Love is in the Air ….

My Distance Education class at Walden is discussing the following scenario for this week’s assignment:zcool-Heart 2

A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Our assignment is to reflect on this scenario and offer some suggestions.

The part of this scenario that caught my attention was the statement “…the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format.” This statement is an indicator of what happens all too often in training and HR – someone falls in love with a training strategy and decides everything must change, to incorporate this new strategy. I’ve worked in organizations that decreed All training will be…on-the-job training, self-paced training, use a wacky set of adult learning multiple intelligences, etc. To me, these decrees make as much sense as saying “All training will be conducted on bucking broncos” or “All learners will wear Star Trek t-shirts.” There is no one-fit answer to all training.

But, that’s the challenge instructional designers face, trying to balance the “let’s change everything” directives with the needs of the learners and the training objectives. And just for clarity, I like blended learning. Some of my best friends are blended-learning designers.

Given this situation, what factors should be considered when changing training programs? Again, I’m such a concrete literal thinker that I’m a bit stymied by the scenario. There’s not a lot of information. So I’m going to “Kobayashi Maru” the scenario a bit (Google it). I’m going to apply details from a training course that my organization is currently using and contemplating changing to blended learning. I’ll still try to use the information from the original scenario, but with just a bit more detail:

This training is held annually in Thailand and covers 5 days. The participants are upper level finance staff from various national offices. The training is scenario based with presentations by executive staff throughout the week. These executive staff members also play the role of SMEs for answering questions during the scenarios.

So, back to the scenario analysis – our focus in the scenario(s) is on:

  • What pre-planning strategies need to be considered?
  • What aspect of the original training could be enhanced in the distance learning format?
  • How will his role, as trainer change?
  • What steps are needed to encourage online leaners to communicate with other learners online?

A blended learning program combines online and face-to-face delivery, with 30% to 79% of the content delivered online (Allen & Seaman, 2010). In the article The Sloan-C Pillars and Boundary Objects in Framework for Evaluating Blended Learning, (Laumakis et al, 2008) discusses the Sloan-C Pillar and Boundary Object approach to evaluating the effectiveness of blended learning. While I’m not sure it’s ever smart to work backwards in instructional design, I do think these five pillars provide excellent criteria for evaluating whether the blended-learning strategy is appropriate, or at least elements to consider in the development of the program. The five pillars are:

1)     learning effectiveness

2)     access

3)     cost effectiveness

4)     student satisfaction

5)     faculty satisfaction.

I’m going to use a table to detail the strategies and analysis. I realize that this blog is already long, so I’m attaching the table in a PDF.  Evaluation blended

I do believe that blended learning is an exciting method of training. I think any shift from an Instructor-Centered Model to a Learning-Centered Model is a good thing. However “teaching with technology requires a new set of skills for most educators and learners.” (Simonson et al, 2012. p. 142). I think that this type of change needs to be carefully considered and evaluated by instructional designers and training professionals to make sure that educators and learners are ready for the move. Don’t pick a strategy and then try to make the learning work.

Resources:

Allen, I. & Seaman, I. (2007). Making the grade: Online education in the United States. 2006; Midwestern edition. Wellesley, MA: Sloan Consortium.

Bonk, C. J., & Cunningham, D. J. (1998). Searching for learner-centered, constructivist, and socio-cultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. J. Bonk & K. S. King

George, T. & Mcgee, M. K. Educational AdvantageInformation Week, March 10, 2003, pp. 57-58.

Laumakis M., Graham C., Dziuban, C., (2008). The Sloan-C pillars and boundary objects as a framework for evaluating blended learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 13(1) pp.75-87

Naaj, M., Nachouki, M., Ankit A.,(2012) Evaluating student satisfaction with blended learning in a gender-segregated environment. Journal of Information Technology Education. 11. pp. 185-200.

Napier, N., Dekhane S., Smith, S., (2011). Transitioning to blended learning: understanding student and faculty perceptions. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 15(1).pp. 20-32.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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