You will probably be familiar with the concept of blended learning. We use blended learning methods already for a long period of time: coaching, video, self-study, group assignments. The term is hot, and it might be because of the extra possibilities we have within reach due to all new technology. Clive Shepherd wrote the book ‘More than blended learning‘. We met him at the Learning Technologies conference in London last January. Impressed by the clear framework for designing blended learning, we asked him to join us in an interactive webinar. And he did on June 9th! Here  a reflective blogpost on this webinar…

You might consider reading this blog with a learning activity in mind. In this way the ideas offered will fall right into place.

We started by reflection on the assignment we received beforehand, to watch the story of ‘Nicole started a new job with Lebeau in Brighton‘. This story shows the power of a blended approach: the introduction program matched here needs, there was a strong mix between content and starting to know people, she felt rewarded for her knowledge, she had the opportunity to choose and give direction to her own learning process, and it looked good and was a bit fancy (which fitted the branche she started to work for).

How ‘blended’ is your design approach at the moment? What are reasons for you, from a didactical point of view, to blend?

PIAF: Preparation, Input, Application, Follow-Up

On the basis of a ‘Dance Lesson’ example, Clive shows us how PIAF works. PIAF can be seen as a mix of ‘courses’ and ‘resources’. The Preparation phase makes sure that the learner is properly geared up for the course and that the course is aligned to the learner’s need. The Input phase is a phase we are familiar with, in general 🙂 The Application phase ensures that there are plenty of opportunities for the learner to consolidate the skills and build confidence. And the Follow-up phase is a way of support for the learner to continue his or her journey.

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How would the PIAF framework look like for your learning activity? Probably, Input and Application are the easiest phases to fill in?

For our (Ennuonline) learning trajectories we have an intake with participants and now and then an online lunch to get to know each other. And we really notice a difference in online activity with or without an online lunch! We might pay a bit more attention to the follow-up phase.

Blended by…

Next step is to blend it with the social context.  Clive shows us four different ways: (1) individual, (2) one-to-one, (3) group, and (4) community. I think they speak for themselves? Interesting way to look at the community way is what Clive writes in his book: “learn by interacting with a wider community, whether that’s other employees in the same organization or all those out there on the Internet.”

What is your primary social blend? How could you go one step further and add a new blend to your learning trajectory? What would be the value of that?

You can also blend with different learning strategies: exposition (one-way delivery of information), instruction, guided discovery (try things out and reflect on what you’ve learned) and exploration, which has to do with access to people and information.

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I can hear you thinking… when do we come across the ‘online’ blend? The third and fourth way of blending take this into account: blending by delivery channel (the mechanisms you use to engage the learner) and blending by mode of communication (synchronous and asynchronous). When do you use a face to face setting, offline media, online media? And what are ‘unmediated’ situations you can use for your learning trajectory? My experience is that it works to think more explicit about those options and weigh when to use what blend. As a learning designer, you believe in certain learning and design principles, and these will steer your work. Now and then, sharpen your view on possible approaches and work more explicitly with a framework like Clive offeres, might strengthen your work. By the way… the book is full of tips when to use what blend. Very practical written.

Last design question for you… how is your blend of delivery channels? When you would add a new channel, what would that be? What are advantages and drawbacks? How could you overcome these?

In our webinar with Clive, we worked on one case, brought in by a participant. Very impressive to see Clive working with these frameworks and, in this way, bring clarity and a new dimension to the case. It definitely showed the value of using a specific design approach in our work. What did it bring you?