Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

What is Blended Learning?

Clive Shepherd redefines his own definition of blended learning in his recent post.

A blended learning solution mixes social contexts for learning (self-study, one-to-one, small group, larger community) with the aim of increasing learning effectiveness, and/or mixes learning media (face-to-face, online, print, etc.) to increase efficiency, in the context of a particular learning requirement, audience characteristics, and practical constraints and opportunities.

Clive’s does a great job in separating the method and the medium. I quite agree with Clive.

In my view, blended learning can be simply defined as a combination (blend!) of self learning (asynchronous) and teaching (synchronous). Self learning could happen in form of going through predefined learning path, using various media for content (books, whitepapers, wikis, blogs etc.). Teaching could happen in classroom, web conference, virtual classroom etc. Like Clive says, it is the method and not the medium.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I really agree with the idea of blended being just synchronous and asynchronous learning, partly because I disagree with equating "asynchronous" with "self-learning."

Most of the courses our company has developed are entirely asynchronous, but led by a facilitator. Do you think that asynchronous threaded discussions, where students interact with their peers and conversations are moderated by a facilitator, are "self learning"?

Recently, we have started adding some synchronous chat with courses. By your definition, this makes them blended. But what if the only use of chat is with small groups? Would you still consider that time to be "taught" by the facilitator, even if the facilitator isn't present for the chat?

I don't think that the fully online university courses I develop are "blended" in any significant sense of the term. Perhaps partly that's because I think any good classroom teacher uses multiple teaching methods and has for decades. My general music and band classrooms would be considered "blended" by Clive's definition because I always had a wide range of activity types. That definition with social contexts is so broad as to include nearly everything except lecture-only courses. What good does that do us?

Manish Mohan said...

Hi Christy

I think it really depends on the learning plan. Over the years, with the advent of various media, simply using two different media was classified as blended learning. Blended learning also became synonymous with using elearning (some form of CBT or WBT ‘courses’) with some form of classroom interaction in the learning plan. We’ve had learning plan that require the learners to review white papers and books before and after a classroom interaction, with very little ‘technology’ intervention. I consider that blended learning even though there was no technology involved. As we started being present in different physical locations, the classroom interaction was replaced by virtual conference, with some part of the class still face to face with the trainer in a classroom. This was blended learning not so much because we used technology for virtual conferencing.

You raise interesting points about courses led by facilitators, and chat being available in asynchronous courses, and what would we consider chat with other fellow students with no facilitator involved. I hadn’t really thought that far. However now that I think about it, it reaffirms my view that in this age of perpetually evolving media, if there can be a simple definition of blended learning, it’s got to be the blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning in a learning plan that truly identifies it as blended learning.

Anonymous said...

If the definition just means "using a variety of teaching methods" though, it applies to basically every class I've ever taken in my life. Every elementary, middle, and high school class. Probably every college class too--almost everything I took was more than just lecture. What's the point of a label that applies to everything?

When you initially talked about synchronous and asynchronous, you equated synchronous with teacher-led and asynchronous with self-paced. So when you say that blended learning is a "blend of synchronous and asynchronous," do you actually just mean the literal meanings of those words, or do you mean a mix a instructor-led and self-paced?

Manish Mohan said...

In the context of corporate training, I would define blended learning as a combination of asynchronous (self paced but not necessarily WBT/elearning) and synchronous (instructor led but not necessarily classroom only).

Anonymous said...

I guess I still disagree with the idea that synchronous = instructor-led and asynchronous = not instructor-led. I don't think you should conflate the terms; it only makes it more confusing.

If you said that blended learning is a mix of instructor-led and self-paced or individual learning, I could agree with that definition. I can't agree with the idea that instructor-led training is always synchronous though; it's simply untrue in many organizations.

I'm happy to agree to disagree with you though. Thanks for making me think!

Pradyumna said...

Am a late entrant here… thanks to LinkedIn and the discussion going on there… Am here!
After following what you folks had to say … let me create a context to what I have to say… For me, blended learning in the context of e-Learning is multi-activity, multi-platform, interactivity (to and from – responses to queries for instance – both instantaneous and with a delay), virtual and F-2-F contact sessions, …
Today, in this context of e-Learning, I know for a fact that m-learning and t-learning (mobile-learning and television learning) is getting added to the learning experience of online learners. All this is happening under the banner of blended learning.

Very interesting discussion. Thanks Manish.

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