Blended learning first emerged as a buzzword for continuing education professionals more than a decade ago and continues to be considered among the top trends for continuing education programs because of its effectiveness for knowledge delivery and retention. As a result, many associations have implemented a blended learning strategy into their training programs, offering learners the opportunity to access education both in the classroom and through e-learning. Looking forward, there are indications that the conversation is starting to shift from blended learning to blended classroom, and associations may want to take note.
Blended Learning vs. Blended Classroom
Typically, the term “blended learning” is used to describe an approach to training that mixes traditional, classroom-based instruction with online learning modules outside the classroom. While the use of e-learning tools is a way to extend the learning experience, this traditional approach to blended training may not go far enough to meet the needs of learners—particularly the emerging Generation Z. In response, some organizations, taking a cue from trends within the K-12 learning environment, are focusing on ways to blend multiple learning formats and technologies within a single classroom setting to meet the personalized needs of learners and provide deeper knowledge.
In the most common execution of blended learning, the only component that is truly “blended” is the subject matter. Although complementary, the in-person content is delivered separately, and often in a separate context, from the e-learning modules, which can lead to inconsistencies in both delivery and retention. Additionally, in the traditional approach to blended learning, the classroom content typically takes the form of a lecture, with little opportunity for in-field practical application.
Within a blended classroom, a learner may interact with printed materials, an LMS, mobile content and even virtual and augmented reality technology all as part of a single learning experience. E-learning is no longer a separate activity, but rather, it becomes integrated into the classroom, and vice-versa. The role of the in-person training becomes less about delivering fundamental principles, and more about facilitating a deeper understanding of how to apply the knowledge.
How does this play out in practice? Here is one example: An instructor may introduce a broad concept using a printed coursebook, then have learners turn to a video or e-learning module to illustrate the concept. The instructor then may incorporate independent study time for participants to use AR and VR tools, e-learning simulations and printed workbook exercises to deliver personalized, hands-on application of the discussed concepts, followed up with group discussions to share experiences and ideas.
Consider a Blended Classroom Approach to Learning for Your Association
While blended learning is a major topic of conversation among adult continuing education and training professionals, the execution of a blended classroom is most commonly found in K-12 and even technical and trade school programs. Which is the very reason associations may want to start thinking about applying it into their continuing education programs. In a few short years, your newest (and youngest) members will be conditioned to expect it.