Five great things about blending it!

One of the things I’m doing at the moment is running the online part of a blended trainer development course and mentoring programme. It’s the first time I’ve run a trainer training course in this way – courses I’m involved in are usually fully face-to-face or fully online and it’s got me thinking about the pros and cons of blended, online and face-to-face for that matter.

Getting a good blend...

Is the blend right?

In the case of this particular course, the participants have already done the face-to-face part over five days in November 2011. They are all now working on a virtual learning environment (Moodle), sharing their experiences as they practise the skills they learnt in the course, discussing issues and problems- and being mentored and supported through their post-course development. This stage will last initially three months.

I’m finding it very stimulating watching the participants’  post-course development and I thought I’d share with you five great things I’m discovering about blending it in this way.

  1. It’s easy to connect. Trainer and participants all know each other – i.e. they’ve actually been in a room together. This makes quite a big difference to how we interact, I find. Rapport has already been established. So for example we know that when a person comes across as direct in writing, they‘re not actually like that. We know what each other means.
  2. It’s pedagogically sound, and takes account of the fact that learning takes place over time. Topics that came up in training but haven’t been perhaps fully understood or processed can be dealt with at greater leisure. We can ‘hit’ the topics again, even do a bit more teaching and/or background reading.
  3. It’s immediate and real! Participants are actually running training workshops. So they’re putting plans on wikis for everyone to comment on, then coming online and telling everyone what happened afterwards.
  4. It’s easy to plan activities and discussion topics. The trainer knows from working face-to-face with people what some of the needs of the group are, and where the gaps are.
  5.  It’s rewarding. Five days face-to face is actually quite short. As a trainer, I find it satisfying to be able to carry on supporting and mentoring the participants, ‘drip-feeding’ them over a period of time. I can also give them more individual attention.

So those are five great things I find about this blended model. What about you? Have you ever taught or followed a blended learning course? I’d be interested to hear about your experience either as a teacher or learner. What do you like about it? What are the cons? I’d love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Five great things about blending it!

  1. Your experience and reactions very much mirror my own with IDLTM, which begins with 2 weeks face to face, followed by six months on line. The on line phase provides the benefits you mention, but my main worry is about running successful synchronous chat sessions, which are very difficult to manage with more than about 4 participants (they’re usually fine with about 3, including the moderator), and the current cohorts I’m working with rejected the option of synchronous chat sessions, preferring asynchronous discussion board activities.

    Synchronous sessions are also very time consuming, so if, say, there is a cohort of 10 or 12, dividing them into 3 or 4 chat sub groups increases the amount of work involved. Also, even though chats are recorded and can be read by other course participants, they can be difficult to read, and may cover ground of limited interest or relevance to non participants.

    In any case, course participants are already very busy people, even without meeting the demands of study (including quite substantial assignments), so they appraise any activities from a cost-benefit perspective, and if something doesn’t work for them, they are very firm about ditching it. As an instructor, I find it difficult to argue with such a position, particularly if discussion board participation is good — likewise assignments.

  2. Very good to see you here, Ron, and thanks for the comments.

    Yes, I know what you mean about synchronous chat sessions. I haven’t tried them on this programme yet, as it’s not part of it really, but we do them on our fully online project management course. They can be challenging, especially as you say when you have folk in different time zones. With our course it helps as the two tutors are in very different time zones two (10 hours apart) so we can, if necessary, run chat sessions at different times. Still, it’s not always easy.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience.

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