So once again, I am here with blended learning-a phenomenon that is gaining popularity like anything. This is probably one of the most emphasized model being practiced at[1], where corporate training is going beyond traditional training methods and new transformed ways of interactive learning and training are being developed on a frequent basis. In few of my last posts, I have discussed the blended learning in terms of integrating best practices from video training and Instructor Led Training (ILT). A thought that maybe I overlooked the basic or fundamental view of blended learning, resulted in this post I am sharing. Here, I hopefully will let you know the basics behind blended learning, why it is emerging faster in this digital age and the way it is transforming even the contemporary learning and training strategies.

Even though a lot of us don’t have high tech classrooms, the fast evolving education and training landscape increasingly demands us to integrate technology to customize learning experience. Blended learning, with its blend of conventional face-to-face interaction and technology, is a new approach. Blended learning blendsclassroom and online learning, where students in part, are able to control the place, pace and time of their learning. I personally advocate trainer-designed blended learning model, where trainers determine the combination or a mix that is right for them and their students or learners.

A number of high profile trainers and instructors, both new and experienced ones, are finding themselves increasingly excited and empowered to use technology. Now, let me share with you the tips that help trainers broaden their application of technology and ease their blended learning strategy.

Think Big but Start Small

Aspiring to big objectives is laudable, but when you first try to weave technology and tradition into practical and durable education fabric, you should take small steps. In simple words, shoot for the moon, but start with a bottle rocket.

For a trainer who is just starting to blend, the magnitude of computer programs, web tools and learning management systems that are now readily available, is overwhelming. So determine one piece of technology that can complement your program, and begin with that. This way, you can experiment, commit mistakes, develop solutions and develop your confidence. This is how I started it few years back, when I wouldn’t have taken myself as specifically tech savvy.

I would share one trainer’s experience for using Collaborize classroom, which is a dynamic and free discussion platform[2]. She used it to replace many of the pen-and-paper assignments with vibrant online discussion, debates, writing tasks and collaborative team work. It proved to be the solution to a constant issue she faced: how to get all learners to participate in the discussion. The same few of the students were participating and dominating the conversation while most of the class stayed silent, avoiding eye contact. With Collaborize Classroom, every student gets a voice. The anonymity of screen and flexibility of asynchronous discussions is easier to follow for shy, quiet and reluctant learners, for sharing their ideas and thoughts comfortably. So, this is how she came up with a “blended learning” approach.

Patience is indeed a virtue when attempting something new

Keep in mind that mistakes are good for learning. The best resources and most effective strategies that I have designed were all emerged through mistakes and refined understanding afterwards.

I am honest with my learners when I try for something new. I even ask my learners for help who are tech savvy or more comfortable with specific technology I am trying. I also ask the learners to provide their feedback regarding their experiences online so I can keep on improving the blended learning practices[3].

For instance, though I have often applied TED talks in my training sessions, now TED-ED makes it possible to come up with an online lesson around any YouTube or TED video.  In one of my latest TED-Ed sessions[4], I developed and paired an animated video with short answer and multiple choice questions that asked students to reflect on and implement what they learned. You can just blend a lot of things, using your creativity and on the basis of the outcomes you want to achieve.

Technology is not only a frill

Technology shouldn’t be something else you have to integrate to your already filled plate. Rather than, use the technology to improve and replace what you are already doing[5]. For instance, a teacher who traditionally develops a handout with a stream of comprehension questions could, rather post a discussion question online by using online discussion board or platform. Not just it saves time, it also helps in getting more meaningful learning experience.

Blended learning requires putting trainer’s creative energy into designing in-class and learner-oriented activities arising from a balanced blending between traditional classroom principles and technology. Corporate training is now starting to experience the approaches based on blended learning basics and I am hopeful that more productive outcomes are about to achieve.


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