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A Learning Smoothie?

It seems I’ve been having more discussions lately about blended learning and how clients can take a strategic approach to designing learning that impacts on performance. I’ve also been talking with other learning professionals about how to make recommendations for blended learning.

Blended Learning

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In my experience, the most effective blended learning solutions rely on support from the learner’s manager and on organizational support for the manager’s role in the initiative. Solutions that involve on-the-job activities, coaching, and mentoring require active involvement from supervisors, and that requires time. For a quick animated take on blended learning, click the demo on the right.

The term “blended learning” can also mean many things. Just adopting a blended learning approach is often to realize there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to learning. I was on the phone the other day when my daughter overheard me talking about blended learning and asked, “What’s that? Is it like a learning smoothie?”

I asked my daughter what she knew about making a smoothie, and as we started talking, I realized some of the things she mentioned did resonate with blended learning design:

  1. You need the right combination of ingredients. A strawberry-peach-banana smoothie requires those three fruits, in the right balance, with appropriate additions such as ice or juice. Designing an effective blended learning solution also requires understanding the best components to include to deliver the learning that’s needed. The balance also needs to be right – new employees might need introductory systems training via eLearning that isn’t necessary for more experienced learners.
  2. You need a recipe that outlines the steps. To blend up a smoothie, you need to know what to do. To get the most out of a blended learning solution, your learners need to know what options are available to them and how to access the training. They should understand how the learning connects to their job, and how (if?) to sequence the components.
  3. You need to be open to experimentation. As important as the recipe may be, sometimes the best smoothie is made by using the ingredients that are available. Blended learning solutions can be designed to leverage existing components or to redesign training that’s lost its edge.
  4. You need to make it palatable. No one wants to finish a smoothie that tastes unpleasant on the first sip. Same with blended learning. Your learners’ experience should be seamless, engaging, and easy to integrate into their normal daily activities.

Okay. So there’s obviously more to blended learning design than mixing up a smoothie, but they do share some similarities. Let’s blend.

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