Is "blended not stirred" the secret to making a good martini or creating effective learning materials? In the case of some learning materials you'd be better off taking the martini, because some developers haven't taken into consideration the components of an effective "blended learning" model. You may or may not be familiar with the term, but "blended learning" has been batted around the education/training sector for about 20 years. Basically this delivery style encompasses a face-to-face or classroom component with computer-mediated activities. So what exactly does this type of learning involve?
Let’s start with a definition (Wikipedia):
Blended learning is a blending of different learning methods, techniques, resources and applying them to an interactively meaningful learning environment. The ultimate aim of blended learning is to provide realistic,
practical opportunities for learners and teachers to make learning independent, useful, sustainable and ever growing.
My first stumbling block with this definition and term is that blended learning is a delivery style/method not a learning style. In essence it refers to the combination of different methods to deliver learning material to a learner. Teachers and trainers, if they are to achieve optimum outcomes, must consider and include all learning styles into their material. This said, it is necessary for teachers/trainers to adopt or develop best practice if this delivery model is to motivate all learners to interact with the course/subject material, transfer existing knowledge and learn new material. Here are ten points to think about when you are setting out on the blended learning development trail.
10 Points To Think About
1. AUDIENCE! Know your target audience and what they want from your course / subject.
2. TECHNOLOGY! Use an array of technology. There is a plethora of technologies out there from which to select your delivery platform/s, so be adventurous and utilise a variety of these devices / software. If you're not sure which way to go, why not crowdsource and get some data to make the decision. I've completed professional development where the trainers have only used one type of technology e.g. video or presented learning material using PowerPoint, and they weren't interactive or exciting. Unless your audiences are highly intrinsically motivated the retention rate will be very low.
4. ACTIVE LEARNING! Integrate active learning techniques into all class sessions and online tasks. All learners, particularly adult learners, need to be involved in - manipulating materials, analysing, problem solving, critical thinking, evaluating and synthesising.
5. TAILOR! This method of delivery does give the teacher/trainer the opportunity to tailor the material to a learner's ability level. By using blended learning methods, I have been able to develop my resources at three different levels which correlate to the abilities of the learners. Initially there may be a little more work, however, the long term benefits are well worth the effort. All learners feel included because all members of the group are working on the same material and completing the same tasks.
6. ORGANISE! In the course overview clearly and succinctly outline - the stages of the course e.g. timeframe for assessment, tasks that will be delivered using online methods. Ensure instructions for operating hardware and utilising software are an integral component of this synopsis.
7. ACCESS! Include links to appropriate sites that supplement or enrich the material that is being delivered e.g. YouTube video, interactive demonstrations.
8. COLLABORATON! The vast majority of people learn within a collaborative environment. Offer collaborative options both in the classroom (group or pairing) and online with discussion boards, forums, social media and other e-communication methods.
9. CONTACT! Learners must be able to contact the teacher/trainer and/or other students when undertaking the online component of the course. Set up specific times for contact - Skype (or any other software package), chat room, face-to-face, or email at any time. Having an open door policy for contacting (within reason - midnight may be pushing things a little too far) will encourage the learners to be more involved with their learning.
10. ASSESSMENT! How, what, why and when need to be questions you ask yourself prior to developing and commencing your course/subject delivery. Multiple choice may be a quick and easy way to mark, but this method doesn't give a learner the opportunity to demonstrate their skills or knowledge of subject matter or procedures.