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May 16, 2022 Jennifer Lindsay-Finan

Creating Engagement in the Blend

Hybrid Learning is the New Blended Learning

Today’s learning environment is complicated. Not only do we need to intellectually engage individual learners, but we also need to anticipate and accommodate so many different environmental scenarios. (Read more about Best Approaches to Hybrid Learning.)

It’s not just about where people are learning and what technologies they are using, it’s about how we are delivering the actual content. Virtual classroom? elearning? eBook?

Designing for the Blend

If you’ve attended any of InSync Training’s programs, you’ll know that we do more than just virtual live training. All our courses comprise live virtual classes and some self-directed work. That’s because we are fully committed to engaging our learners so that true, deep learning happens and gets transferred back to the workplace. That means that our commitment to learner engagement goes beyond the live virtual class and extends to all the self-directed work we include too.

When we design our courses, we use a process to determine whether each specific learning objective is suitable for the virtual live class. One of the key questions we ask is, ‘is there a purpose for bringing people together to work collaboratively?’

There are times when the answer to that question is ‘no’. It’s often the case that there are materials we need learners to read, a video they might like to watch, or some questions they could think about, without any input from anyone else. So how do we honor our commitment to learner engagement within the virtual classroom?

It’s also a very common topic for discussion - or even a cause for concern amongst our learners. They often tell us that ‘no one does the pre-work’ or ‘we need to set aside time in class because no one will do the self-directed work’.

Be Purposeful

First, be purposeful about the whole blend. Don’t think about using self-directed work to save time in class. Think about it as enhancing the learning journey by using the time in between classes for knowledge building, inspiring curiosity and applying what they’ve been learning in class. Only include resources and activities that add to the learning experience. Consider whether each item really should be mandatory or whether you’re just curious if learners click on everything. Be purposeful about what, when, how, and why learners should be reviewing resources, responding to forums, or participating in any activity.

Can we engage learners without interaction?

When we’re live, we believe interaction and collaboration are key to learner engagement. In this post Creating More Engagement Virtually: Classroom Collaboration vs. Interaction, Jennifer Hofmann explains that “Interaction is communication between learners, facilitators, and technology. Collaboration is exemplified by the practice of new skills and application of knowledge by the participants. If interaction keeps learners interested, collaboration stimulates intellectual engagement and encourages true learning.”

At InSync, we encourage learner interaction every 3-5 minutes in a live virtual class, and we can do that because we have the tools to help us. We have reactions buttons, chat, polls, whiteboards and because we’re all together live, we can have conversations. It’s not quite as straightforward to interact asynchronously, so can we engage learners without synchronous interaction or collaboration? Consider whether you’ve ever been engaged with watching a video, reading an article, or participating in an online forum. It is possible. It’s possible when we take a people-to-people approach: Because it’s not about fancy videos, striking graphics, or scenario-based eLearning, it’s about people. Follow our People-to-People approach no matter where the learning is taking place:

  • Identify learner intent
  • Let the intent drive the instruction
  • Let the instruction lead to the application
  • Let the application ensure practice
  • Let the practice determine mastery

How can the InQuire Engagement Framework® support the blend?


Environmental Emotional Intellectual EngagementWe can apply what we know about cognition, instruction, and neuroscience to the virtual live classroom, but how can we apply that same research to the rest of the blend? Our research showed that not only does the InQuire Engagement Framework® support deep learner engagement in the live virtual class, but it also supports deep learner engagement anywhere.

 

Intellectual Engagement

How can you intellectually engage learners asynchronously? You do that by providing thought-provoking, relevant and interesting resources, and tasks. Ensure every item in the blend is relevant to the learning objectives and is pitched at the right level for the learner’s current knowledge or skill level. Use inquiry-based approaches whenever possible, such as scavenger hunts, or self-reflection activities. Set forum questions that are moderated by a virtual trainer that requires some thought and some collaboration with the other learners.

Environmental Engagement

Outside of the virtual classroom, ensure materials are still easy to access, without involving too much setup or technical know-how. Ensure everything is accessible to all by providing videos with closed captions and making sure written content is compatible with screen reading equipment. Also ensure that completing a piece of self-directed work changes the learning environment. Just like you wouldn’t leave a learner’s comment hanging if you were together live, don’t leave them talking to themselves on the discussion boards. Encourage discussion by responding yourself and by tying what they say to other learners’ comments.

Emotional Engagement

Make sure learners can clearly see why you’re asking them to complete something. Help them connect the content to the ‘What’s in it for Me’, by using stories and examples that closely relate to their work and by highlighting the importance of the self-directed work to the learning outcomes. Include relevant, relatable stories that spark curiosity or emotionally connect learners to the content. Ensure everywhere is a safe space – who will see forum responses? If learners upload their work, where does it go and who will it be shared with?  

So, next time you assume learners are just too busy/lazy to do the self-directed work, consider the InQuire Engagement Framework and ensure you’ve applied it to the whole blend.

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Published by Jennifer Lindsay-Finan May 16, 2022
Jennifer Lindsay-Finan