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5 Learning Tips from the Blended Learning: Critical Design Decisions Webinar

Earlier this week, I attended a live webinar hosted by Sally Hovis of Skillsoft called Blended Learning: Critical Design Decisions. Although the presentation had a few areas in need of improvement, the heart of this free webinar did offer some good tips for designers and facilitators of blended learning. Read on for the ups and downs of what Skillsoft has to offer ISC...

I'll start with the drawbacks of this webinar before explaining Skillsoft's tips for blended learning. The webinar packed in a lot of viewers most of whom had a distance learning background, but then spent a large portion of time introducing the already familiar concept of Blended Learning. Consequently, the comments in the chat window were somewhat short of positive. In addition, the Skillsoft examples were not-so-cleverly disguised attempts to sell their products and services. However, these gaps are not surprising considering the webinar was a free offering, and the intro helped at least to emphasize the most current definition of blended learning as a balance of technology, pedagogy, classroom, and self-study.

As for the Critical Design tips, the webinar provided some more useful information. The host, Sally Hovis organized her suggestions according to the eight phases of Workplace Learning (Prepare Me, Tell Me, Show Me, Let Me, Check Me, Support Me, Coach Me, Connect Me). As you read the following tips, you can see where each phase applies in relation to the following tips.

Tip #1 - Prepare everything from the beginning. This tip includes making sure all of the program requirements, goals, objectives and prerequisites are published in advance of the start of the learning program. In addition, provide participants with technical support and an outline of all learning events.

Tip #2 - The best model is your own. Although there are a lot of options for buying learning programs from external vendors, this tip urges organizations to come up with their own models. Otherwise all necessary learning events might not be covered, and learning will be limited.

Tip #3 - Know your options before you design. When considering all the options available for blended learning, it is important to know the strengths and limitations of each tool. Make sure all stake holders are considered in the selection of these options. For example, a virtual classroom might be good for content that only requires one or two hours of training, but probably not for longer programs.

Tip #4 - Instructional design basics still apply. No matter what the training is, instructional designers should be sure to do a thorough needs analysis and determine the best methods of design, development, implementation and assessment.

Tip #5 - Acknowledge and handle constraints. Of course most project managers are aware of the typical constraints of time, budget, manpower, and resources. However, Skillsoft advises we also be on the lookout for obstacles associated with organizational shifts, individual differences, and the roles of managers.

As you can tell, the five tips listed above involve overlapping layers of Skillsoft's Eight Phases of Workplace learning. The important thing is to make sure learners are prepared up front and told what learning will take place and what it will look like. From there, the blended learning's value is measured by the knowledge gained and how well it is adopted by participants. If the learners are just simply presented with material, there is little chance that it will stick and turn into a useful skill. Instead, a successful blended learning program has consistent engagement and reinforcement that will ensure knowledge transfers over into the workplace.

Here's a link to Training Magazine's website if you are interested in more webinars like the one described in this post.

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