In a recent blog post, we described modern blended learning as the realization of a harmonic balance of instructional, technical, organizational, and delivery components in support of learner engagement and achievement.
In order to find and establish that harmonic balance, we need to start with our learning objectives, consider where, when, and how our learners are learning, and then determine the best way to deliver that learning.
Yes, once again, it all starts with learning objectives.
The Learning Journey Begins
Learning objectives express the behavior we expect learners to demonstrate as a result of learning, and establish a framework for the learning journeys we design. In other words, they shape our learning journey road maps, and help us set up signposts to guide our learners along the way.
As instructional designers, we need to ensure that that learning journey is not all uphill, or made up of only one-way streets. We also need to make sure that we are creating a pathway through that learning journey that is navigable, manageable, and appropriate for our learners.
In blended learning, we help our learners navigate by contextualizing all learning materials, and providing course maps, curated content, and continuous feedback. We help them manage their learning by offering time and task management tools and strategies.
But creating the right balance is certainly a challenge!
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy with regard to learning delivery modes. Most of us would not go kayaking in the middle of a desert, or play tennis on the side of a mountain. Just the same, we should not be designing live, instructor-led learning events to help learners achieve objectives that are better assessed through self-paced learning.
If an objective can be assessed in a self-paced format, then design self-paced learning to meet that objective. If you need to assess in a live setting, then the learning associated with that objective needs to be delivered in a virtual classroom, or perhaps even a traditional classroom. If collaboration or communication need to take place in order to assess an objective, the learners need to meet and have the opportunity to talk to one another, and the facilitator.
Reviewing the best way to assess each objective will help determine the appropriate elements to include in your blend, as well as guide the technology and delivery mode selection process.
The Balancing Act
As you progress through the design process, the pathway you create for your learners will establish harmony and balance in that blended learning experience. Context will be the pavement of that pathway, helping to scaffold learners through knowledge and associated skill levels along the way.
Remember to take some time to “walk a mile in the shoes” of your learners. Enjoy the journey and explore all available pathways. You will know you have succeeded when you turn a corner and find yourself face-to-face with a learning objective or two!