Category Archives: Blended Learning

The Come-Back Kid!

No, not me – although I have been very quiet in the bloggersphere lately.

I’m talking video. Yes, Video, …. YOU are the Come-Back Kid. In the learning world that is. I’ll bet if anyone does a search on Google (other search engines are available) they’ll have you pop up at least once in the search results.

Isn’t it great how accessible learning is nowadays? If you want to make a gingerbread house for Christmas (not that my gingerbread ended up as a house – more like stars. I ran out of patience) or fit a new car radio you had as a gift; from tuning your new bow to get the best grouping arrows to clipping your West Highland Terrier – you can bet your bottom dollar, you’ll be there, video; somewhere on YouTube, Vimeo or on a product site to name but three.

You’re there for those who just downloaded a new piece of software, to help show them the way to use it; to give a helping hand; to provide support; to help them learn something new. You’re there to engage us emotionally with content that would otherwise send us screaming for the exits or dribbling into our morning coffee. You’re like our favourite movies, making emotional connections; allowing us to consider from different perspectives; to put ourselves in others’ shoes.

Oh but, video, you’ve been around for a long time now and brought us some of the finest British comedy talent into our dull little corporate lives. Some of us will remember, fondly, how you brought subjects like, ‘how to run meetings’, ‘dealing with challenging behaviour’, ‘customer care’ to life in glorious technicolour. How many of these faces are now ‘national treasures’ here in Britain and fondly thought of elsewhere.

Now you bring us a plethora of video content. No longer on reel-to-reel, nor on VCR; but moreover on DVD and the Internet. From desktop to mobile. According to the following delightfully engaging piece, we can expect 90% of all Internet traffic to be video by 2014. Its content is not specifically about using you, video, for learning purposes but, as we do with so many other things, we can learn from it.

BoT: What’s a VIDEO worth? from BoT Videos on Vimeo.

Everyone who is anyone seems to want to create another you, video. Including me. You have become so accessible that armed with just a reasonable digital camera and a affordable video editing software or a screen-capture program such as Camtasia, we can easily get started. And, if you are canny enough and follow some best practice guidelines, and make use of a number of freely available screen-capture or video editing software. Even with the basics, we’ll have great results.

Yes, video, you rock! But just hold on to your horses there a moment, Come-Back Kid, before you get yourself all carried away … and us with you … like we did with your predecessor the eLearning tutorial! There’s a time and a place for everything. And, although you are now the A-lister again, you still need to consider which will be your best roles, versatile though you are?

We’ll ponder that for a while and find out at a later date…

Why we shouldn’t call it blended learning!

Now for those of you who have read a few of my posts might think that a very strange statement.  Those who know me well professionally will certainly be taken aback – after all, to them, I must sound like a broken record (for those who don’t remember records, think scratched CD!) because I’m always banging on about how anyone remotely involved in designing learning should first learn all there is to know about blended learning.

So why am I considering a change of name?  Because there are still a lot of people out there who don’t understand what blended learning is (see my post about the myth of blended learning). In my view, the blended learning approach is the foundation on which all other learning and training components are built upon.

My earlier post talked about how some people think blended learning is a what I refer to as the eLearning sandwich (eLearning tutorial+classroom+eLearning tutorial); some people think it’s a classroom course with some computer work included within it; some people think it has to include classroom; some people think that it has to include some computer-based or online activity.  Well, it may surprise you to hear that none of the above are true – and yet – all are true.  How can this be?

I confess that in this day and age it is very unlikely that any learning solution will not include some sort of electronic activity.  However, it may be there is none.  It all boils down to putting together a solution that is right for the situation – and that situation may not have any access to great technology.  There are too many variables to cover here.

If we consider what Clive Shepherd calls ‘the logical approach’ in his Blended Learning Cook book (1st and 2nd edition), (see my review) we should first establish the current situation before embarking on determining the strategy for putting forward the learning solution.  This means we need to make a detailed analysis: a lengthy process so often skimped.

Without this we don’t know our audience enough, we don’t know the resources we have or haven’t got, and we may not even know if there is a valid learning need.  Once we have all this information we can establish the most appropriate activities relevant for the audience and subject matter and be able to determine the most efficient way of delivering them.  It will also determine whether it is appropriate to go down the formal training route or the less formal approach of coaching, just in time resources, an ‘in at the deep end’ or a mixture.

Once we’ve set out our framework we can then start designing the individual components, facilitating and supporting as my diagram explains.

Blended Learning Infographic

So this is why ‘blended learning’ is the foundation of any learning solution and why it should be the first step for everyone needing to determine the best learning strategy for their organisations.  But what should we call it? What about just LEARNING!

 

Knowing me, knowing you … A-ha!

What makes an effective learning solution?

I’ve asked the same question many times over the years with the following responses:

    Relevant
    Realistic
    Interactive
    Goal based
    Flexible
    Challenging
    Structured but not controlling

Although all of these elements are important they pale into insignificance without one vital consideration because without it, learning doesn’t hit all the marks.

When discussing a hypothetical situation recently, it was suggested that if we were to produce a specific training programme within the given timescales, within the given budget, using the given resources, to the large number of learners, the only way to get this done in time was to forego the analysis of the audience’s needs, experience and characteristics! The reason given was that there would just not be the time.

My counter-argument was that without knowing your audience, how can you design the most appropriate solution. What you’d actually end up with is the usual blunderbuss approach i.e. blast it out and hope you hit the target!

Unfortunately, and sadly, this seems to be a common decision and subsequently, is the reason why a lot of training solutions, ‘e’, classroom or blended, can suffer.

Today I attended an eLearning Network event where the theme was ‘truly effective eLearning and the key ingredient for its success running throughout the discussions was the need to be more learner-centred. Without knowing your audience, how could eLearning (or indeed any learning) be learner-centred?

Then tonight, by chance, I also read something Clive Shepherd posted on an Onlignment blog post ‘making transformation happen: analysis and design‘ which reinforces how imperative the analysis is.

So as the song goes… “Knowing me, knowing you is the best I can do”!