Seamless blended learning journeys

11th Nov

What is blended learning?

Blended learning has been with us for many years now, and yet many people would struggle to articulate exactly what it is. They might say it is a mix of elements, probably combining some face to face training delivery with some online elements - most likely elearning content.

Some years ago blended learning may have been just that. The learner completed a piece of elearning (the pre-work) attended a workshop (the main event) and then did some form of online assessment (the test!). It was often little more than a marketing gimmick used by elearning companies to sell content.

Fast forward to the present day and blended learning has really come of age. There is much more to blending than just having a mix of content types.

We can blend the method of delivery. Is it online, offline or face to face.

Then there’s the mode of delivery. Is it synchronous (everyone working on it together at the same time) or asynchronous (learners work on it at different times).

What about the context? Are learners working alone, one-to-one, in groups or as part of a community?

The ability to blend these different methods, modes and contexts has been enhanced by the proliferation of mobile devices, the increased use of social and collaborative platforms both inside and outside the workplace and a wider adoption of virtual communication tools.

Blended learning and the LMS  

A blend can be simple or complex, but in either case we have a learning journey that is likely to be comprised of multiple elements instead of just one or two. We can use an LMS to organise and present those elements in a structured way that makes sense to the learner.

Of course, we don’t need to use an LMS. If the blend is simple and there are few elements, a simple web page or intranet site may do the job. However, there are plenty of ways we can use an LMS to enhance the blend. Here are a few ideas:

  • A good blend doesn’t happen by chance - it has to be designed. Part of that design may require learners to access certain content in a specific order, and an LMS is great at managing prerequisites.

  • If the blend involves live training events, be that in person or online, the likelihood is that the management of those activities will already be happening in the LMS (and the process will be familiar to learners).

  • A blend is likely to be as much about resources as it is about courses. An LMS can be used to store and manage those resources internally, or link to resources held outside. In either case those resources can then be reused across different blended activities.

  • Using the LMS ensures that the activity forms part of the learner’s wider learning journey within the organisation.

As I’ve said in previous posts, an LMS won’t be effective if it’s a closed system visited occasionally when training must be done. The key to making an LMS really work is to make it easy to use, easy to access and close to the work at all times - somewhere that people choose to go. This is even more important with a blended approach where the learner will be making multiple visits to the content.

Are you taking a blended approach to learning, and if so how are you using your LMS to support it?

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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