!

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