If you still believe that “classroom learning is the best learning” for your training and learning programs, I have some news for you. While we may like to believe that directing and guiding our learners to new understanding is the most effective way to educate, the traditional Instructor-Led Training (ILT) model fails to recognize that our learners have changed. The self-directed learner has become the student of the 21st century – one who needs more support and encouragement rather than direction.
So how do we best provide our learners of today with the best possible support and encouragement? We make the learning experience as real to them as possible. We blend it.
Think of it this way — if you do something for someone as opposed to having them do it themselves, do they truly learn? When it comes to learning and training, devise an approach to your learning model that blends what your learners need to “know” with what they need to “do”. Allow them to discover information in bite-sized portions through self-directed activities such as eLearning, and then follow-up with a workshop, discussion group, open lab, or other opportunity to apply the new information. By providing a blended experience we create the opportunity for our learners to first absorb information, then ask questions, challenge assumptions, and solicit experiences which they can share with others. This approach also encourages the collaborative and social learning experience.
5 Tips for Creating Better Blended Experiences
- Remember “Transition to e-Learning” Development Tools. Software tools such as Articulate Presenter or Adobe Presenter allow you to transition your current PowerPoint into a streamlined e-Learning modules complete with narration, interactive quizzes, and Flash-based output compression. You will still need to create good content, but simple eLearning development tools will help make the transition from ILT to blended learning a smoother one.
- Blend Your “Content-Heavy” Courses. A basic course which exceeds four hours in duration is generally too long to keep the attention of a typical learner, and it’s expensive – time spent in class is time away from work. Divide what they need to “know” and “do” into a blended learning experience. Give your learners a well-deserved break from all that content — they’re full!
- Know Your Learners’ Needs. As training and learning professionals we often assume we know our learners’ needs. Even if it’s short, take the time to conduct a needs analysis and find the true needs of your learners. Where’s their pain? What’s working? And more importantly, what’s not working? Discover the real problems and questions before you jump to the solution.
- Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Books. There is value in books, manuals, and written reference materials included in training activities, but don’t use words to replace examples, images, and experience. Create custom written materials by integrating only the portions of the written materials that pertain to your training topics. Learn to be more specific, and customize any of your materials for precisely the right support.
- Be Tech Savvy; Be Creative. While some activities such as breakout groups, team presentations, and in-depth case studies are still good ways to encourage collaboration in the learning environment, incorporate new activities which support technology integration and social learning such as a team blog or web-based project portal. Don’t be afraid to let your learners be creative and help define the ways in which they achieve the course objectives. Creativity is a collaborative process!
What are some ways in which you create a more realistic environment for your learners? How do you keep your learners motivated and engaged? Please feel free to post your suggestions!