Discovering the Strengths of Blended Learning
When designing a course for adult learners, an instructor may consider a number of different delivery methods to best meet the challenges and circumstances of their audience. One approach to education which appeals to a wider range of learning styles is to use a method which integrates both face-to-face instruction and online or digital learning platforms. “Blended learning” is primarily recognized as a comprehensive method of education integrating traditional classroom and technology-based training as a more inclusive approach to education. Yet, blended learning can also be observed in a broader sense as embracing both formal and informal frameworks for instruction to allow flexibility and accessibility to education for the adult learner.
Blended learning can be an advantageous and effective method of education when both formal and informal modes of learning are employed to strengthen the course concepts. Formal learning is when a learner is solely focused on the information being provided, concentrating on comprehension of the material administered in an explicit and informative way. While formal learning engages the adult learner to absorb and study the known processes or content, informal learning perpetuates understanding and innovative thinking. When used in conjunction with one another, formal and informal learning lend to growth of individuals, allowing them to receive skills and information and subsequently apply concepts to their own efforts and ideas. Executed properly, blended learning can be a progressive means of delivering education, providing a platform where adult learners can design and individualize their own curriculum.
Addressing blended learning as a combination of formal and informal education allows the process to develop and evolve with new technology and research. Traditional face-to-face learning can be supplemented with hands-on activities, field tests, on-job instruction, webinars, podcasts, or engagement with social media tools. Employing a variety of modalities for instruction lends itself to different types of learners, enforces participant accountability, and offers review opportunities. Additionally, many elements of education are available 24/7 and can accommodate different knowledge levels.
For example, AIA CES has offered on-site, face-to-face workshops for Providers to present material about best practices in continuing education. Following the workshops, we posted comments to our blog to encourage interaction among participants and help with learning retention. The incorporation of online communication tools with direct education techniques will provide a forum for peers to share and discuss content from the course.
While blended learning can be challenging to those intimidated by technology and time-consuming to manage, embracing blended learning in continuing education programs can encourage adult learners to commit to lifelong learning. Accessibility to learning often prevents adults from participating in and seeking out emerging industry topics and technology, yet blended learning programs are an effective way to design engaging and convenient education.