Gravitating Towards Blended Learning

David Read / University of Southampton

By The Time You Read This Note, I'll Be Gone!Dear PowerPoint,This is tough... I mean really tough! I'm sorry, but this is the end. I will no longer be requiring your services. It seems just like yesterday we were burning the midnight oil together preparing for our 9 am Contemporary Issues class. With your easy layouts, sound effects, and snazzy transitions I thought that this affair would last a lifetime- I was wrong! Lately, I have barely even used you. Moreover, when I did, it was gruelingly painful.I want you to know it's not you... it's me. Well to be honest, it's me and them. With so many options today, I can no longer make excuses. I'm now using smartphones, student blogging, and online discussion forums in class. I know this is going to be hard for you, and you will probably reinvent yourself or do something drastic to remain relevant. I say, go ahead and do it! There is nothing wrong with getting out there and trying again. However, for now, I have to say... goodbye!Your former friend,Robert

Gravitating Towards Blended and e-Learning methods

Breakups are hard, but sometimes necessary. Moving educators and trainers from one practice to another can be just as difficult. All learning should be gravitating towards blended and e-Learning methods. The practice of what I call "PowerPoint Punishment", and learning strategies like it, must be gradually eliminated.Blended and e-Learning methodologies are crying for implementation, and there is only one thing standing in their way! When I say us, I truly mean the educators and trainers entrusted with delivering the content. We find ourselves in this constant loop of trying to create engaging material, adhering to institutional standards, bridging the gap towards mastery of material, and staying ahead of the next big idea! It's easy to lean on what we've always done in order to meet the demands. This however, is no longer acceptable.It doesn't have to be that way. The streamlining of establishing a learning experience rooted in blended or e-Learning requires commitment through a change in culture, sticking with what works until it doesn't, and listening to your learners.Commitment Through a Change in Culture Although the method of delivering material is largely left up to the facilitator, the facilitator usually answers to a school, company, or the very least a brand. These institutions and participants must create a culture of change. I recall once a faculty member telling me that she was not interested in using an instructional strategy that she had just received institutional training on. She further stated that it was a waste of time because the school wouldn't buy into the strategy for long-term results. Unfortunately, she was correct. The faculty had received professional development on a great concept, but there was no culture of commitment. If you want your people to buy-in, then you have to assure them that you are committed to seeing blended and e-Learning become part of the culture.Stick With What Works Until It Doesn'tIt's nice to have options, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. We are constantly bombarded with "the next big thing". Once we have a culture of commitment, we can then implement a few things that work. I recently started using Socrative, an interactive student response system with smartphones, tablets, and laptops, as an informal assessment tool. There are 200 million smartphones in active use in North America, and we should be putting them to use in the classroom. After a few weeks, I realized that this is something that works well. Socrative provided me with an e-Learning tool to assess learning objectives. Is Socrative the only game in town? Of course not, but it works so I'm going to stick with it until it no longer does. Just like my dear friend PowerPoint, it worked and then it lost its edge.

Listen to Your LearnersI knew my departure with PowerPoint was inevitable based on the response of the learners that were in front of me. They moaned, rolled their eyes, drifted off, and flat out suggested I email the slides to them and save the lecture. We know the value of feedback, but are we prepared to do something about it when it matters the most? I had suggested to a colleague once that he should abandon his dependency on PowerPoints. He countered with the fact that it speaks to the "visual learner" in his classes. This may be true, but there are many other strategies for reaching that learning modality. I suggest engaging your learners in a pre-course survey to identify how they learn and what techniques could be incorporated from your bag of blended and e-Learning tricks.

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