Beyond blended learning: Why the future is fusionby
Face-to-face. Digital. Remote. Flexible. The L&D landscape is changing rapidly and learning professionals now need to be all things to all people.
Education is old and outdated. Since the dawn of time, we have been learning by rote, and it is an ancient method. As a result, lack of engagement is an old a concept as education.
Knowing that the education system didn’t benefit many people at school, we moved it into the workplace. Then Covid-19 shook the world of L&D and hasn’t stopped yet.
A new learning landscape
This first stage occurred rapidly. Understandably for safety, the world of face-to-face L&D had to be moved online. In March 2020 there wasn’t the time to think through the strategy for how to do this effectively, the goal was simple… to get the learning online.
Organisations have entered into a time of economic uncertainty, how they respond in the next year will, without question, determine their survival
For many this is a new world, their specialism prior to 2020 was face-to-face delivery, so a common pattern seen in the advent of the lockdown was the movement of a range of PowerPoint and workshop notes stored in SharePoint sites and declared to be online learning. This is a form of learning that is stored online, it is not online learning, those are two very different things, with different learning engagement outcomes.
Whilst I welcome the movement to online learning having been a practitioner and academic in this particular field for over 16 years, the rapid evolution to online has come at a cost. In this situation, learning is a repository of varying pieces of online, that aren’t necessarily designed to be cohesively learnt together.
It has the feel of early LMS and Moodle platforms that were just catalogues of content. It’s difficult to navigate, to see how the content can be progressively learnt, how to develop a suite of soft skills, and in essence, isn’t captivating.
The problem is that the sticking plaster applied is only (just) sustainable in the very short term. Online repositories of content not specifically designed for virtual participation will lead learners to struggle in terms of engagement, completion, and most importantly, application in the real world. Globally organisations have entered into a time of economic uncertainty, how they respond in the next year will, without question, determine their survival.
Learners expect more, they want quality teaching and engaging experiences. For some they miss the face to face. For others they prefer the online experiences. The future needs to account for both.
An L&D department doesn’t need to confine itself to a room down a corridor
The problems currently experienced by organisations planning socially distanced offices will be the same issues that L&D professionals will experience in planning workshops. For some they may simply respond with smaller workshops, but those can sometimes be ineffective if there isn’t the volume of participants to interact in the sessions.
In addition, decreasing the number of participants increases the number of sessions being held, and therefore becomes not only cost ineffective (especially noticeable in a time economic flux), but also an almost impossible feat in scheduling whilst trying to remain in step with the pace of changes within a fluctuating and fragile marketplace.
So educational leaders will turn to their design teams and ask… what now?
The future is fusion
The future is never one technology, but a blend of technologies, that can reach learners anywhere on the globe. An L&D department doesn’t need to confine itself to a room down a corridor. Blended learning is binary… online, then face to face, then online… fusion learning goes beyond this.
Since the advent of Covid-19 many organisations have taken to the world of online and it shouldn’t throw this knowledge away. And it begs the questions: Why should all learners return? Why can’t learners be given a choice? Why can’t learners in a workshop engage with learners joining online?
We, for some reason, have decided that learning and teaching is binary. Face to face or online
A virtual meeting can be projected onto a screen next to a whiteboard, a web cam can be recording the workshop taking place to broadcast into the virtual meeting, and learners in the workshop can dial in too via laptops so they can engage with the chat and breakout activities.
So, why can’t we have both? We, for some reason, have decided that learning and teaching is binary. Face to face or online. We can argue that we have blended pedagogy but in reality, that is stitched together binary pieces of either face to face or online. Why can’t it be blended from within the workshop itself? Where learners are given a choice, where they feel empowered by the learning environment of their choice, where they feel comfortable to learn?
This can be far from a sticking plaster. The pandemic isn’t ending any time soon and there is much debate on when learners will return to the workshops so the time to prepare is now, before they return to the workshops, so it is a seamless return. We must begin this work now to build the L&D workshops of the future.