How To Make Sure That Your Blended Learning Solution Is Effective
Technology and Innovation today open the way for corporate learning and limit classroom-only approaches. Gone are the days when training was limited by distance and cost; employees can now avail themselves of multiple learning modules to enhance their learning.
Most organizations are not, however, completely abandoning traditional modes to favor newer models such as online learning. Blended learning is often a preferred route where the best delivery methods available are utilized for a specific objective. This includes online learning, classroom-based instruction, electronic performance support, paper-based, and formalized or informal on-the-job solutions.
There is evidence that a solid blended learning design makes sense both instructionally and economically; however, there are various challenges that can sabotage learning success.
Here are some of the most common problems of implementing blended learning and the ways to overcome them:
- The Problem Of “Too Much Too Soon”.
As learning technologies evolve they become increasingly accessible. As developers of learning solutions, we always feel the urge to use either all of them at once or the one that has the most features. However, just creating learning solutions with the latest technology doesn’t mean that your learners will succeed while using it. Putting out too much technology can make blended learning programs appear too flashy, and participants may not take them seriously. Also, with newer technology, glitches can be expected. If learners encounter too many technical difficulties which cannot be easily fixed, the content may be abandoned completely. This lack of technical efficiency can lead to the failure of the whole learning program. To minimize the challenge, don’t include all available technologies at once; rather utilize the simplest technology possible, especially when introducing online learning for the first time. Also, make sure that technical support is available for your technology aided learning platform, and that the facilitator who is leading the learning initiative can answer basic queries as well.
- The Problem Of The Traditional Mind-Set.
Learners often have the preconceived notion that traditional classrooms are more effective because they believe they can be more successful in a familiar environment. They understand the classroom nature and assess their inputs in terms of behavior, effort, and participation. Technology aided learning changes these parameters, as there is too much of the “unknown”. It takes effort to make a self-directed learning program successful; Learning and Development professionals, managers, and facilitators should have the confidence to fully support the program. Participants should be properly introduced to the entire learning program – including having directions about how to install and use technology, as well as participation and attendance/completion requirements. Managers should have an orientation about what their employees will be experiencing, and how they can ensure that learning takes place. Facilitators should be comfortable with the concept and help the learners within and beyond the classroom.
- The Problem Of Managing And Assessing Learner Progress.
Trying to keep track of learners’ progress can be the most difficult challenge to address. But this aspect of blended learning cannot be ignored; learners may complete an online course, but if they don’t have a deep understanding of what they have completed, the learning impact will be nil. Both classroom and self-paced components of blended learning have to be tracked in order to ensure learning success. To ensure that learning takes place, assessment should be introduced for online as well as classroom lessons. Results can be monitored, tracked, and used to ascertain that all learning requirements have been met. Also, facilitators or online administrators should interact with participants to make sure that learning outcomes are understood and thus expectations are met.
- The Problem Of Misdirected Strategies.
When the creation of an eLearning course begins, usually most attention is paid to technology implementation and the actual design of learning content comes second. Learning designers may have neither the time nor the budget to create a successful program; when a learning strategy is discussed, the biggest part of it is concentrated on the ways of adopting technology to make learning content available. The conversation is about “how to deliver” and not “what to deliver”. It is important for eLearning designers to go through a design process and determine the portions of the learning content that requires face-to-face time, the portions that require collaboration, and what learning content can be self-directed. Only after careful segregation the learning content should be developed for multiple channels of delivery.
- The Problem Of Bringing All Blending Elements Together.
Blended learning programs have multiple layers and last for extended periods of time. It is important to have proper coordination and oversight, or learners will tend to complete either only the “easy” parts of the learning program, or only the scheduled/compulsory components. Too much information may put an unnecessary load on learners, making it less likely for them to be motivated to complete self-paced learning requirements. Too much information will spill over the classroom platform and the facilitator may be overwhelmed by the amount of items that need to be managed. A course map and schedule for online as well as classroom learning events can help learners plan better their learning: These can be put up on the organization’s Learning Management System, including links for content, virtual classroom schedule, and other supporting learning materials. The contact information for the facilitator and technical support should also be included. A “Frequently Asked Questions” section can provide answers to common questions and help learners work through technical or logistical glitches.
With adequate planning online learning can be successfully implemented for organizational training. With all aspects -technical, organizational, and instructional- taken into account, the benefits of blended learning will be truly enjoyed by learners and the organization alike.