Is anyone delivering learning strictly through a classroom anymore? Not even my daughter (who is in first grade) is absorbing content in the classroom alone. Many an evening we have played math games on the school system’s website, using the games to apply the concepts she has learned in class. With that in mind, any organization that is still offering learning in one particular modality, or even in several siloed modalities, is really missing the boat when it comes to learning delivery. Especially as the next generation of learners is accustomed to different learning modalities and they leave a classroom-only training session and say “Is that it?”
Much the way the definitions of formal and informal learning are overlapping, we’ve come to a place where it is almost unnecessary to use the term “blended learning.” It almost seems strange to differentiate a method of delivering learning that is (or should be) universal. At what point do we stop talking about HDTV and just call it TV because 480i, cathode-ray televisions are historical artifacts? Will we ever call them just phones, rather than cell phones? I feel the same way about blended learning. By definition, learning should be blended.
How Did We Get Here?
It’s pretty simple, really. Technology rushes forward at light speed, and we try desperately to keep up. Okay, it’s not that bad, but sometimes it feels like technology is outrunning our learning systems and methods. However, you don’t have to beat the learning evolution. As we jump each evolutionary hurdle in learning, we don’t necessarily eliminate what we were doing before. Just as the VCR did not replace movies, and the Internet did not replace the record industry, virtual learning will not replace the classroom. Instead, each technological achievement finds its own level and place within the pantheon of learning strategies and delivery methods.
As technology becomes available it’s tempting to want to jump on the bandwagon of the “next big thing.” But instead of running around shouting “Mobile! Must go mobile!” at your IT department, it’s important to figure out what role mobile delivery plays within the context of your learning strategy. For a given program, you need to identify which pieces must be delivered face-to-face and which ones would be better served online. Where does coaching fit? What types of collaboration tools (if any) are best suited to the subject?
Getting the Right Mix
The idea behind blended learning is to have a robust set of tools at your disposal along with the knowledge and skill needed to apply those tools in the appropriate amounts at the appropriate time. Mixing and matching these strategies allows you to tailor the learning initiative to meet both the needs of the learners, and the needs of the content.
Brandon Hall Group has gathered together a collection of award-winning blended learning case studies, which is available here. In this document you can find real-world examples of organizations tailoring their learning programs to meet specific needs. They examine the challenges faced and the successes achieved.
In their daily lives, people’s knowledge and opinions are an amalgamation of things they’ve picked up from a variety of sources. Learning within an organization should be similar. We’ve extolled the benefits of all the various learning modalities that exist: classroom, online, workshops, coaching, collaboration, rich media, etc. At this point in time, it would be almost counterproductive to deliver a learning initiative without incorporating at least some of these various strategies where appropriate for your organization. Even my six-year-old is getting online reinforcement of what she learns in her classroom. We’re smarter than a first grader, right?
Brandon Hall Group