Beware the ‘blended’ stampede

Tim Drewitt warns that all too often disparate learning can masquerade as
blended learning with desperate results

Customer feedback indicates that, in many cases, e-learning has failed to
yield the promised results and hasn’t delivered the expected benefits.

Now, organisations swept up by the idea that huge catalogues of unsupported
e-learning courses at just a few pounds a head would enrich their training
strategy, are looking to ‘blended’ learning as the next panacea.

But in the rush to create blended learning programmes, some firms have been
guilty of tacking existing classroom workshops or e-mail tutor support onto the
back of pre-existing e-learning courses. This is not blended learning. At best,
it is disparate learning – at worst, it is desperate learning.

Combining appropriate learning resources – with which students can build
knowledge, develop their skills and then put their new skills into practice –
makes perfect sense. But unless there is true integration and consistency
between the content and approach of each element, a great opportunity to
deliver a powerful learning experience that improves individual and business
performance is being thrown away.

To create true blended learning, step back and consider what you want to
achieve, and then examine the range of training and delivery options that are
available to you.

For example, the best way to train a panel member for a disciplinary
interview may be to stage a role-play session in a classroom, with trainers
observing and coaching. However, the best way to learn the theory of how to run
a disciplinary interview may be through online learning.

Try to break your training down into its core components –
knowledge-building, skills-development, application – and then consider the
best way of approaching each separate element.

This is where technology can really help. Following recent developments,
trainers can now use technology to facilitate a learning partnership between
themselves and their students. In fact, they can tailor their training to focus
on the needs and learning style preferences of each individual trainee, taking
their prior learning into account. It may sound like science-fiction, but this
type of ‘integrated learning’ is available today.

By blending the most appropriate approaches all the way through, trainers
can create a cocktail of consistent learning, which meets student needs,
improves business performance and is fully integrated with the workplace. That
should be the driver behind a blended solution, not the need to compensate for
the failure of one delivery method. In many organisations, blended learning
doesn’t yet work like this. But it can, and it will.

Tim Drewitt is a director of Balance Learning, a dedicated blended
learning provider

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