Blended learning is not only the buzz word. It is actually working. Why? Because we all realized that no single teaching approach is good enough to work for all learners. Since time immemorial we’ve been blending different instructional methods in our training initiatives. With the emergence of technology, this approach got new dimensions. And all this in order to give our learners an effective, integrated learning experience and the opportunity to move from passive to active learning.
What blended learning actually is? I’ve encountered with a variety of definitions: “Mixing different teaching materials and tools; “Combining multiple delivering media that are designed to complement each other”; “Learning via multiple instructional methods”; “Keeping learners engaged with different media.” but my favorite one is “A successful blended solution is like a balanced meal, combining a range of ingredients, each of which has a unique purpose” by Clive Shepherd, from his book The Blended Learning Cookbook. So the most important thing we must be aware of is not what is blended learning, but How to make a perfect blend? We’ve found many great tips in this book that helped us to design a successful blended learning solution which I’m going to present in this article.
We’ve been hired by a training institution to help them design a blended training program for unemployed people aged from 25 to 35, to become accountants, using relevant accounting software. They all finished high school of economics. The problem was that much time has passed since the end of their study years, so they have to refresh their knowledge. Besides knowing processes, rules and procedures, they also have to know how to use relevant accounting software. So we made this kind of blend:
1. For background knowledge we prepared self-study lessons using online interactive Learning maps (see some examples here) accessed via LMS. Every Learning map consists of several micro lectures explaining the rules and procedures of accounting, quizzes for self-assessment and how-to video tutorials for using accounting software. Interactive lessons were complemented with facilitated group discussions via discussion forum in order to enhance understanding.
- Learners could use these lessons at their own pace and according to their prior knowledge;
- Learners could come prepared to classroom workshops;
- Learners could use these learning materials also during and after the classroom workshops if needed;
2. For skill development several workshops were prepared in the classroom, where learners got practical real world exercises delivered via LMS. Tasks had to be completed using accounting software and submitted for the facilitator to review them, via LMS.
- The same online learning environment was provided for the learners also during live sessions. They had learning materials and exercises in one place;
- Via LMS analytics system facilitator had an overview of every single learner’s progress also during live session;
- Every learner could work on his exercise in his own pace regardless of many learners in the classroom;
- Personalized feedback was given to the learners right away and they also got a chance to repeat the exercise over and over;
3. For assessment each learner had individual assignment by using accounting software. Every learner got his assignment via LMS, complete it and submit it to the facilitator for a review. Assessment was conducted in a computer classroom.
And what do learners think about this kind of blend?
78% of learners rated it as suitable and 22% as partly suitable. 78% of learners responded that discussion forum was very useful. Assignment submission didn’t cause any problems for 88% of learners. Navigation and user experience with online learning environment was very good for 83% of learners and good for 17% of learners.
Because we used different approach for presenting learning materials – Learning maps, we also wanted to find out what they would expose as their benefit. The most common answer was transparency and attractiveness of the presented materials and also easier access to the learning material at the point of need.
With respect to all the described facts we could say that the designed blended solution was successful and we are looking forward to the next project. What about you, what kind of a blend do you use?