Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blended Learning for Associations

It is true, and has been said over and over, that not all subjects can be integrated for elearning delivery. This is mostly related to the nature of the subject and not limitations on technology or resources (although sometimes, it is). When you manage an elearning program for an association, you need to consider the nature of the training or education being offered.
Most associations currently have a heavy load of onsite courses for training of their members for CEUs or other types of certification. This means that a lot of logistics go into the organization of these training courses. Many have content that is related to hands-on or equipment training, which forces the course to be offered as onsite only. In other cases, the subject matter expert (SME) has taught this course for such a long time that there is some resistance at the idea of making their course elearning available.
Another situation is that the manager just doesn’t know how to conduct an onsite to elearning conversion. It is often the case that elearning managers for associations were placed in that position just because of their managerial skills and not so much for their elearning or instructional design expertise.
The above cases are very good candidates for blended learning implementation. The concept of blended learning has been around for quite some time and has been mostly used in K-12 and higher education settings. The idea is to have learners undertake series of activities, assessments, and content review using both onsite and online tools (not necessarily in equal proportions). For associations, the best solution is the use of online tools to deliver assessments and activities as well as some content in the form of video, audio, or text and images. Then learners take on other parts of the course in a designated site. Hands-on training, equipment features and functionality can be set up in this way. If the certification assessment requires proctoring, then the learner can take this final step at a designated testing site. The same goes for certification that requires the learner to show the mastering of some skill in front of an expert that is grading the performance.
Striking the balance, between what goes online and what is being implemented on site, is the issue with blended learning. As the saying goes, you don’t want to use a lot of either one, but 50-50 is not the answer either. And it is not only due to pedagogical issues what decides what part of the course goes online, it might be economical ones that finally decide that some part of the program is offered on site. For example, creating demonstration videos of equipment, or technical procedures depicted using animations require a large initial investment. Of course, once this investment is made, you will probably have two years worth of content, at which point you will probably need to reshoot the whole thing. If the investment is recovered before the end of the shelf life of that course, then you might want to consider making this investment, otherwise you will be better off making this an onsite requirement.
Ultimately, the analysis of what content to put online and which one goes onsite is one that you cannot make alone. You do need to consult your SMEs, other parties interested, and maybe you could conduct a survey to test membership preferences. What is definitely important is that you consider designing some of your courses in a blended mode, this will not only reduce costs but will make sure the course becomes more affordable to members, since it is the usual case that onsite courses run at a larger tag price than fully online courses or blended courses.

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