Some learning requirements are relatively straightforward and it becomes evident very quickly what the most effective methods will be. On the other hand, we also find ourselves designing solutions to much more complex problems, such as inducting new starters, training apprentices or preparing employees to become managers. In these situations it is hard to pick the most appropriate strategies and social contexts because these need to vary as the intervention progresses.
For this reason, as with eating elephants, it pays to take it one bite at a time. Break your programme down into key stages or elements, for example: preparing the learner, presenting learning content, providing opportunities for practice, offering feedback, providing opportunities for reflection and planning, application to the real-job environment, providing on-going support. The exact nature of these stages or elements will vary widely depending on your objectives and your audience. What is important here is that you attempt to separate out those aspects of the learning process that vary in character, because there is a good chance that you’ll benefit from using different strategies and different social contexts for each of the elements. This is where the opportunities arise for blended learning. And if you can’t sensibly break down the learning process for your given situation, that’s not a problem – you can probably save yourself some trouble and use a single approach throughout.
Next week, we’ll make decisions about the technologies that will allow us to deliver the methods we have chosen most efficiently. This will be the first time in this series of articles that we have focused in any depth on whether and to what extent we can usefully employ new media. That’s because, however much we love our toys, learning must always come before technology.