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Blended Learning

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Whether working on an employee engagement initiative, or a leadership development program, it’s not enough that you design, present, communicate, and deliver your content in a logically convincing manner. To ensure success, you must also engage people emotionally. This is the lesson learned from many training programs, employee communication processes, and culture change efforts. Research undertaken by Bersin & Associates found that blended learning programs are perhaps the highest impact, lowest cost way to drive major corporate initiatives.
One of the big things they found was that once you have to make “media” or “blend” decisions, you are essentially doing “portfolio management.” People need a methodology to help decide when to use a webinar, when to use a conference call, and when to build a complex simulation or online course. When you create a financial portfolio, you start with your goals – factor in risk, time, and budget. In blended learning, the factors are similar:
• What is the business problem or goal?
• What is the learning problem which you believe is creating this business problem?
• What are the characteristics of the audience?
• What are the characteristics of the content?
• What kind of measurement do we need? And how much?
These are not easy questions – and they shouldn’t be. But you cannot hope to answer these questions rationally without understanding what business cost, benefit, and processes you need to be successful. This is fundamental to learning development in the workplace.
Learning Models
Most people responsible for staff development would agree that the goal of staff development is change in individuals’ knowledge, understanding, behaviors, skills – and in, in some cases, also change in values and beliefs.
The Joyce and Showers “model” for staff development includes five “components”, each of which needs to be included for effective “development”. These components are:
• Presentation of Theory (or description of a new skill or behavior). This description is typically thirty minutes to one or two hours in length, and is provided in a one-way delivery mode to a passive audience. Imparting knowledge, as an outcome, should be accomplished in this single session.
• Demonstration or modeling of the new strategy or skill. As in the firs component, delivery is one-way and no audience action is required.
• Initial practice in a protected or simulated setting. The audience participates, trying out the new skill.
• Providing structured and open-ended feedback about performance of the practice.
• Coaching. As the new idea or skill is being applied and tried in the workplace, follow up attention to help with the actual practice must be provided.
For staff development to be effective, all components of the learning model need to be included.