Blended Learning: education as a two-stage rocket
Blended learning is hot. Although the term is often used at L&D conferences and symposia, its real meaning remains unclear. If you ask specialists about their definition, they will explain blended learning usually as a mix of learning with and without technology. Personally, I choose another interpretation: blended learning is enriching your knowledge by continuously offering small learning moments in time. The course is foreplay, the real scoring happens later.
Face-to-face communication remains the best way to teach people something. Digitalization will not end classic education types, just like book printing didn’t either. The best professors do not offer their students an elaborate syllabus, but they order them to structure and categorize the subject matter themselves. Processing information autonomously provides a better guarantee of impact and long-term effects than ready-make books or PowerPoint presentations.
A business environment, however, poses a problem. Most courses are one-shots. When the bell rings, the course is over. In the best case, the organizer provides a “return day”, but everything will be irrevocably finished after that. A formal exam or check-up moment is rarely offered, although even that does not make a huge difference. Even more so than a course, a check-up moment is viewed by the student as an endpoint. Just think about your own college days: the exam creates a task load, the day after the exam you’ve already forgotten half of the course material.
This is where blended learning offers the solution. Because good training is like a two-stage rocket. One: the teacher does not have to focus on the transfer of knowledge but on long-term motivation. Two: the motivation must be fed after the course, so that the students gain knowledge and insight on their own. THE FIRST STAGE: FOCUS ON MOTIVATION The teachers have only a limited amount of time to reach their goal. Instead of firing as many facts and details onto the students, they must use that precious time entirely to convince them of the importance of knowledge and change. Not the how, but the why take up a central position.
Pure factual knowledge of the teacher is basically irrelevant: enthusiasm and persuasiveness make the difference. Only if he manages to soak the students in the necessity of widening their vision, they will find the key to anchor new knowledge in their brain later on. And yes, of course he can share tips and facts. But this is only allowed after the audience has been convinced of the value thereof. The participants must be willing to learn and change. THE SECOND STAGE: STIMULATE THE PARTICIPANT
Once the participant’s own conviction starts wavering, he is open for new knowledge and changes in behavior. Desire becomes the engine of continuous change, provided that that desire is fed.
Now the good news: maintaining momentum is not that difficult. My experience tells me that it suffices to keep the memory of the course alive in the days, weeks and months afterward. This can be done visually by hanging up posters, tip cards on the desk, wallpapers on the screen, etc. Or with a digital campaign via email or intranet spread over time. It would be ideal if managers themselves return to the course and if teams share their success stories with each other.
That is pure blended learning: learning is mixed in a natural way with everyday tasks and the participant subconsciously directs his behavior in the right direction.