The learner of today has instantaneous access to information virtually anywhere, anytime. In contrast, the traditional classroom environment required learners to participate in a 5 day workshop. This is very different from the new world of life and work.
Wikipedia reports that there were 7.1 billion internet users in 2013 which represented 71% of people in the developed world and 39% in the developing world (compared to 6.5 billion users in 2005 representing 51% in the developed world and 8% in the developing world). Increasingly, more of these users are accessing information on their mobile phones as the number of mobile phones exceeded 6.8 billion in 2013 as well.
So what does this mean for today’s learner? They expect and in fact demand a learning environment that is more like their daily work environment:
- Instant access.
- Easy and quick.
- When I want it.
- Where I want it.
- How I want it.
- Connected to others.
- Continuously updated.
- Totally relevant.
This need is being met by Blended Learning systems which combine the best of multiple different type of learning experiences into learning programs which are typically delivered in shorter sessions across time. These systems are built with one or more of these building blocks::
- Traditional in-class interactive sessions
- Highly interactive Virtual Classrooms
- Audio and video teleconferences
- Coaches and mentors
- Self-paced ELearning
- Assessments, tests, exams & polls
- Online prepackaged learning resources
- Case studies and role plays
- Simulations and gamification
- Action learning
- Discussion groups and blogs
- Shared online workspaces
- Mobile learning
- Learning management systems (LMS)
The challenge in the development of Blended Learning system is to carefully assess the learning objectives and requirements and the carefully choose which of the above Blended Learning Components to include the architecture of your solution. Then you must choose from thousands of products and services in the marketplace, each of which has a complex array of functions and features. And then beyond that, the learner must be taught to learn in the new learning environments.
Yet another challenge is for developers of learning experiences to understand how learners learn in environments other than traditional class rooms and then design the experience to match these new environments.