What can the trainer of the year teach us about blended learning?
René Luisman, trainer and consultant for topics related to blended learning, has won the NOBTRA Trainer of the Year award (2017-2018). What can we learn from him, what is his view on learning and how does he use aNewSpring? Time for a cup of coffee to get some answers.
1. René, can you briefly explain what you do?
As a consultant and independent contractor, I develop learning journeys for a variety of clients. They are focused on career coaching, entrepreneurship, communication and personal development. Additionally, I train and coach individuals and groups on these topics.
2. Where does that interest for learning and coaching come from?
As a child, I have always had trouble learning. Whether it’s cycling, skating or studying. I believed I was always lagging behind my peers. It made me feel insecure and made me withdraw myself more and more, until I had an employer who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to develop myself. By trial and error, I learned to believe in myself again. This process taught me that there are different ways to learn, and my way is mainly through doing. As a developer, trainer and coach, I combine different learning styles to match the needs of participants.
3. You’ve only recently made the move to the world of learning, but you became successful very quickly. How did that happen?
Success is about attitude and ambition. What is your goal and how much effort are you willing to put in? From the get-go, I wanted to become an expert in my field. The thing is, you don’t get there by relying solely on ambition. The things I do, I want to do them well. Continuously challenging myself helps to continue to develop myself. For example, by looking critically at my own behavior, reflecting on it and adjusting it from there.
4. What success are you most proud of?
What I am most proud of is that I do things my own way. Authenticity is very important to me. Because I often felt insecure in my younger years, I was often adjusting myself to others, accommodating mostly. In recent years, I have developed a clear vision and approach. Part of this is to show vulnerability. In my trainings, I show this by explaining what happens to me and my emotions when something really makes an impact.
5. What exactly do you mean by authenticity (in learning)? Can you give an example of this?
As a trainer, you play a very important role in learning. By becoming aware of who you are and what you stand for, you can also use a style of training that suits you. The same applies when you start off with blended learning. The learning objectives, available budget and available time determine, to a large extent, what your learning journey will look like. On the other hand, it’s also important to choose the resources and tools that fit your personal style. Do you want to encourage participants to learn during face-to-face sessions and by being technologically savvy? Then, you might be inclined to set up a learning environment with e-learning modules. Do you have less affinity with technology? Then, the use of video materials or text messages can be suitable learning interventions. You can apply blended learning in many different ways; it’s about creating the combination that is the most effective.
6. You seem to be a big supporter of blended learning. Why is that?
By combining online and offline learning interventions, you can create a learning program that really supports the learning process. The added benefit of offering blended learning is that it provides me insight into the progress of the participant. That way, I can jump in, when required, and adjust the programme when necessary.
7. Many people are afraid that if ‘blended’ becomes the new normal, trainers will no longer be needed. What’s your take on this?
Relying and acting on fear usually isn’t very helpful. I use technology to optimise the learning process. Learning is often done on the job or in a real-life situation, usually that’s when you’re not around as a trainer. Technology allows me to help them when I’m not physically around. And, by covering essentials and need-to-know information online, I have more time during the face-to-face training sessions to dig deeper.
8. It seems you use technology to optimise the learning process, but many educators and trainers struggle to keep up with developments in the field of learning. How do you stay up-to-date?
That is, indeed, quite a challenge. I want to stay up-to-date in the field of technology, trainer and coach and developments in the field of career coaching. I read a lot of books, enrol in training courses myself, discuss with colleagues and take part in online communities (Note: take a look at Ger’s Learning Notes).
9. Why do you think you won the NOBTRA Trainer of the Year award?
The jury’s report shows that my personal involvement and attitude have contributed a lot. In addition, I have a very strong focus on aligning the training with my target group or audience.
“René is a very committed trainer, who knows how to connect with his target audience and does this very quickly. René is looking for the juncture where the needs of the participants and the organisation meet. He has a structured attitude and great analytical skills and is always willing to take an extra step to complete the assignment given to him, even if that extra step is not expected of him. He has a professional attitude and a lot of knowledge. The blended learning programmes that he develops focus on concrete learning objectives and René allows the participants to really build their skills in and outside of the training class.
In addition, René is keen on evaluation to give the program more depth and better connect it with the target group. He makes the participants think enthusiastically through the use of innovative work forms. The jury is impressed by the versatility of René. He has, among other things, provided masterclasses for the Congress of the Dutch Association of Training Actors and for Applied Psychology at the University of Utrecht. René’s goal related to online learning is to increase the returns of training at all times, supporting the learning process with online and offline interventions.”
10. Which learning trends do you find important?
I am convinced that you can hold the learner responsible for his own learning process. This is about letting go and trusting that a learner can decide for himself what he needs, at what time. As a trainer, I take a more facilitating role. I try to offer participants the opportunity to make their own choices at whatever time they need, for example, by offering training modules which are completely optional.
Readers’ question (from Jean-Paul van der Donk):
What inspired you to become a trainer?
After obtaining my university degree on Marketing and Communications I participated in a training course on influencing techniques. Two trainers taught me the essence of communicating. The way you communicate with yourself is the basis of how you communicate with others. Sometimes, this makes communication go very well, while at other times, it seems like you don’t understand each other at all — this was something I had not learned during my 4-year university degree.
By observing participants and listening to them carefully, I can, for example, make them aware of patterns that are not effective. I’m able to provide the participant practical tools that make life more easier and more fun.
Readers’ question (from Noortje de Ruijter):
What was your strategy when you decided to continue your career as a self-employed person?
My strategy was to set concrete goals and giving myself room to develop. I did this by actively looking for people who could help me become a better trainer and coach. Along the way I learned what worked and what didn’t. You simply have to try out a lot of different things. Because of this, I developed my own vision of learning. And, I still learn every day by reflecting on my own behavior.
More information about René Luisman can be found on his website. Do you also have an inspiring story about learning? Contact me via the contact form or via my contact details on the About us page.