Finding The Right Remix In Modern Blended Learning

How To Find The Right Remix In Modern Blended Learning

The words “blended learning” commonly conjures up images of children in a classroom dividing their time between listening to lectures and staring at computer consoles. For adults, blended learning has become relevant in terms of training; face-to-face interaction is interspersed with web-based learning. With so many possibilities, how can one find the right remix in modern blended learning to keep training focused, coherent, and productive? Before we answer this question, let’s quickly review some examples of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning occurs in real-time. Teacher and student, trainer and trainee are communicating at the same time, if not in the same space. Technology has enabled synchronous learning to move beyond the conference room with online chat, video conferencing, instant messaging. Many companies are actually embracing social media platforms like Yammer, Slack, and GChat, thus taking advantage of our social inclinations to enhance productivity rather than restricting it. Synchronous learning requires learners and trainers to be online at the same time.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning occurs on the learner’s own schedule and time table and does not require the instructor to be online at the same time. Asynchronous training can be delivered via web, email, message boards, and online forums. Actually, one of the first recorded instances of asynchronous blended learning happened in the 1840s via post. Sir Isaac Pittman offered a short-hand course via correspondence in which students received their assignments in the mail, completed them, and sent them back. Again, technology has made asynchronous learning easier than ever with mobile devices that allow learners to access online training almost anywhere.

Retaining Focus And Coherence In The Remix

With so many possible methods and modalities available, where do you begin? How do you decide on the right blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning, on-site and online?

Before you decide, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is their access to technology?
  • What are the demands of your content?

1. Audience.

Age and economic disparity may be factors that impact your technological considerations. While Millennials may be social media experts, remember that Gen X-ers are pretty proud of their ability to transition from email to instant messaging, and generations before that took a type class before they ever sat down in front of a Commodore 64. How familiar your audience is with social platforms and portable devices may determine what activities you include in your training. For example, gamification may be appealing to some, but may actually be disengaging to others.

Economic background may also be a factor in what your audience has been exposed to in the past or what they have access to in the present, which leads us to…

2. Access To Technology.

Can it be assumed that all of your team members have phones, tablets, or other portable devices that allow them to work synchronously off-site? What about system requirements? How about your in-house resources? Before you select or design a training program, consider whether or not all trainees can access all components of the training.

3. Content Considerations.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consider your content. In any blended learning environment, good instructional content should include presentation, practice, and assessment. With this in mind, consider what methods of instruction are most effective for each, whether students will learn more effectively synchronously or asynchronously, and which modality is most effective for delivering that method of instruction.

Presentation: Lecture, demonstrations, panel discussion, case studies, field trips, laboratories, role play and/or peer coaching. How you choose to present your material will influence your decisions about whether or not learners should work collaboratively and what kind of technology will best facilitate the learning.

Practice: This may take the form of hands-on experimentation, online simulations or independent assignments. For example, is it absolutely necessary for trainees to be on-site? Could an online game enable a larger number of trainees to practice simultaneously and receive instant feedback? Does the learner need to be able to consult an instructor in the course of practice?

Assessment: Is the assessment activity formative (occurring during the learning process to gauge progress) or summative (occurring at the end to evaluate mastery)? Is feedback required? Does the feedback need to happen in real-time? Is the assessment in a single-response format (true/false, multiple choice) or does it require a demonstration of mastery? All of these considerations will impact what kind of tech you choose and whether or not the experience is synchronous or asynchronous.

The Modern Blended Learning Environment 

Modern blended learning allows trainers to hone their content to the needs of their industry and their learners. The many technological modalities let trainers reach learners across the room and across the globe. Information and feedback can be obtained any time, 24-7. There’s never been a better time to be an instructor or a modern learner! But with so many avenues, don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the possibilities. You don’t need to utilize every component of blended learning. Consider the needs and experiences of your employees and let your content guide you to the most effective training modalities.

If you’d like to learn more about how blended learning can address specific needs, read Allen Communication’s use case for leadership training and blended learning.

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