About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Rob Hubbard

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Rob is a designer through and through who is fascinated by how we learn,  what we remember and why we pay attention to certain things. He is a huge enthusiast of all that technology can offer to enhance learning and has completed a huge variety of projects in his 14 year career. 

He is the editor and co-author of The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual published by Wiley and featuring contributions from the brightest and best elearning minds on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Trouble with Blended Learning

by Rob Hubbard
Posted 13th March 2020

Blended learning has been around for as long as learning has - we have always learnt using a variety of methods. But then came technology and many were seduced by the convenience and relative ease of producing elearning modules. eLearning vendors did very nicely thank you, essentially building the same learning experience - the traditional e-learning module - regardless of the audience or project objective. But this didn’t connect with learners. The trouble was, this approach removed one of the most important ingredients of a learning experience - human contact. As a social species we yearn to connect to other humans. Learners became disengaged and we’re still managing the fallout from this 20 years later.

Soon learning designers realised that allowing human
interaction, both peer-to-peer and learner-to-tutor was important. Blended learning to the rescue! OK, it wasn’t as convenient as lobbing elearning modules at people, but it enhanced the learning experience. “Content is King” cried the learning designers and went through the face-to-face course material looking at how best to ‘convert’ it to digital. They would identify what would make a good video, animation, interaction or learning game and then design and build them. The result would be a blend that looked and felt good - the videos were great, the animations engaging, the learning game fun to play - learners would rate the blend highly, but the business impact would be limited. This confusing disconnect caused many to wonder at the value blended learning was adding and avoid measuring the impact of their learning experiences. 

Now here’s the problem; by starting with the content and not the people, learning designers were unlikely to have focussed the development time and budget, and most importantly; their learner’s attention on the right things. Those things which; if learnt and applied, would bring the most impact to the individual and the organisation. This is why we developed our Next Generation Blended Learning methodology; distilling our knowledge of human memory, attention, skill development and behaviour change into a logical approach. 

We wanted to make blended learning: 
* Human-centred - so that it meets the needs of the audience, increasing the positive impact they can have
* Flexible - so it can be used both for formal learning for those unfamiliar with the content and informal performance support for intermediate and advanced learners 
* Rapid - so, depending on the forms of digital learning selected, it can be rapidly designed and deployed 
* Affordable - an approach that would cost no more than traditional blended learning but ensure that budget is spent where it counts 

So how does it work? First we undertake a little research and learn about the audience, the problem or opportunity the project is trying to address, the success state we’re aiming for and what the project constraints are. It’s at this stage that we identify whether a blend or indeed a course of any kind is the best approach.

If it is, next we categorise the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes we want to develop in the blend so we can focus our learners’ attention, and development time and budget, where it has the most impact: 
* Knowledge - we divide into Recall (what we want learners to hold in their heads and instantly recall) and Refer (the information it is OK for them to look-up to when needed) 
* Skills - into those that are High and Low-risk to the individual or the organisation
* Behaviours - into those that are hard to change and easy to change for that particular audience
* Attitudes - into this that are likely to be easy to influence and hard to influence

Once we’ve completed this categorisation we then design the learning experiences accordingly and this is where the magic happens. It’s at this point that you need excellent learning experience designers, able to design using the full breadth of the 30+ forms of digital learning now available, to ensure you get the most effective and efficient blend. It’s easy to over-engineer at this stage, but a great learning experience designer will keep the blend lean; both in terms of development cost and importantly; learner time.

All through this process we keep our understanding of the audience, the overall project objective and constraints front and centre. In our work overall we’ve found the key to success is a deeply human-centred approach and Next Generation Blended Learning is the same. Stay tuned - we’ll be sharing plenty more on our Next Gen approach over the coming weeks.

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