So all this ‘new year, new me’ talk has been cir­cu­lat­ing and it looks like a major­i­ty of peo­ple have already giv­en up on their res­o­lu­tions. With this in mind, I think it’s a good time to focus on a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment which fre­quent­ly floods my var­i­ous social media feeds… blend­ing, or blend­ed learn­ing that is (sor­ry).

I think a key con­sid­er­a­tion is being missed. 

L&D pre­dom­i­nant­ly con­sists of what dig­i­tal or face-to-face learn­ing we should com­plete, rather than how adults learn effec­tive­ly. Choos­ing instead to buy into vast amounts of blend­ed mate­r­i­al, either dig­i­tal or oth­er­wise, that might not nec­es­sar­i­ly improve the com­pa­ny’s learn­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for staff. 

Let’s get the basics right first. 

So, what is blended learning? 

Accord­ing to the Glos­sary of Edu­ca­tion Reform, blend­ed learn­ing is a mix between face-to-face learn­ing and dig­i­tal learn­ing (Part­ner­ship and Con­cepts, 2013). How­ev­er, how much of each you should com­plete for the ulti­mate learn­ing expe­ri­ence is unclear.

What I’m not going to do now is tell you the amount of each to com­plete. I will leave that conun­drum up to you.

I am, how­ev­er, going to tell you how you can cre­ate a work­place nour­ish­ing smooth­ie so deli­cious that staff will keep com­ing back for more. No ‘new year, new me’ quit­ters here.

The Ingredients (quantities to taste)

graph for sarahs blog

So here are the ingre­di­ents (Joyce and Show­ers, 2002):

The Base —  Presentation of Theory 

Staff need to know what they are learn­ing and why: FACT. So this is the base. The liq­uid that holds the smooth­ie togeth­er and makes sure it’s smooth and yum­my. With­out it, you would have ined­i­ble mush. How­ev­er, it’s not real­ly going to nour­ish you much, as you can see in the graph. 85% of peo­ple would be able to under­stand the con­cept, yet only 5–10% would imple­ment it. So it’s impor­tant, but it’s not going to rock your world with­out the oth­er ingredients. 

The Sweetness — Modelling

The per­fect exam­ple of observ­ing the skill. Sug­ar and spice and all things nice. Nor­mal­ly deliv­ered through eLearn­ing con­tent or a class­room-based learn­ing activ­i­ty. It would show the employ­ee the best way to do the skill. 

How­ev­er, show­ing them how to do it doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that they will put it into prac­tice. In fact, this is much the same as how giv­ing the the­o­ry alone means that only 5–10% of peo­ple will be able to imple­ment the new skill. But, like the the­o­ry, mod­el­ling is still a cru­cial fac­tor when think­ing about how adults learn, and it’s effec­tive once you add the rest of your ingre­di­ents…  

The Protein — Practice and Low Risk Feedback 

We need pro­tein to grow our mus­cles big and strong. So this rep­re­sents the devel­op­ment of skills and prac­tis­ing them whilst receiv­ing low risk feedback. 

Imag­ine you’ve signed up for a free per­son­al train­er. They’re gonna help you learn the skills, show you them, and then give you feed­back on them. But, you’re not nec­es­sar­i­ly going to go back for more or sign-up for their gym mem­ber­ship. It’s just a taster. For instance, the learn­er will be able to show you the skill whilst you are observ­ing them. But, when it comes to tak­ing it for­ward, although slight­ly high­er than pre­vi­ous ingre­di­ents, there’s still only a 10–15% chance that they’ll embed the skill into their every­day practice. 

The Greens — Coaching and Peer to Peer Mentoring

Now, this is the real­ly nour­ish­ing stuff. Full of iron and vit­a­mins and every­thing you need to make your eyes bright and your hair shine. The greens include guid­ed learn­ing, help­ing out your col­leagues and using a coach. This is where L&D real­ly starts to take off. It’s where the real results happen. 

We should def­i­nite­ly have more greens, and we know we should, but we don’t. It’s expen­sive and time-con­sum­ing and gen­er­al­ly over­looked on a day-to-day basis. But as you can see from the graph, coach­ing and peer to peer men­tor­ing sees 95% of peo­ple chang­ing their behav­iour after receiv­ing it. It real­ly is the good stuff. 

Now Blend…

To make a smooth­ie nour­ish­ing you have to make sure you cov­er all of the above. Then you can blend. A blend­ed learn­ing approach is not only eas­i­er in terms of imple­men­ta­tion. But, if com­plet­ed cor­rect­ly, com­pa­nies begin to save on time and mon­ey whilst pro­vid­ing staff with the best pos­si­ble envi­ron­ment to learn in.

How­ev­er, if this is com­plet­ed with­out cov­er­ing all of the above, no amount of blend­ing, no mat­ter how tai­lored, will work. If you have a smooth­ie filled with just kale and soya milk, let’s face it, no one will enjoy it (and if you do, you are just lying to yourself). 

What mat­ters most is mak­ing sure that staff receive a well-bal­anced learn­ing and devel­op­ment pro­gramme which ensures that, they not only know the the­o­ry but change their day-to-day behav­iours as well. 
Bon Appetit.

Do you use a mix of learn­ing styles in your organ­i­sa­tion? Let us know what works best for you in the com­ments. Click here to learn how to suc­cess­ful­ly trans­fer skills across your organisation. 

How to nour­ish your learn­ing smoothie
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