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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What makes an effective blended learning solution?

What makes an effective blended learning solution? How do we meet the needs of all the learners and the business needs? These are tough questions instructional designers and trainers are faced with when someone says "use technology."

The first question, as it should be, is: "what is this going to cost?" In other words, can I get the same result using a low tech solution? Can I save my client money on this solution? Often the added benefits of the media do add to the value. In my experience though, I  have seen times when the low tech version is just as effective.

The second question that needs to be asked is: "is this sustainable?" There are times when trainings will need to be constantly changed and updated, but more often the client wants something that they can use for a long time, or that they can maintain themselves. They need a professional to design it, but don't or can't afford a full time relationship. Is the blended approach one that meets this need? Can it stay relevant? If not is the traditional ILT the correct path to take?

If yes was answered to the first two questions, you are on the right path. But there is a third question: "is the learner going to be able to access this?" A blended solution where the technology and the teacher are in the same room with the learner is a yes answer. But what if the blended solution requires user access outside of the classroom? Does the employee in the field have access to a computer on their work day? Are they accessing this on their own? If the solution uses Flash, does the learner have a computer that can read it?

Part of this also leads to the issue of support. I have worked at schools where the teachers had little support for technology integration, even if they had the interest. I have worked with instructors and teachers who have no interest in learning new technologies. If there is no instructor buy in then the blended solution will fall apart after the designer is done with it.

These are large considerations when beginning planning for a blended learning solution. but a little thought before beginning development can save time and money in the long run.