Instructional Design

The Effective Blended Learning Strategy

blended learningBlended learning is often mixed with Instructor-led training programs. Let’s roll our sleeves and scrutinize this phenomenon. What is the difference? Are there any similarities? What’s the perfect blend? What do you blend anyway?

Whoa! Take a deep breath.

The blended learning approach offers the best of both worlds. Not only do you benefit from the implementation of a synchronous eLearning strategy, but also you have the chance to benefit from “go at your own pace” techniques that are part of an asynchronous learning strategy.

So, the question is this: how do I develop engaging blended learning courses or modules that successfully merge these two approaches? How do I create blended learning environments that are informative, interactive, and immersive, without sacrificing flexibility?

Define the Blended Learning Course Objectives

Blended learning strategy begins like any other learning program design: defining blended learning course objectives. Answer these following questions to determine the course objectives: What skills should the learners develop during the blended learning course? What information must be included in the blended learning course? What will be included in the syllabus? What type of training tools, instructional design models and activities will be included in this course?

The blended learning course objectives will cover both the online and the live aspects of the course. They will help keep the content within its scope and design the right activities for their appropriate environment. The learning objectives are similar to a roadmap that show direction and the end line.

Create A Course Outline to Guide Learners

There are a number advantages of defining the course outline in the syllabus. The learner can utilize the syllabus to stay on track during the blended learning course. This type of course demands a certain degree of autonomy and independent learning. A course outline will be appreciated by both the learner and the facilitator.

The facilitator or the instructor can use the outline as the compass as well as ensure that the course progresses at the right pace. The blended learning course outline should include the instructor’s contact details, the course’s resources, the course’s objectives, the assignments and project details, their deadlines, the assessments and their grading weight.

Make sure you highlight the need for participation and regular attendance. Describe clearly what parts of the content will be covered online and what parts will be covered in classroom meetings. Also state clearly the hardware and software requirements to complete the course.

Determine the Interactivity Level

One of the best things about the blended learning strategy is the degree of control you have over deciding the level of interactivity in your eLearning course. What parts of the content will be covered in the virtual, eLearning environment and what parts will be covered in classroom meetings. Which areas will be self-paced and what aspects need to be covered as a group through collaborative projects.

Selecting the blended learning strategy enables you to select from a plethora of educational technology tools. These include social collaboration tools, gaming applications and multiple-format information for sharing and creation. Sometimes these choices can get overwhelming.

The best place to begin is by deciding which parts of the course will be synchronous/live and which parts will be asynchronous/online. Then identify which tools will support the appropriate learning environment.

Plan Group Activities

Group collaboration is the main focus of the blended learning strategy. Think about how you can create learning groups. Use the JIGSAW model of creating a productive study and project groups. Also assess strengths and weaknesses of learners. Determine how you can form groups of an heterogeneous mix of talents so that they can learn from each other.

The exchange of unique ideas, skills, experiences and perspectives creates a powerful knowledge sharing environment when learning in groups. Have these groups continue discussing in the online part of the course. Talking out aloud and writing thoughts down generates an advanced level of eLearning experience. If mentored well, this can be a satisfying learning and teaching experience for everyone involved.

For instance, you can ask the group to log on to a chat room, where they will discuss a particular problem or question that you pose, or they can share their opinions and thoughts via a social media platform.

Establish Communication Guidelines

Provide contact information for all mentors and facilitators involved in the course. This includes email addresses and mobile numbers. Demonstrate the preferred way of asking for support and how soon they can expect to hear a reply. For a more efficient learner support system, develop a list of FAQs on the course’s website.

Advice instructors and facilitators to respond within 24 – 48 hours to maintain the learners’ trust.  Establishing reliable rapport is crucial to a successful online and blended learning environment. Towards the end of the course, engage your learners in a live or online session for surveys, evaluations and voice opinions on the quality, strengths and weaknesses of the course.

Provide Resources and References

One of the wonderful things about blended learning is the use of online resources and tools available to supplement course materials. There are a multitude of learning materials and a wealth of learning objects available as free links to encourage learners to delve deeper into the course’s content.

Blogs and professional websites offer the latest and best practices insights on a concept. Create a glossary at the end for convenient self-study. Provide soft-skills improvement tips through relevant websites that teach about self-organization and time management.

In short, provide every opportunity possible for success in the course.

Plan Assessment Strategy

Blended learning strategy needs a different approach to assessment planning. You have the opportunity to conduct an online quiz, in class subjective tests or oral presentations. Determine which strategy will help you track the learning progress.

In any assessment scenario, provide a rubric for performance. Rubrics guide learners towards mastery and pave the way to improvement. Think about the end of the course (summative) and the end of the module (formative) assessments. Towards the end of each module, revise the main points so that they linger in the learners’ mind and help grasp new concepts easily.

Blended learning is truly a complex learning strategy. But with the aid of these tips and TalentLMS, you should be able to pull it off with finesse.