Blended learning is a concept (or is it a piece of jargon) which has been with us for sometime. Its one of those phrases where it is easy to assume everyone understands it and it has a common meaning.
Step forward Jane Hart to expose the reality:
- “Blended Learning” has a variety of meanings, and
- It is a bit of a misnomer [
Jane ran a poll from her website and provided 4 alternative definitions for readers to vote on:
A: A training programme containing a mix of face-to-face-and e-learning
B: A training activity containing a range of formats and media
C: A strategic L&D approach to supporting a wide range of learning initiatives
- just under half of the respondents opted for the more traditional definition of the term
- it’s clear that “blended learning” means different things to different people.
- So just like many other terms … we need to be quite sure we explain what we mean by them to avoid any confusion.
- Personally, I don’t like the term – and tend to agree more with the last definition – so avoid it as much as I can!
And finally …
- There’s no such thing as blended ‘learning’. Blended ‘delivery of stuff’? – now that’s a different thing!
Which, for me, gets at the heart of the matter and why blended learning is a misnomer.
- Learning is something we must do for ourselves – a blended delivery of material may help us learn but individuals have to be responsible for their own learning.
Another great graphic from Jane (below) expands on this. This model describes a range of activities for supporting learning in the workplace. It shows a continuum of “learning activities” and the value obtained from those activities.
Her stance is, that in today’s world, most value comes from individuals driving their own learning in the work place or through their own personal learning network e.g. via the Web or personal contacts.
And Jane lays down the challenge:
- How much learning are you enabling in your organisation?
- Are you only creating, delivering and managing courses?
- Or are you supporting all the other ways people learn in the workplace?
My take here – if you are looking for effective ways to support learning in your IT organisation:
- You should support a mix of activities from this continuum
- This approach is more likely to lead to high impact learning compared to the promise of a blended delivery of stuff.
- This is compatible to the 70:20:10 model but one which really emphasises the value and importance of IT professionals taking personal responsibility for their own learning.
Why is it important / essential that individuals take responsibility and that organisations help (even insist) that they take personal responsibility?
- IT is a fast moving profession in a fast moving world – we cannot expect someone else to create formal learning for us and deliver it on a plate for us to consume
- Successful IT organisations are made up of individuals who are willing and able to actively seek out solutions and apply these to the real life problems facing us in our organisation
- We therefore need to shift the culture to one of personal responsibility for learning with the organisation and line manager providing support and resources to help.
However moving outwards on this continuum is not straightforward in many IT organisations today:
- Many IT people are happy to re actively sit on their hands waiting to be trained. And many line managers react passively to this and do not help stretch their teams to take personal responsibility.
- Many Training or L&D teams are more comfortable in the role as a “scheduler of training courses”. Taking on a more facilitative / stretching role is not something they have been asked to do and they may well lack the skills, experience or even the confidence to do that
- The IT training industry has a propensity to focus too much on the conveyor belt approach to delivering training courses and IT certifications rather than a focus on the improved performance that can be achieved when the learning is applied to work
I will return to this theme in a later article – if you have any views on how IT organisations can make this journey please let me know.