Blended learning means including several different media in your learning process. What specific blended activities are most effective? It depends on where you are in the learning process. Learning does not just “happen” through one encounter with new content. Rather, learning happens in a cycle, through repeated interaction with the content over time. In the broadest sense, this cycle can be broken down into three phases: learner preparation, content discovery/practice, and application/review.

1. Learner Preparation

Level The Playing Field By Providing Key Concepts Up Front

In this phase, we prepare learners to encounter new content – skills, and knowledge. The objective here is to generate curiosity, provide baseline knowledge, perhaps even create a sense of urgency. The aim is to increase learners’ readiness. So what kinds of blended learning activities might we use? What about an online survey to assess current knowledge or a short sneak peek video to excite curiosity?

Maybe your learners already have a wide range of knowledge. In this case, a web-based online course could provide foundational information like key vocabulary words or important scientific formulas that could help level the playing field for those learners with less prior experience. Not enough budget to make an online course? Even a .pdf document emailed in advance with a few key questions to answer can be an effective activity to help prepare learners.

For one client rolling out an intensive construction Project Management bootcamp, we electronically sent out 4 challenging but common scenarios in advance of the training and asked attendees to answer questions about each scenario based on their current knowledge. During the bootcamp, we covered several related skills, then reviewed the four scenarios together, discussing how their answers had changed.

TIP: Be sure your introductory or invitational materials are really inviting, not just a generic, system-generated email. Bland communication could turn into a wasted opportunity to connect with learners and help them connect with the content.

2. Content Discovery and Practice

Create Engagement By Using Unexpected Media

We like to challenge clients to imagine that there is no such thing as PowerPoint. Now how would you teach the content? Live or video demonstrations, podcasts, or even infographics might be compelling ways to present new information. Then get creative when it comes time to practice.

We know that adults learn more effectively if they are emotionally engaged in the content, so can you create a game or some outlet for a safe personal challenge while practicing. The more realistic the practice activity, the better. So consider using true case studies or a realistic online simulation for maximum impact.

TIP: Review your instruction, and note how frequently you shift media/activities. Try to have no more than 8 minutes of a lecture at a time. (That’s only 4-5 slides.) Busy adult learners need a lot of variety.

3. Application/Review

Blended Activities Can Invite Social Learning

Adults learn by doing, and with effective support. So what blended learning activities can you use during the “back at work” phase of learning that takes place after the formal event? Consider using existing tools within your organization to create an online learning group, a community or forum, where people can post about their practice, ask a question, and get support from one other. Send out text message quizzes reinforcing key concepts, or even make a phone-based review game. Mobile apps can be used to manage and track resource information or even practice exercises for each learner as they reach competency.

Short on time or money? What about a simple quick reference card with key steps outlined or an infographic of the primary process? These could be provided electronically or on paper. The key is the repetition of the main ideas in many different and engaging ways.

TIP: Consider what media are overused in your organization, and think outside the box. Overusing email? How about a video message from a prior learner?

So how do you choose the best blended activities for your learning program? You must consider your timeline and resources (Do you really have the time, skills, and budget to create a high-end WBT to use as prework?), your audience (What is their range of prior knowledge? How embracing of technology or self-study are they? Where are they geographically?), and their learning/working environment (Do they all have access to a tablet or smartphone at work? How much pre- or post-work can they realistically complete while on the job?). With so many options for effective blended learning activities, narrowing down your options can seem a bit overwhelming. We, at Obsidian Learning, are happy to help navigate the design and development process.

Watch for our next article about how to build blended learning on a budget!

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