Friday, 28 March 2014

5 sloppy uses of the term 'blended learning' and a call for a #meded 'will it blend?' test.

So, I heard the 'B' word again today. I think the concept of blended or hybrid learning is really interesting. Blended learning is tricky to define (have a look at these three case studies) but to me it suggests that elements of one component augment other components in complex and subtle ways to improve the final outcome. Think Hollandaise sauce. However, sometimes teaching modes are just mixed up for no apparent reason. Think rubbish in your garage. Think "jumbled learning".

"Blended learning" as a term is used loosely and here are some examples to avoid.

1) Blending ... but without the learner

If you have some face-to-face teaching and some online teaching and you mix them together in a programme, that does not mean it is 'blended'. Sometimes you hear people say they have a good lecture here or a great online tool there and if they put them together then they are 'blended'. No. They are mixed - as in a recipe - but unless you think about why exactly it is being done, how they will work together to meet learner needs, then you are just mixing your teaching tools.
You are mixing some teaching ideas together but leaving the learner out of the plan until you've mixed it all up for them to try it out.

2) Blending as in 'repackaging'

By putting existing resources together - that previously worked OK on their own - to produce a 'blended' package is often just a labelling exercise. Unless you decide how each component meets the needs of the learner and augment each other you are just repackaging. Together they may not even be as useful as when they were separate.

3) Saying it's blended when it's using online just to facilitate

Don't think that facilitating a face-to-face course with some online component is 'blended'. For example the online discussion forum (that you struggle to get people to engage with) along with the online schedule of meetings / lectures is not the best use of technology. It's not much better than the notice board it tries to replace. Your learners are probably learning elsewhere (on the wards or in the clinics).

4) Saying it's blended when it just has a little bit of online interaction

Just because you throw in an online quiz as part of a campus-based course does not mean you can say "hey, that's blended!". This is making the online component a distraction. How might that be relevant to the clinical teaching elsewhere in the programme?

5) Saying it's blended when it's mostly online but with a couple of meetings / lectures / clinical sessions

Also, don't think that an online course with a couple of face-to-face meetings is blended either. Blended should be something that is of more equal proportions otherwise you would be better to say it was 'flavoured' with a lecture, or 'seasoned' with a ward visit.

Perhaps in medical education we need a test similar to the YouTube phenomenon of 'will it blend?' (Will have a think about that one).

No comments:

Post a Comment