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The perfect mix – What e-learning can bring to a blended learning solution


Richard Standen, Director of e-learning specialists Connected Learning Limited argues that we need to change our attitude towards e-learning and look at it as part of and not the whole solution to training needs. In this piece, he explores the changing role of e Learning creation and what this brings to the mix.

E-learning is here to stay, of that there is little doubt! However, as it becomes a more integral part of the overall training solution, businesses will need to learn to use it to its best advantage. While face-to-face training can be effective, it takes time and money. On the other hand, e-learning alone receives much criticism in terms of its effectiveness, information retention, and trainee motivation. Instead of becoming a separate business discipline in its own right e-learning should be just one of the options available to ensure effective learning. It will take its place amongst the other training delivery methods such as video, workbooks and classrooms; each being used where they add best value – the result – Blended Learning.

Blended learning combines various media to provide a powerful learning mechanism and is likely to dominate the training world. However for this approach to be truly successful and make the most out of e-learning, the creation of quality content is another vital factor in its effectiveness.

As an article for Inside Learning Technologies last month stated, "It's no longer a case of 'nice design, what about the depth?'...the content and where that content has come from, will bear a significant impact on the success of the course" (J Kettleborough). For e-learning courses to truly become part of an overall training solution the content has to fit in with information already being taught to contribute to the blended solution.

While many e-learning applications are developed by specialised companies, at great cost, this can be hard to accomplish. Software applications such as courseGenie can provide the answer. They allow non technical staff working within an organisation to create content from the quality training/lesson notes. As long as the training information is created in a Microsoft Word document, then with content creation tools such as courseGenie, a quality online course can be easily developed to support a Blended Learning environment. You can be sure that the quality of the content fits with the teaching as a whole because it comes from the same source.

Authoring tools like this which take little investment in terms of time or money mean that organisations will find it easier to integrate e-learning into their overall teaching/training experience. As Andy Beharrell, Managing Director of e-learning content provider Triple A Learning explained, "courseGenie give us more time to invest in the course rather than the technology".

However, key to the success of e-learning as part of a blended solution is making sure that the content not only matches the course content, but that it also makes the most of the advantages of its own unique medium. We all learn better by taking a proactive part in the learning process, and good self authoring tools now allow the ability to add interactive features to online courses. This encourages people's interest and their use of the information available by this method. Course content authors with no technical know how can now add pop-ups, self test questions as well as flash movies, audio & video to ensure the attention of their students.

Perhaps one of the last hurdles we have to get over with e-learning is the idea that has been held in the past, that it is failing in its function if it does not have a high percentage completion rate. What perhaps we should understand is that the beauty of e-learning is that it is available to be dipped in and out of as required, used as it is needed to complete the course as a whole. Perhaps we are not measuring e-learning in the right manner. Maybe it has nothing to do with finishing a course, but has everything to do with learning what was important to learn; regardless of how long it took, or whether the course was finished.

Evidence suggests that the blended approach to learning works. A recent report by the institute of IT Training confirmed that superb results have been generated by the new NHS e-Tutor training programme commissioned by National Health Service Information Authority (NHSIA). To date this innovative blended learning programme has achieved a completion rate of 93.8% and average learner satisfaction ratings of 5.95 out of a maximum score of 6.

Although there can be no doubt that there will always be value in the services of providers of complete online training courses, it cannot be denied that for most trainers the ability to easily create their own complementary online training facilities will be a valuable tool in encouraging blended learning. Being able to add your own online learning options to your courses and therefore being able to offer a blended learning experience need not be "rocket science" as long as the content creation stays simple.


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