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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!