If you’re at all like me and had this question in the last decade – What is blended learning? – your internet search presented a lot of crap. I embarked on this quest a few years ago and it was the blended learning entry on Wikipedia that provided the most clarity for me (Ten points for crowd sourcing!). “For shame!”, I recall criticizing, “How is there nothing better available?”. For old time’s sake, I performed this little exploratory exercise again this week and I was really pleased with what I found. Then I noticed the dates on some of these articles I was now lauding as enlightened. Some were from 2016!
Consequently, it hits me: Someone hasn’t struck lexiconic gold and discovered a new way to present blended learning to the world, I just have a better understanding of the topic so these articles are making more sense now. This moment of learning I was experiencing exhibits one of the many benefits of a blended model of learning – which I’ll get into. But first, let’s start at the top: What is blended learning?
To have blended learning you need two things: humans and technology. For the human part, that’s you and a teacher/instructor/mentor/expert to consult with at certain points. Quite handy! For the technology piece, this is any online digital media that the student has some control over – be that simple pause, rewind, and skip functionality or full control over when and where and how that training event is taking place.
Things get muddy because this is so often confused with tech-rich instruction. Using a lot of technology in the classroom does not equal blended learning. Remember, there must be that human instruction AND student control. Further, having a multi-modal experience but restricting it to the same time and location is not blending learning, it’s blending learning styles.
This critical distinction brings me back to my personal story at the beginning. If I had attended a single learning event to digest all that I might ever need to know about blended learning that would have been a) hilariously contradictory and b) worthless – no matter how great the class was. Our learning needs change over time. There is a ton of research out there proving that retention rates vary greatly after different learning events. Notice it’s never 100%. It can’t be. We learn something, try it out, collect some data, do some other stuff, try it again. We are in a different place in our learning journey entirely each time we try something. What’s so great about the spirit behind blended learning is that it doesn’t rely on all learning to take place at once. It accommodates and, in fact, requires that the events take place over time and in different ways.
Financial benefits aside, the known deficiencies of a single learning event, a single learning method, and the knowledge that all of humanity is, frustratingly, not at the same knowledge level on every topic, lead many to look to blended learning to answer the call for a better learning experience.
What has your experience been with blended learning? Good, bad, ugly? I’d love to hear from you! Further, Learning Tree is taking steps to create an environment where this can easily be done – with access to multiple delivery modes where students switch between structured brick-and-mortar learning experiences and self-paced, on-demand training as much as they’d like. For example, we’ve made this change to the CompTIA Security+ and ITIL Foundation. Check out the full list of offerings at www.learningtree.com/blendedlearning.
AUTHOR: Brian Simms