When we talk about the blended learning experience it’s important to remember that we are all blended learners. It’s easy to lose sight of that fact when we spend our days designing learning experiences for others. You have a choice in how you learn, just like the learners you're developing and designing training content for.
And there’s so much information to absorb! We often fall into the ‘we need to be experts at everything’ trap. Curation? Sign me up. Virtual reality? I’ll just order some VR headset. Advanced instructional design techniques? Where can I take a class?
Realistically, we can’t all be experts at everything. Instead, we need to treat our professional development and personal learning journeys as if they were blended learning designs for other people’s development.
Your personal learning environment, needs and constraints. For example, are you generally on the road, a remote employee, member of a hybrid team or in a traditional office space? What learning resources are generally available to you? What do you want to learn and by when? As you know, environment dictates design, and that’s true for your personal learning, too.
Your personal learning path. Start by prioritizing your learning goals into ‘must learn’ and ‘nice to learn’ categories. Don’t try to become expert at everything right away. By documenting personal learning objectives, including measurable outcomes and timelines for completion, you create an achievable set of goals that can also be communicated with your mentor or supervisor.
(and identify) your personal learning network (PLN). There are so many resources available to you and you need to be able to pick and choose which resources are right for you. See the table at the end of this post for questions to ask yourself when establishing your PLN.
your plan. Just do it. Make time to learn. Collaborate with peers and your personal learning network. Practice what you’ve learned. Keep track of key lessons-learned. And curate your content! Self-curation is critical to managing and maintaining your PLN.
Is your plan working? Are you focusing on the right topics? Do you need some outside guidance to set priorities? You can change direction mid plan, but make sure you do it thoughtfully. Your approach to how to manage all of this is entirely up you, but you need to be willing to let your process evolve. Be willing to change your approach, or take on new ideas.
How do you manage your personal blend? By applying the same discipline you would use for designing any learning initiative. You are worth it!
Questions to ask when establishing your PLN
- Who are your experts? Perhaps you look to Karl Kapp for gamification resources. And you’ve heard that Jane Bozarth is the “go to” for social collaborative learning. If your goals include these topics, add them to your network. And if Sally in Human Resources knows everything there is to know about Excel macros, and that’s on your priority list, then she should be in your personal learning network as well. Additionally, communities like the Learning Guild and Training Magazine Network publish articles that you regularly read and find immediately useful. Start to map your personal learning network resources to your personal learning path.
- What’s in the course catalog? Determine what formal training you need, and sign up for learning experiences as soon as possible.
- When will you learn? Set time aside on a regular basis to learn, and then DO it. I read articles while walking on the treadmill, and watch recordings while I should be taking a lunch break. Maybe Friday mornings in a coffee shop works for you? Put designated learning time on your calendar, and respect its importance as you would any other meeting or work-event.
- How will you organize your content? If you’re like me, you have an email folder full of articles you meant to read, webinar recordings that you will watch one day, and newsletters from organizations that you think might add value. You need to find a way to identify and organize critical pieces of content so they don’t get lost in the noise. A free tool like Diigo.com allows you to “Save and tag your online, mobile resources for easy access anytime, anywhere.”
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