Touch your nose. Well yes that was an easy challenge but as I’m not around to give you a reward, perhaps you would pat yourself on the head. Oh, and while you are about it rub your tummy at the same time. Not so easy? Well no, not unless you have previously trained your muscle memory and even if you are an expert you may still find it hard to reverse the pattern and pat yourself on the tummy whilst rubbing your head.
Interestingly, if you take any group of adults or children, some will find it easy to carry out different functions with each hand, others will ‘get it’ after training and others will never be able to master the trick. And it is the same for every type of learning throughout life. Whether we look at sports or academia, manual or verbal skills; we all have different aptitudes.
We also learn in different ways. The more innovative schools nowadays test their pupils for learning aptitudes and match the pattern of teaching to arrive at optimum levels of learning. Recognising that individual pupils may learn best from practical application of skills, from repetition, from quizzes, from reading or from story association is one of the key attributes of every good teacher who wants to maximise pupil performance.
So why, if we recognise this need for individual learning pathways for our children do we still stumble on the same old pathway when it comes to the world of work? How many man-hours are wasted every year in sending people to sit in a room and be lectured at? How much misunderstanding is caused in the workplace by half remembered notes and personal interpretations? And how can we be serious about innovation, about encouraging people to bring their own individual skills to bear on creating powerful ideas and delivering differentiated customer experiences if when it comes to training we still treat everyone as clones?
Step forward then the concept of blended learning. At its best, blended learning combines online learning, action coaching, team collaboration and individual challenges in a homogenous mix, which is right for the individual. Being honest, blended learning takes time to set up. It is not as straightforward as wheeling a group of people into a classroom and droning at them. But, organised properly, blended learning brings results. Aside from the obvious bonus that tailoring courses to individual aptitudes results in better-trained individuals, by incorporating online training into the learning process, subjects can be covered in far more depth than in a simple lecture. Add in team collaboration and the seeds of co-operating for an optimum innovative outcome are being sown almost without the participants noticing.
Over the Christmas period a friend’s son was revising for GCSE mocks To hand were textbooks and the notes made in class. Also to hand were online tests, sample papers with suggested answers and interactive games which moved on when answers were correct and re-iterated challenges when answers were not. Most of these were individual learning tasks but alongside this, classmates got together to discuss sticking points and to challenge each other to improve on sample answers. Parents were also involved in testing, in searching for useful information on the web or in discussing issues. It struck me then that this was a perfect example of blended learning in action and one, which these pupils will take forward throughout life.
But we shouldn’t wait for the pupils of today to enter the workforce to integrate blended learning into mainstream activity. Business today is not the single stream, job for life, task oriented work of yesteryear. Innovative and vibrant, constantly seeking and challenging, today’s success stories come from the organisations which dare to be different, which put exceptional customer experiences ahead of process and at the top of the innovation agenda. Training a workforce to deliver in this new world means thinking differently about training, about using technology and about meeting individual needs so that individuals exceed expectations. A lot of the strategic advisory work I’m doing at the moment is around the elements that make up what I’ve called the Next Generation OrganisationTM and at heart it requires embracing new and different ways of operating. I think blended learning is part of that new approach and just like innovation and it’s value as a driver of differentiation, competitive advantage and growth, those that don’t get on board will spend their time in the shadow of those that do!
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