Blended Learning: A Optimal Mix of Self-Learning and Instructor-Led-Training

Published On: October 25th, 2020Categories: Blended learning, eLearningTags:
Blended Learning: A Optimal Mix of Self-Learning and Instructor-Led-Training

Blended learning refers to a mix of different educational approaches that facilitate learning both inside and outside the classroom. A typical virtual learning environment fosters self-learning. It makes it possible for aspirants to enhance their knowledge or skillset, preferably outside the work or school hours and on their own. Conventional education, on the other hand, relies heavily on instructor-led-training (ILT) and in-person attendance. This learning model strives to deliver the best of virtual and traditional learning experience by leveraging the benefits of technology while still retaining ILT. The role of the instructor, though, shifts from that of a “Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side”.

Blended Learning – Different Models and Purposes

Depending on the learning outcome, instructors often use a couple or more learning or teaching methods to achieve the intended results. All models of blended learning, though have a common goal. They strive to make learning more effective by making it more appealing and engaging; more importantly, by breaking the monotony of long hours of ILT.

  • Rotational models are typically useful in traditional education. Students move systematically from one workstation to the other, with each station offering a different learning approach.
  • The Mastery-Based model is similar to competency-based learning. It allows for self-paced learning along with personalized guidance and support from instructors until a skill or subject is mastered.
  • Flipped Classrooms comprise fixed hours of in-class and outside-class learning. Students learn outside the class and use school hours for hands-on learning, clarifications, and reviews, or completing assignments.
  • The Supplemental model enables learners to acquire additional skills or academic credentials in addition to those offered at the educational institution. This model comprises both online and in-person classes.
  • In the Enriched Virtual model, learners spend more time on learning online while still attending ILTs to complete their courses.

Online learning is an integral part of most of the blended learning models; the time spent online though tends to vary.

But what if the entire course or training program happens online? Blended learning in remote educational programs is still possible if online courses support both self-paced-learning and instructor-led-training.

eLearning programs are increasingly adopting blended learning to make self-paced-learning less daunting by extending instructor support and guidance if and when required.

In What Way Can Blended Learning Influence The Learning Experience?

Blended learning makes the otherwise formal and rigid learning routine a tad flexible and more engaging. It allows learners the freedom to explore alternative sources of knowledge and enhance or reinforce their understanding of a concept, subject, or skill. It also offers learners some degree of control over what they wish to learn and how they go about acquiring the necessary skills or knowledge.

In addition to the opportunity for self-paced learning, the scope for interacting with an instructor (subject expert) at regular intervals or on-demand makes blended learning more appealing.

The basic characteristics of this learning model motivate and urge learners to stay on course, making the learning experience successful and satisfying.

Is Blended Learning Suitable For Your Learning Environment?

Though blended learning has offered encouraging results at different levels of education, it may not be a universal model applicable to all learning environments.

An appropriate learning environment must have:

  • The necessary technology infrastructure and communication network to facilitate autonomous learning
  • The budget to support the learning model in the long run
  • Trained instructors and teachers who can manage (create, deliver, assess and grade) online classes

Another critical factor is the learner’s mindset towards remote or virtual learning. Addressing a few fundamental queries such as these is vital to ascertain if learners are ready to adopt a different learning approach.

  • Are learners comfortable with self-learning?
  • Do they have the necessary resources at home to catch up with lessons outside school hours?
  • How reliable is the local internet connectivity?

Most importantly, this learning approach may not be justified when it comes to vocational courses and subjects/skills that require extensive hands-on training.

Blended Learning in Corporate Training

Most corporate training programs support blended learning as it benefits both the employee and employer.

Companies prefer this learning model, as the process is cost-effective. They get to save funds otherwise spent on infrastructure, space, commute, and time as a significant part of the learning happens online. As the online content is accessible 24X7 via employees’ personal devices, learning can occur outside work hours without disrupting the daily routine. In-person or online ILT sessions serve to reinforce understanding and clarify doubts. Live sessions on-premise, can cover hands-on training, demonstrations, practical applications, and assessments, as seen fit.

Personalized, corporate blended programs are fast gaining traction as they effectively address specific requirements.

How to Implement Blended Learning in Online Classes

Online classes and training programs are typically learner-centric. Learners interact (only) with digital content in different formats to complete such courses; usually without any supervision or guidance as part of the program.

eLearning programs can support blended learning in different ways without needing extensive changes to existing content. Programs can include a healthy mix of self-learning and one or more of the following facilities to achieve the intended learning objectives:

  • Live ILT Sessions
  • Chat Groups
  • Forums
  • Audiovisual recordings
  • Social Media

As the entire course work is completed online, allowing for different modes of interaction can facilitate blended learning as in conventional settings. Part of the learning can happen autonomously, some of it via live or recorded ILTs and yet some more through group work. The challenge, however, is to decide on the right mix of learning models, model-specific content, and duration.

Blended Learning Experience Using a Learning Management System

A reliable and feature-rich learning management system (LMS) often serves as the backbone of virtual blended learning programs. An LMS typically enables course authors and instructors to switch between different learning methods using a centralized platform efficiently. Among other things, they must be able to:

Blended learning requires instructors and students to work with each other and independently as well.  This requirement can be met if the LMS supports role-specific secure access to the eLearning platform and course contents. Automated and custom reports are usually available for instructors to track learner progress.

Supplemental blended learning is also possible if the learning environment offers multiple courses, and the LMS supports self-enrollment. Learners will be able signup for other additional courses if they wish to.

Digitizing conventional classrooms or introducing live online classes in remote education can both create an effective blended learning experience. Choosing the right set of tools and technology, and investing in a suitable LMS are likely to make the initiative more effective and worthy of the effort.

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