There are several definitions and variants of the concept of blended learning. Powell, et al. (2015)1 says that “the blended learning approach combines the best elements of online learning and face to face. It is likely to be the predominant model in the future and become much more common than each of its components”.
Most often, blended learning describes a learning experience that can be adapted toward a specific audience, and which is not constrained by space or time. With this in mind, a broader definition could be the following: the learning in which the audience learns at least part of the time in a classical educational space and the other part of the time with the help of an online environment, controlling their own time, place, path and/or rhythm.
At Obsidian Learning, we believe learning should be ongoing, occur when needed, and make use of inexpensive technologies. We use a unique, research-based model of blended learning to develop rich instructional environments that pack a big bang for the buck.
Something we can all agree on is that blended learning in one form or another should be part of today’s corporate learning space. Many companies are just on the cusp of developing blended learning programs. In this article, I want to highlight some of the pitfalls to avoid when switching to blended learning.
1. Trying To Fit Existing Courses Into A Blended Delivery
First of all, any blended learning program (like any learning program) should be designed from scratch. Identify the desired outcomes, take a look at your audience, review the content, and determine the best approach to accomplish your goals. Don’t skip any of these steps, because what might have been an excellent face-to-face lecture will not always translate to effective online training.
2. Selecting The Wrong Technology
Technology is, of course, a requirement for the virtual aspect of the blended program. However, the program design, audience, and content should inform the selection of the technology. You risk constraining the design by being locked into a certain technology even if it is not best suited for your goal. There are plenty of choices out there: in a list of top eLearning authoring tools2 they’ve only managed to pare it down to just over 100 possibilities. You have a lot to consider when making technology decisions, such as the LMS, mobile applications, webinar software, SharePoint, learning portals, etc. So, take your time—design first, and choose the appropriate technology later. The right tool to meet your learning objective is out there.
3. Assuming That Everything Can Be Taught Through A Blended Approach
Blended learning is a powerful and effective strategy. But, as with most things in life, moderation is key. Yours may be the department where everything can effectively fit into a blended learning program, but more than likely, there will be topics that should be taught only face to face, or content that should probably be designed as performance support rather than a full-blown course. Did I mention—design for your goals! Don’t fall into a one-size-fits-all trap.
4. Going Too Fast
As with any new initiative, converting or even incorporating blended learning into your learning strategy takes time. Cutting corners doesn’t help anyone, particularly your learners. Take your time, analyze, start small, ask for feedback and incorporate your findings into the next project. Build it from the ground up through collaboration and transparency. Although you may be a believer, not everyone is, and moving too rapidly can hinder employee buy-in. If blended learning seems to be a significant initiative in your company, consider incorporating some change management techniques in your implementation plan. Communicate the need for change, and explain why this approach is the best fit for the learning and your learners (“what’s in it for me” - WIIFM3).
5. Missing The Assessments And Measurements
This step is critical. Just because you created an amazing blended program does not mean it will always be right for everyone. Knowing your Key Performance Indicators from the outset and establishing a continuous improvement loop will make your program more solid and more likely to survive the test of time, employee turnover, and technology updates.
As you can see, design is truly the essential component for blended learning. You will encounter obstacles, unknowns, and curveballs. We’ll talk about those in future articles. Don’t panic, stay calm, and design blended learning.