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Thoughts on Blended Learning July 12, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Clive Shepherd has three great posts about blended learning over on his blog (see the links at the bottom of this post). Clive gives us a well-needed closer examination of how we define and prescribe blended learning. In the past, I remember using the term and concept to help get management away from the idea of only using instructor-led training. This at least opened their eyes to consider using online courses, virtual classroom training, etc. Now I feel like too many people blindly say, “You should create a blended learning solution…” but they can’t describe it or explain why they need it. Sigh.

Blended learning the process of using one or more media to facilitate one or more (instructional) methods. However, Clive breaks down the methods based on the social context(s) of the learning experience. He groups the methods based on their social context as follows:

  • Self-study: for example, reading, reflecting, interacting with content, viewing video, simulation, undertaking a project, writing an essay;
  • One-to-one: for example, on-job instruction, coaching, mentoring, support;
  • Small group: for example, discussion, role play, group assignments, multi-player games;
  • Large community, for example, lecture, presentation, Q&A.

Clive then explains the importance of the social context:

It seems to me that, if you want to enhance the effectiveness of a learning intervention, then you are more likely to blend the social context than you are the medium. If the learning requirement is multi-faceted – perhaps it has elements of underlying knowledge, skill building, attitudinal change and application to the job – then it is hard to see how a single social context will be ideal throughout. Blending social contexts enhances effectiveness.

He emphasizes that the media should be fairly easy to choose once the methods are selected. However, too often, people will choose their media first before they’ve given any thought to instructional design and the methods they should employ. This is where blended learning can backfire. (See Clive’s post It’s the method, not the medium for a good look at this.)

I’ll definitely keep this approach in mind; the idea of examining the social context really seems to tighten up the design phase. Clive’s posts also discuss when the blended approach should be used. Looking back, Clive does an excellent job of discussing the full circle of blended learning: He covers its definition, how it should be designed, and when it should be used.

Here are the links to Clive’s posts on blended learning:

Great stuff. Thanks, Clive!


1. Matt - October 15, 2008

My best experience is with learning groups where the participants will take a series of traditional e-learning modules, then have specific classroom activities where it is found to be most effective, such as leadership and very hands on types of training. We also throw in web seminars and discussions on a regular basis and give students the opportunity to learn from each other. Another consideration is the assignment of mentors with web based tools in place for virtual mentoring. With this mix of tools, provided through Moodle, Adobe Connect, and traditional technology we have been able to custom fit a solution to the specific needs of our partners.

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