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LAS is an award-winning provider of bespoke elearning design and development, consultancy and training services in the UK and internationally. We help organisations grow and evolve through digital learning experiences.

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..

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Blended Learning: the Next Generation

By Rob Hubbard
Posted 27 October 2017

It's great to see so many people getting on board with blended learning. The Training Industry now really seem to have embraced it. Some are perhaps still a little overwhelmed by the range of possible delivery methods, but they understand that a better outcome can be achieved through mixing things up a bit.

Many get started with a simple learning blend of
1. Information-based elearning course
2. Workshop to practice skills
3. Implementation doc to help put learning into practice

Certainly the skills workshop (2) and implementation support (3) are strong elements, but this blend has an inherent flaw - it builds on the weak and wobbly foundations of the information-based elearning course (1).

Stuffing all the information into the elearning course might sound sensible but it doesn’t work. Simply converting material into another format doesn’t make it more memorable or impactful. It doesn’t take account of how human memory or attention work. It’s doing learners a disservice and dooms these projects to failure.

We’ve been developing ‘brain-friendly’ blends – something we refer to as Next Generation Blends (mostly because Brain-Friendly Blended Learning is almost impossible to say). So just what is Next Generation Blended Learning?

A Next Generation Blend takes account of the capabilities and limitations of the human brain. Too much training has been characterised by information overload. Some training designers seem under the impression that their learners have hard drives for brains - new material can be loaded into the brain where it resides, accurately stored, until it is ready to be recalled. Does your brain work like this? Mine certainly doesn’t!

The human brain is NOT a hard drive. Memory is fallible and easily influenced – even the act of recalling a memory changes it. A Next Generation Blend takes account of this. We know our learners will remember only the general gist and not the detail of the material. We structure the blend accordingly and treat them like humans.

A Next Generation Blend includes more advanced modes of delivery. Yes there will be animation, videos, interactions, documents, quizzes and mini-modules. However, there are also typically learning reinforcement games, assignments, scenarios, quests, learning transfer tools, implementation aids, portals and apps.

These more advanced modes of delivery are more like the digital experiences people use in their personal lives. They provide multiple touch-points in the learning journey and some can be used both throughout the blend and beyond, in other training programmes and initiatives within the organisation.

A Next Generation Blend is more like a campaign than a course. A little learning, done often, over a period of time has much more chance of changing behaviours than a one-off event, no matter how impactful. Even better if participants move through in cohorts so we can make use of positive peer-pressure, competition and collaboration to motivate people and build engagement. The digital learning enhances human contact. It doesn’t replace it.

A Next Generation Blend addresses big problems or opportunities. We always encourage people to consider the size of the problem or opportunity they want to address and then investing in a solution accordingly. Typically we expect our projects to generate a minimum return on investment of 5:1. Often these blends are popular for sales or marketing situations, where impact is more easily measured. Increasingly however, we see such blends as applicable to compliance training, where an organisation wants to move beyond tick-box compliance to behaviour change.

If you like the sound of Next Generation Blended Learning, first look for a big problem to solve or opportunity to capitalise upon within your organisation. In the rapidly changing business environment of today, this shouldn’t be hard. Then attempt to quantify the problem or opportunity – what does it cost your organisation in lost sales, legal costs, increased risk and so forth? Next consider what affect a performance increase for those involved might have – what percentage uplift might you see? If the numbers make sense, invest accordingly to fix it – and evaluate the success, adjusting as you go to ensure you achieve your outcomes.

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