For this week’s application we were asked to formulate a best practice guide for trainers to follow when converting from a face-to-face training environment to a blended or hybrid distance learning format. The scenario is as follows:
A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times. (Laureate Education Inc., n. d.)
Based on course material and other resources, we were to consider the following:
- What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before converting his program?
- What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format?
- How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment?
- What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate online?
As organizations look to new ways to create more efficient training sessions, many are turning to a learning blend combining online and traditional teaching methods.
What is Blended Learning? LearningHood explains why Blended learning is such a powerful change in pedagogy from traditional methods of lesson delivery (LearningHood, 2013).
There are many definitions of blended learning; Figure 1 shows the spectrum range from face-to-face training to fully online or anywhere in between (Academy School District 20, 2013).
Figure 1 Attribution: Blended Learning Model developed by Rick Tanski, Academy Online High School
Definitions of blended learning vary mainly due to the emerging state of the distance education field. According to Picciano and Seaman (2007), in hybrid or blended formats, between 30 to 79% of instructional content could be delivered through online delivery. The challenge is to find the correct blend that fit the need and requirements of the trainees and the expectations of the trainer (and management).
When planning for conversion it is vital all components of the learning system (i.e. instructors, learners, materials and technical components) are viewed as one. Pre-planning considerations should include (adapted from Simonson et al., 2012, p. 153):
|Traditional classroom material will need revision
||Plan for the use of tables, figures, and visual elements; include multimedia tools such as video and simulations.
|Activities should encourage interactivity at all training sites
||Pre-plan for interactivity based on learner analysis reduces this problem.
|Provide a supportive social environment (group work)
||Use of case studies and group discussions to find solutions.
|Be prepared for technical problems
||Conduct risk analysis and prepare alternative plans
|Understand the needs of trainees
||Conduct learner and needs analysis using surveys and questionnaires, benchmarking.
|Identify the technical tools and resources to support the online format
||Plan to implement multiple interactive and collaborative tools such as a content management system; the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and discussion boards can be used to facilitate collaboration and sharing of ideas among trainees and trainers.Or tool compatibility to current LMS.
|Mix the right blend of learning methods
||Link learning objectives to organizational goals
Enhancing the Training Program with a Blended Environment
There are three main reasons organizations move training to a blended learning format: to increase access and flexibility; to improve cost-effectiveness; and more efficient use of resources (Graham, Allen and Ure, as cited in Wallace and Young, 2010). In terms of cost, flexibility and accessibility, asynchronous training would be well suited for the scenario outlined and fit with the different-time, same-place format for blended learning (Simonson et al., 2012; Laureate Education Inc., n .d.). Since a proportion of training content will be delivered online, training materials can be distributed via online tools. Activities usually associated with face-to-face training can be substituted with online activities such as use of the discussion board (Simonson et al., 2012). The challenge for the instructional designer is to select technological tools which offer the best solution of providing learners with interactive training in an asynchronous learning environment (Beldarrain, 2006).
Variables such as geography, time, learning styles, technical skills, and other factors can present barriers or benefits to online and blended learning (Russell & Young, 2010). The following table presents benefits and barriers to blended learning (Simonson et al., 2012).
|Course components available online can be accessed from anywhere, anytime
||Requires self-motivation to facilitate learning
|Learners still receive face-to-face time with the instructor
||Learners and instructors must be computer and internet literate.
|Blended/hybrid courses have been found to be comparable in educational value to face-to-face instruction (Picciano & Seaman, 2007).
||Need high speed internet access and up-to-date computer hardware and software, which can be costly.
Traditional approaches to teaching are being replaced with more effective learning approaches that focus more on providing students with a more engaging learning experience. The biggest change is the change in learning from teacher centered to student centered (Simonson et al., 2012). According to Oblinger (as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 196) the differences are as follows:
|Same-time, Same Place
||Different-Time, Different Place; Different-Time, Same-Place
Steps to encourage the trainees to communicate online
In today’s workplace environment it is necessary for individuals to communicate and collaborate within the constraints of time and place (Beldarrain, 2006). Blended learning promises to create a stronger learning community and provide for more efficient training. To build expertise and develop problem-solving skills, “live presentation tools, application sharing, chats, and emails are just a few of the many tools available for interaction and collaboration” (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 150). Below are additional steps facilitators can use to enhance student communication and collaboration.
|Avoid “Dumping” face-to-face instructional material onto the web.
||Are you using the same training handouts, power point slides, and passive instructional material?
|Organize the course and make the organization and requirements clear.
||Does course have a calendar? Are activities and expectations clear? Is the course organized?“Instructors of online courses must make the course organization, calendar, activities, and expectations as clear as possible” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 134).
|Keep Students Informed Constantly.
||Use the system (CMS) announcement tool to get information to trainees? E-mail system?
|Think about Course Outcomes.
||Promoting thinking skills through course activities. (Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives has been found useful in this process) (Simonson et al., 2012).
|Test Applications, Not Rote Memory.
||Are training assessments embedded into training modules?
|Train Students to Use the Course Website.
||Simonson et al. (2012) state “it is essential that training be provided at the beginning of the course, through online tutorials in the case of virtual courses and in a face-to-face setting if available” (p. 137).
|Apply Adult Learning Principles with Nontraditional Students.
||Learner-Learner collaboration; instructor facilitation/SME
|Integrate the Power of the Web into the Course.
||Has the Web been used effectively using Web 2.0 tools for collaboration, communication and student engagement?
Emerging technologies will continue to create larger demands for distance learning in the workplace; research continues to show constructivist learning environments build social interaction that can better prepare workers in organizational training sessions (Beldarrain, 2006); Simonson et al., 2012).
Development Guide for Facilitators
Facilitator Guide to Blended Learning
Academy School District 20. (2013). Blended learning in academy district 20. Retrieved from http://www.asd20.org/departments/it/D2021cSkills/Pages/Blended-learning.aspx
Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. doi:10.1080/01587910600789498
Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm05/eqm0511.asp?print=yes
Laureate Education Inc., n. d.). Application: Converting to a distance learning format. [Course Resources]. Retreived from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_4775279_1%26url%3D
LearningHood. (2012, Jan. 23). Blended Learning in plain english. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM_Y2NSJcmE
Picciano, A., & Seaman, J. (2007). K–12 online learning: A survey of U.S. school district administrators. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (ED530103)
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com.
The Oxford Group. (2013). Blended learning—current use, challenges and best practices . Retrieved from http://www.kineo.com/m/0/blended-learning-report-202013.pdf
Wallace, L., & Young, J. (2010). Implementing blended learning: Policy implications for universities. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 13(4), Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter134/wallace_young134.html