A Blended Learning Odyssey

We are all gloriously different and we all learn differently.  We seek, consume and absorb knowledge in different ways (aurally, visually, perceptively), in different environments (classroom, online, smart phone, DVD) and at different paces.

The means by which we acquire skills and training depends on the complexity of the subject matter and our pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter.  Undertaking training to become an expert in aeronautical engineering may require a blend of practical instructor led tutorials, video learning and text based study.  A refresher course in fire safety on the other hand, may be best acquired via a short video tutorial.

Blended Learning, then, offers a means of targeting specific content through the most appropriate delivery channel to ensure optimum absorption of knowledge!  It is surely the most efficient way of delivering learning across an organisation as you can both control content and put control of learning outcomes into the hands of the learner.

ROI through Blended Learning

Blended Learning, as the name suggests, implies blending different learning environments, such as traditional instructor led classroom events with technology supported mobile and online events to achieve predefined learning outcomes.  A blended learning approach is more flexible in meeting the needs of the learners and a more efficient way for organisations to deliver learning and development programmes.  Blended learning reduces the reliance on resource intensive instructor led classroom events and allows training teams to optimise their budget.

Blended learning provides a ‘good’ mix of technologies and interactions, and importantly it embraces the social aspect of learning.  The result is a socially supported, constructive, learning experience; this is especially significant given the profound effect that it could have on distance learning.  Individual learners can draw on communities of experts, fellow learners and practitioners to augment their success.

Blended Learning gives us the best of all worlds in its power to deliver a mix of content, from the theoretical to the practical, through a mix of media, from text documents to video instruction.  Instructors and curriculum developers can collaborate to produce the best course material.  Learners can access a wealth of information to enhance their classroom or on-the-job learning.

Course leaders can deliver pre- course material via eLearning to ensure delegates arrive at scheduled events with the required starting knowledge, and deliver follow up assessments to ensure the right skills have been acquired and learning objectives met.

How to Deliver a Blended Learning Programme

A blended learning programme may include classroom events, video learning content, and online assessment modules.  The exact combination depends on analysis of the learning objectives, the competencies required, the audience and the resources available, which requires sophisticated management tools.

Designing the learning programme: with a wider choice of content types and delivery mediums to combine comes greater complexity.  Once learning outcomes have been defined, content and the appropriate delivery media must be designed and the course programme created.  There needs to be a logical flow to the learning and how it is consumed.

Defining roles and responsibilities: with a blended learning programme there might be multiple instructors so it is crucial to assign roles and responsibilities to avoid conflict and confusion.

Delivering and managing the programme: delivering a successful blended learning programme requires a central management function to ensure consistent and clear communications among instructors and learners; provide accurate evaluation and reporting at each stage across all learning elements and effective planning of resources.

Manage costs and meet ROI goals: blended learning offers great flexibility and great effectiveness, but the challenge is to make the blend efficient as well.  Cost controls that work hand in hand with quality assurance and learning effectiveness measures help manage ROI.

Blended learning, if managed effectively, can deliver tangible ROI and ensure you optimise your training budget.  The key to success is a comprehensive learning management system that can handle multiple delivery mediums – from instructor led classroom events, to eLearning to Video Learning to Mobile learning – not only from a planning and resourcing angle, but also provide accurate evaluation, management and reporting.

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