Online learning can be created in a lot of different ways, but how can you make a good blend of learning activities? Today I’d like to share with you a way to do this. The three steps to create blended e-learning.
Step 1: what is your goal?
In the first step you determine your learning goal: what do people need to know or control after the learning intervention? There can be a lot of different learning goals. You can teach people certain skills; you can test what a person knows about a specific subject and of course gaining knowledge is a common goal in learning. But for example the ability to form an opinion can also be an important goal, just like sharing information with important others, like colleagues.
Step 2: which learning options do you have in blended learning?
Before there was e-learning, we could of course also choose from various learning options, of which classroom education was by far used the most. With the introduction of e-learning a lot of people immediately think of an online course. Of course that is a great choice, but there are a lot of other options. So what kind of online learning options are there? What kind of learning activities can you use in your blend? Well, for example you could think of these:
an online course that offers knowledge
a webinar, which is an online class in which you can share knowledge and discuss with others
an online test that allows you to test knowledge
an online forum in which learners can exchange experiences about their learning process
an app that offers the right knowledge at the right time
collecting interesting information in an online protected environment (like Yammer)
a game that imitates real situations. Thanks to automatic feedback in the game the knowledge and skill of learners will grow filling in an online list of questions search and use information online
There are also a lot of options offline. You can share a small part of knowledge (“There is a new protocol about subject X. Not much has changed compared to the old situation, but there is 1 difference, namely…”) via email or during a meeting. In healthcare jobaids are often used: super short instructions that are the size of a credit card on which you can read the most important information quickly. Also references, protocols, guidelines and other reading materials can be used. In healthcare there is the skillslab, which is a place used to train certain skills. And of course you can also think of other offline meetings in all shapes and sizes: an afternoon for reflection, a classroom training or a lecture.
Step 3: combine the learning goal with the best learning option
And now we’ve arrived at the hardest part: what learning options are best for you to use? To help you make a decision I’ve worked out some examples.
Knowledge and skills: e-learning and class
If, for example, you would want your employees to know about injecting patients, this means they have to be competent and capable. To become capable to do something your learners will need to practice, which can be done in the skillslab or other practical environment. Say you want to teach that group of people how to give an injection. You can teach them about it in e-learning, but you also have to show them ‘in real life’. The theory of injecting – how to do it, what are the conditions – that can be done perfectly in e-learning, the practice in the class. For learning goals like this you often see a combination of e-learning and offline practice. Knowledge in e-learning and skills in the class.
Knowledge: e-learning with on the job reminders (or maybe something else?)
If you only want to transfer knowledge then an online course is a suitable choice. You can think of a course like the one about hand hygiene that I have recently developed. That is a subject most people already know something about, and with e-learning you make sure they know everything. And you can support your group of learners with offline materials, like posters in toilets about how to wash your hands properly. But still… sometimes your main goal can be transferring knowledge, but you also have important secondary goals. Last week I spoke to a L&D manager who organized a day about hand hygiene. I told him that there are better and more efficient ways to transfer that knowledge, like my e-learning course about hand hygiene. He agreed with me, but this day was for everyone in the organization. Mangers, kitchen workers, nurses, cleaners, etcetera. They were all invited. After a messy reorganization he wanted to use that day to build his team again. In that situation he made a good choice going with offline learning.
What do they already know: a list of questions before the course
If you want to know what someone already knows about a certain subject and you want people to talk about it with each other during a meeting, then you can let them fill in a list of questions prior to that meeting. This gives you an idea of what people already know. And especially when you have employees with different backgrounds and experiences, this will allow you to easily see if the knowledge they have is enough. Are certain employees or a group of them short of knowledge? This is the way to make that clear. If you ask about their knowledge level during the course then there’s the chance they answer: “Yes, of course I knew that.” That’s why I believe it is more valuable to test the knowledge level in advance. It’s not about what is right or wrong, or if people pass their test. It’s about: what do people know about a subject and are there holes in their knowledge? With this data you can monitor these holes closely and use it to make your classroom courses more efficient. A good example of blended learning.
Knowledge that’s not cristallized yet: a webinar
Let’s say you work at a big organization and you want to use an app to communicate with all your employees. You decide to set up a pilot. This means your employees all have to learn how to work with that app. Using an e-learning course to teach them is too soon, maybe the app doesn’t work the way you want and you will end the project after the pilot. What else is there? Classroom training? Too costly, a waste of time and the app isn’t that hard to use. You could put up a video on intranet, but then you won’t interact with your employees. In this case, a webinar is the best option, an online college. People can log in and see the presenters screen and ask questions. And after the webinar you can provide your employees with a summary on paper for their reference.
Learning and exchanging experiences: Yammer
Say you lead a reorganization in your company. Apart from a lot of learning activities you want learners to share experiences with each other. You can facilitate this with a sharing platform like Yammer. Yammer is an online collectors environment where you can share documents. In Yammer you can also ask questions to others. This way you can stay connected with your employees about what they are learning. And if you can let people share their mistakes and successes, there is a lot you can learn from that as well.
I hope I gave you some insight in how you can create the right mix for blended e-learning. And it goes without saying that, after you’ve found your mix, you keep testing it. That is the only way to find out if you’ve found the perfect blend.