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Jan 22, 2019 Katelind Hays

Four Steps to Contextual Virtual Learning

A Step-By-Step Process for Contextual LearningOur learners face a chaotic, complex, and overloaded world. They can (and do) access information immediately when they need it, and often dread training because they see it as a distraction from their pressing responsibilities.

So how do we encourage enthusiasm and participation in formal learning programs? Through contextualization and authenticity.

Ultimately, it comes down to strong instructional design.

The Basics of Contextualization and Authenticity

Before you can take the steps required to design better blended learning, we need to discover the fundamentals of authenticity and context in learning.

Context refers to placing learning within a larger picture. Where will learners use the new skill? What will they do before and after applying this knowledge? The answers to these questions can provide the context learners need to understand the relevance of the information.

Authenticity focuses on appropriate treatment. Blends allow us to select different design choices for each learning objective, providing flexibility. Consider each learning objective and ask yourself, “How can I best instruct learners so they can hit this target?” For instance, your design for teaching a new hire on-the-floor sales skills will differ from your design for teaching employees how to sell the same product over the phone.

A Four Step Design Process

Considering both context and authenticity provides the foundation for strong blended learning design. But transitioning from the traditional classroom to the live online environment requires more work. Our team recommends a comprehensive four-step approach.

Step 1: Break up learning objectives. Identifying the building blocks of your training program hearkens back to contextualization. This step allows you to determine the treatment for each piece of content, and helps you leverage as much of the existing lecture content as possible. Remember, the instructional design part of the program IS performance objectives.

Step 2: Select potential assessment techniques. Virtual blended learning leverages a variety of assessments. This second step builds upon the first: each objective may very well require a unique evaluation, and each will depend on the instructional treatment. If you teach an objective via self-paced instruction, you can test it in a self-paced instrument. InSync designers often say, “If you can test it online, you can teach it online.”

Step 3: Determine if collaboration will help learning outcomes. Ask, “When does interaction with other learners get them closer to their end goal?” Jane Bozarth correctly argues that “you can’t force learners to be social.” However, you can create an environment where learners feel comfortable contributing and believe that conversation with their peers and facilitators will improve the experience.

Step 4: Select an authentic training technique. Once we’ve determined our objectives and assessment needs, and how much collaboration the virtual initiative requires, the last part of the flipping-the-classroom conversation is determining an authentic training technique. During this step we ask, “Are we teaching this objective in the way in which learners will apply it?”

Focusing on contextual, authentic design improves the virtual classroom experience. Using this four-step approach benefits the learners, the organization, and the learning function. Most impactfully, we increase retention because people are learning in the environment where they’re working.


Published by Katelind Hays January 22, 2019
Katelind Hays