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.
Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over twenty years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning ten years ago.
By Tess Robinson
Posted 26 March 2021
Last year, I had the enormous privilege of being a judge for the Learning Technologies Awards. I was asked to be on the Panel for the Blended Learning category, one that we’d won the Gold Award for the previous year. I loved hearing everyone’s stories and seeing some really great examples of blended learning.
Over the course of the judging process however, it became clear that there’s not a well-defined, common understanding of what blended learning actually is. It’s often just seen as taking what you would have done face-to-face and presenting it online as a ppt or virtual classroom instead. This isn’t blended learning.
The Wikipedia entry on blended learning seems to support this simplistic definition…
Blended learning is an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace.
This definition is particularly prevalent in education but is somewhat out-dated. Blends are undoubtedly enriched by contact with other people, however, Covid has underlined the fact that this definitely doesn’t have to be in the form of physical presence. Message boards, social networks, live online tutorials, forums, hangouts etc. are all great ways to connect remotely to other human beings. The Wikipedia definition also fails to take into account the breadth of media that can be used in a blend.
Clive Shepherd wrote a great book on the subject a few years ago – More Than Blended Learning: Designing World-Class Learning Interventions (2015) – which featured one of our projects with bookseller, Waterstones. Looking at what passes for a blend today, his book seems more of an essential read than ever. It really encourages the reader to make that step change beyond the virtual classroom paradigm to a blend that consists of a full and rich mix of learning methods and media.
So, as ‘blended learning’ is growing in popularity, in my view it’s time for a new definition, to avoid it becoming a bland shadow of what it could and should be. Blends are so much more exciting than a bunch of PowerPoint slides delivered on Zoom and that’s just not reflected in the Wikipedia entry or in many people’s understanding of blended learning.
There are such a lot of things that can go into a blend and to capture all of this in a sentence or two is no mean feat. We can’t let that stop us trying though, so here goes…
Blended learning is a coherent combination of learning experiences which can include face-to-face (physical or virtual), media and technology which complement each other to achieve an overall learning or performance goal.
With the caveat that, ideally blends should be designed in a human-centred way to take account of human capacity for learning and remembering, focussing on the critical things that learners really need to know and providing look-ups and other resources for the rest.
So what do you think? Have I nailed it, or can you come up with a concise definition that better encompasses everything that can go into a modern blend?
At LAS, we have developed our own Next Generation Blend methodology. You can read more about it here.