Best Practices for Blended Learning
Converting an instructor led training class to a blended format class is a lot more complicated than simply transferring course handouts to PDF documents and videotaping lectures. A blended course combines traditional instructor led training with distance learning or online delivered content. The Online Learning Consortium defines blended education as course delivery where 30-79% of content is delivered online. (UCF, 2018) This guide offers a list of best practices for converting instructor led courses to blended courses.
What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before converting his program?
Blended courses and distance courses in general require a greater emphasis be
placed on planning. Many of the course materials will need to be redesigned. The designs structural focus will shift to visual presentations, engaging activities and timings design to keep interest and focus. There will be a greater need to illustrate key concepts, or topics using tables, figures, and other visual presentations. Course activities need to be structured to enable students to achieve outcomes. Activities should make the content come alive. Know the software and make sure that the learners can use the software. Make sure that the students know how to interact with the activities. Instructors will need to make sure the course organization, calendar, and activities are clear, and have a backup plan for when things go wrong.
What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format?
Most traditional instructor led classroom approaches can be incorporated in a blended environment and some can even be enhanced by the distance learning format. Lectures can be enhanced by making them short topic specific videos possibly even interactive that students can access over and over as needed.
Teaching strategies such as problem-based learning, collaboration, and student-led discussions work well in blended courses. (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012)
How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment?
The methods used to facilitate online courses are the same as instructor led courses. Facilitators should not resort to PowerPoint presentations. (Piskurich, 2018) What is different is the role of communication in an online environment. The role of the trainer goes from teacher-centered to learner-centered learning. From a lecturer to a coach. Facilitators of blended courses and distance learning courses in general, must keep in constant contact with the learners. It’s harder to keep the class together in a blended or online class, so staying in contact and monitoring learner progress is a necessity.
Activities are way more important in a distance learning environment than in a traditional classroom. Content is still critical, but it is the activities that helps to maintain the momentum to learn the content.
What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate online?
The first thing to do is to create a syllabus. The instructor needs to provide contact information in addition to explaining the structure of the course, expectations, and assignments, as well as the assessment process. To further in courage communication the instructor should use collaborative activities and small group projects. Developing thought-provoking discussions and having the learners respond to a certain minimum number of other student’s posts will encourage communication. “The threaded discussion is one of the most powerful techniques used in distance education” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 186).
Depending on whether the blended course is asynchronous or a synchronous environment. The designer could create student debates, moderated discussions, use blogs, or collaborate on projects using Wikis for an asynchronous class or use conferencing tools like WebEx or instant messaging tools like Skype for a synchronous class.
Florida, U. (2017). Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction. Retrieved from http://citt.ufl.edu/tools/gagnes-9-events-of-instruction/
Piskurish, G., Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating online learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (6th ed.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
UCF. (2018). What is blended learning. Retrieved from http://blended.online.ucf.edu/about/what-is-blended-learning/