Christmas special: What's in your blend?
Shaping the future of learning
What will it be? Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce? Or perhaps you’re more of a nut roast, with all the trimmings? When it comes to blended learning, there are many different ingredients to choose from, both offline and online, especially if you serve your blend using an online collaboration tool like Moodle.
What can you throw into the mix to make your learning as appetising as possible and packed with variety and punch? Here’s a few ideas to help you shake it up.
Successful workshops make the most of having everyone together, with lots of discussions, sharing, and group tasks. If your learners are remote, or you just can’t afford a face-to-face workshop, you can still mix collaboration into your blend. Get learners talking in forums, teleconferences or webinars; have them complete group assignments online using wikis or complete offline tasks and share them online for peer review. Alternatively, mimic the workshop model more closely with facilitator-led webinars.
To run a webinar, you need a subject expert/coach and possibly a facilitator to help it run smoothly. We like the open source tool DimDim, but you can also use others such as Webex and AdobeConnect. Just like workshops, avoid pure presentation. Yawn-free the experience by using polls to gauge feedback, interactive whiteboards and onscreen chat. Set up tasks for individuals and groups to complete during the sessions and feed back on homework they’ve already done. You can import just about anything into a webinar, so consider adding e-learning scenarios, quizzes, games and videos to the blend.
Why not record audio or video of real experts telling their stories or thoughts on a subject? Rather than embed them into a piece of e-learning, make them available on a portal or intranet as short, downloadable files to help provide context and reality. Perhaps you can organise a coach, available to answer questions once a month or post regular guidance.
On the job tasks
Send learners off to complete a real task and produce some evidence of applying their learning in the real world. You might want to give them a workbook, journal or template to complete, or depending on the task or type of learning, give them free reign.
How could we forget? Elearning is often used as part of a blend – particularly with face-to-face components. But it doesn’t have to be 'one size fits all' or taken as one large chunk up-front. Create small morsels of attention grabbers, tutorials, case studies, activities and recaps, and spread them out to create an exciting and varied journey. Mix it up with some rapid and some bespoke pieces too.
Games and activities
Engaging activities are always a winner, as is providing variation. Offer a taster menu of different bitesize activities – scenarios, quizzes, games, surveys, simulations and more.
A final consideration…
Creating a blend isn’t just about throwing the ingredients in a pot and expecting the magic to happen. You need to figure out what the learner journey should be and how long it should last. Do you give learners free reign or do you need to create a timeline, with synchronised group or solo activities? Does it end after the last module is complete or could it continue on beyond that point to become a community of practice, where learners share advice and resources online? The world is your oyster (or turkey, or, indeed, whatever you want).
For more on blended learning, check out our guide to designing blends that work.