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An Epic White Paper

Blended learning
What is blended learning? Blended learning something old or new? Potential pitfalls Components in blended learning Criteria for blended learning Categories of blended learning
by Donald Clark, CEO Epic Group plc

Epic Group plc 52 Old Steine Brighton BN1 1NH Tel: +44 (0)1273 728686 Fax: +44 (0) 1273 821567 e-mail: feedback@epic.co.uk http://www.epic.co.uk

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An Epic White Paper

Contents
What is blended learning? Blended learning beyond traditional training Optimal blends Blended learning something old or new? Default model Classroom preservation Velcro model Duplicated model Complex model Components of blended learning Offline components: workplace learning Offline components: face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring Offline components: classroom Offline components: distributable print media Offline components: distributable electronic media Offline components: broadcast media Online components: online learning content Online components: e-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring Online components: online collaborative learning Online components: online knowledge management Online components: the web Online components: mobile learning Criteria for blended learning Learning Learners Maintenance Scalability Sustainability Resources Categories of blended learning Level 1 Component Level 2 Integrated Level 3 Collaborative Level 4 Expansive Conclusion Other Epic e-learning white papers Epic Thinking 4 5 6 7 9 9 10 10 10 12 13 13 14 15 16 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 27 29 30 31 32 34 34 36 37 39 41 43 44

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What is blended learning?


Like many learning terms, blended learning has the illusion of being a concrete concept. In practice it is a flexible term that means different things to different people. Some sceptics see it as an old idea dressed up in new clothes, something everybody has being doing all along. Others are nervous about its status as a marketing buzzword or a simple defence of the old against the new. Blended learning seems to mean, if I understand it right, that there will be some e-learning and some classroom learning. It is in vogue for a simple reason. No one wants to spend that much on elearning and people in general want to preserve what they have, so they have made up this nice name for not changing much and called it blended learning. Roger Schank However, most see it as something positive, a more learner-centric approach that is more sensitive to the real needs of both learners and the context in which learning has to take place. The danger is that it is usually seen as a simple method of co-joining some classroom and e-learning. This simple pick and mix definition is not enough. What is blended learning? It is the use of two or more distinct methods of training. This may include combinations such as: blending classroom instruction with online instruction, blending online instruction with access to a coach or faculty member, blending simulations with structured courses, blending on-the-job training with brown bag informal sessions, blending managerial coaching with e-learning activities. Elliot Masie

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More sophisticated attempts have been made to identify delivery methods in learning and match them to content. These include How to Choose the Right Development Method by A Mumford and Developing Employees who Love to Learn by L Honold. These are rather dated and fail to recognise the importance of technology and, in particular, e-learning options. More recent attempts to identify the components of blended learning include Blended e-learning by L Bielaski and D Metcalf and Blended Learning: How to Integrate Online and Traditional Learning by K Thorn. These move beyond simple mixed mode models of the old and the new towards more sophisticated blends. However, attention is now turning to serious attempts to identify the components, criteria, models and tools for blended learning.

Blended learning beyond traditional training


There are signs of a more mature view of blended learning emerging that moves beyond the boundaries of traditional training. Blended e-learning by Bielawski and Metcalfe (2002) takes a very specific line. The subtitle is Integrating knowledge, performance support and online learning and their recommended blend is e-learning, knowledge management and performance support. The good news is that this is sound theory and practice. The bad news is that even this definition is too limiting. Straitjacketing the implementation of blends to the traditional delivery mechanisms of the LMS, classroom, elearning, virtual classroom and coaching, is a real danger. Many of the current implementations of blended learning turn out to be these crude pick and mix solutions.

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We must look beyond the boundaries of traditional training, and beyond the boundaries of the course. Certainly this will take us into performance support and knowledge management, but we must go further, bleeding e-learning into corporate communications, workplace learning, marketing, recruitment, customer learning, searches on the web and the real world. This expansive view of learning delivery offers lots of scope for exciting new approaches to blended learning. Ultimately we must blend formal and informal learning by breaking down the artificial barriers created between, for example, learning and knowledge management. The learning organisation is built not on the premise of more training. In fact, in the case of formal training, less rather than more may be required. It is built upon the need for learners to feel motivated towards achieving goals through continuous learning.

Optimal blends
To design, develop and deliver optimal blends, we need to ask a few questions: Where are we in blended learning? What are the possible components in a blend? What are the criteria for choosing an optimal blend? What are the general categories of blends? What are bad blends? What tools can be used to decide on a blend?

This should free the term blended learning from sceptical and over-simplistic views, providing a rational basis for deciding what goes into a blend and how to design optimal blends. A general schema for blends that categorises them in terms we can understand and apply is also useful. Until this task is complete, we will be stuck in primitive and posturing marketing-speak.

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Blended learning something old or new?


Technology is something invented after we were born. All of the things we now take for granted such as telephones, TV, radio, cars, refrigerators, washing machines, and so on, we regard, not as technology but as commodities. For this reason we are almost lulled into thinking that e-learning is the first time that technology has influenced learning in any significant way. This is a mistake, as the Internet is merely the culmination of wave after wave of technological innovation in learning. In fact, there have been six major waves of technological innovation in learning: Writing Printing Broadcast media Consumer storage media PC and CD-ROM Internet technology Writing can be considered as the first technological innovation, with phonetic alphabets, papyrus and paper. Printing was the second, with moveable type. The third was broadcast media such as film, radio and television. The fourth was a range of mass media storage devices including audio-cassette, videotape and CD. The fifth was the mass produced computer with CD-ROM. The sixth is the current networked, web-based e-learning revolution. With each of these innovations, new forms of blended learning arose. The ancient and medieval classroom was oral, with some writing. With the addition of printing the learner could blend by reading at his or her own pace in their own time, giving a blend of live, synchronous learning with self-paced asynchronous learning.

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Broadcast media, namely radio and television, allowed millions of learners to add synchronous broadcast experiences to their blend, most notably with the Open University but also with the explosion of documentaries and learning programmes on radio and TV. Being able to record these onto videotape, audio-cassette and now CDs added another asynchronous record and playback dimension to blended learning. The PC and CD-ROM introduced high levels of interactivity and media distribution. Finally, we have the addition of web-based, e-learning opportunities. This final web-based technological advance is different from all that has gone before, in that it embraces all of the other technologies and can actually manage and deliver many of the blended components in a sustainable fashion to the learner. Many previous ingredients in blended delivery now become possible on a single, worldwide network into the home and workplace. The Internet is the largest single learning resource in the world. It dwarfs any other single repository and is irreversible. Other advantages are that it is accessible, inexpensive and interactive. There is also the promise of much richer content with audio, video and animation. Digital relationships can develop between learners and knowledge, learners and learners, and learners and tutors. Communities of learners can help each other to learn. We are just beginning to see the blended possibilities. So blended learning is not new. It has been driven by a series of technical innovations in learning for many centuries. What has given the term blended learning a new impetus is the exciting and powerful array of webbased options that have cascaded on to the market over the last few years. The fact that we have so many options has forced us into thinking about how we can methodically choose an optimal mix.

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Potential pitfalls
Before we consider how to blend, lets get some pitfalls out of the way. In practice, most blended learning is crude, rather than simple (being simple can be a virtue). It defaults to the familiar, sticks things together, duplicates, adds to the old model or desperately accommodates the existing dominant method. This is to be expected. New concepts need to find their feet and the limitations of time, money and skills will mean that some very simple models of blended learning will appear. However, it is worth being aware of the dangers.

Default model
Even where a range of delivery mechanisms is available, most decisions on delivery have already been made before the training has been designed. This is often based on the whims of the trainer or learning provider. Mumford found that the basis for a choice of learning or delivery methods was either the likes and dislikes of the learner, the feeling that it was time for a change or old assumptions about what method was best for what type of learning. Reason and research played no significant role. It is hardly surprising that people fall back into the familiar, but this is not what blended is meant to achieve.

Classroom preservation
Despite unprecedented levels of technological change, traditional training has been dominated by the classroom for so long that it is often seen by managers, trainers and trainees as synonymous with the word learning. Learning is so often equated with the classroom that it is difficult for people who have gone through that process to think in any other way. There are still many organisations where the classroom is the only form of delivery with no reflection at all on the issue of media selection. Blended learning, in this sense, can simply be a method of classroom preservation.

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One must not exclude the classroom as a component, if it is integrated, necessary and affordable. However, blended learning does not necessarily have to include the classroom as an event, and if it seen as simply a way of hanging on to past behaviours, just because weve always done it this way, then we must be especially careful.

Velcro model
There is a tendency to go with gut feel and slam some classroom training and e-learning together in a primitive manner. This has been called the Velcro approach to blended learning, sticking things together rather than seriously blending or integrating them into a single learning experience or environment. At its worst this can mean delivering classroom and e-learning that has no cross-references, contradictory content and leaves the learner confused. The integration of components in a blend is an important part of any blended learning experience. To make progress we must think beyond the simple dichotomy of e-learning and the classroom.

Duplicated model
Simply multiplying the methods of delivery is not in itself a blended learning experience. Offering many channels of delivery simultaneously can be expensive, involve high levels of duplication and result in learner confusion. It may also lead to learners simply sticking with what is familiar to them, rather than exposing them to new forms of delivery.

Complex model
Blended learning can lead us into thinking that more is always better i.e. the more channels of learning we have the better the blend. In fact, the application of Occams Razor - the minimum number of entities to reach your stated goal - is a better guide. Too much complexity can confuse, especially inexperienced learners.
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Blended learning does not need to imply more methods of delivery, merely better methods of delivery. It is at this point that we must turn to how exactly we make these decisions on what goes into an optimal blend.

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Components of blended learning


It doesnt make sense to talk about possible blends unless we consider the components. A recipe is useless without ingredients. Without a list of the possible components, we are simply relying on our own limited experience, the familiar, or worse, our prejudices. What follows are components, split into 12 groups, in turn split into 6 offline and 6 online groups. It is important to separate these, as access to intranet and Internet technology is a necessary condition for any of the 6 online groups. (The full component list is available as an appendix.) Six offline component groups: 1. 2. 3. Workplace learning Face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring Classroom

4. Distributable print media 5. Distributable electronic media 6. Broadcast media Six online component groups: 1. 2. 3. Online learning content E-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring Online collaborative learning

4. Online knowledge management 5. The web 6. Mobile learning

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Offline components: workplace learning


There are many ways in which workplace learning can be formalised: manager as developer learning on the job projects apprenticeships shadowing placements site visits The workplace is likely to be the place where most learning takes place, so to ignore workplace learning is to ignore a natural learning environment. People spend far more time working than in formal training. Pushing training beyond the traditional and electronic delivery channels into the workplace improves reinforcement and transfer to the learners actual job.

Offline components: face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring


One-to-one, face-to-face support can include: tutoring coaching mentoring 360 degree feedback Tutors are seen as being experts in their subject, passing on direct knowledge to the learner. Coaches provide support on specific learning courses or tasks. Mentors are used to give high-level support in a general career or development programme.

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Human support is often seen as a good counterbalance to blends heavily weighted towards the classroom or elearning. It introduces a personal touch to help with problems, sustain interest, prompt and manage the learner. Many learners feel the need for this type of support when the deliverables are remote and impersonal. For management training this type of feedback is also powerful in diagnosing weaknesses and overcoming obstacles to learning. Note that while being a very effective spur to learning, it requires expensive human resources, is difficult to administer and is not scalable.

Offline components: classroom


Classroom learning covers a huge range of activities including: lectures/presentations tutorials workshops seminars role play simulations conferences This has been the mainstay of education and training and will continue to play a role in blended learning. One must be clear about what form of classroom training is required and in what way it will be integrated into the other components of the blend. Note that the classroom has become less didactic, with far less chalk and talk delivery, it is increasingly interactive and much more attuned to problem solving.

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Conferences are, in effect, huge classrooms, where the learner gets some keynote sessions, presentations, and in some cases real workshops and practical hands-on experiences. Although expensive, they can be intense and fruitful learning experiences.

Offline components: distributable print media


Print is still a primary learning resource: books magazines newspapers workbooks keeping a journal review/learning logs An often-overlooked component in blended learning, books can be cheap, portable and powerful learning devices. These have long been a key component of learning in education and training, the mainstay of most higher education courses and a source of lifelong learning for millions of voluntary learners. Textbooks can be made available from an internal library, corporate library or ordered from Amazon. Book clubs, book reviews and summaries are also useful resources for learners. Moreover, dont forget magazines and newspapers. Trade magazines, newspapers and the company newsletter or magazine are other underused resources in learning. Workbooks are an attempt to introduce focused, interactive texts into the learning process. These can be printed from online sites as PDF files or Word documents, making distribution easier. Many learners prefer to print online text resources, as it is easier to read and can be read at a time and place of choice. Written journals and learning logs can be seen as the process in reverse. If you review or summarise the book, it will significantly increase your learning. It will also allow others to use these reviews and summaries.
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Offline components: distributable electronic media


Distributable electronic media include: audio cassettes audio CD videotape CD-ROM DVD The advantage of audio-cassettes and audio CDs is the ability to use them in the car or at home. They are cheap to replicate and can be useful for learners on the move such as sales or field staff. Videotape is another consumer-friendly medium. CD-ROMs have long been used in education and training. If you have a poor intranet and need to use audio and video, then CD-ROMs can be useful. Some blended solutions use online delivery of content with the audio and video stored locally on the hard disc or a CD-ROM. This hybrid solution can lessen the load on the network and lead to increased quality and reliability. CD-ROM and DVD have superior interactivity compared to videotape, audio cassette or audio CD. E-learning can be delivered from a CD-ROM via a browser so you can do things with e-learning long before your network is finished and upgraded, sure in the knowledge that you can transfer to the network in the future. In this sense a CD-ROM can be seen as packaged bandwidth.

Offline components: broadcast media


Broadcast media include: TV radio interactive TV Estimates indicate that by the time our children leave high school, many of them will have watched 22,000
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hours of television compared to roughly half that amount of time spent in the classroom (American Psychological Association). By age 65, the average adult will have spent nearly 9 years of his or her life watching television. TV can provide good learning material for learners at home. Scanning the programming can often uncover excellent programmes on business and other topics that may be relevant to your needs. The use of reality TV and programmes, such as Big Brother, Survivor and The Experiment, are excellent opportunities to discuss group behaviour and team building. Radio is another useful source of good documentary, business and language content, available in nearly every car and home. These are hugely underused resources. Interactive TV is another potential learning medium. With the added dimension of interactivity, this could emerge as a delivery medium, especially cable, as opposed to satellite and terrestrial, which have telephony as the return channel.

Online components: online learning content


E-learning content can include: simple learning resources interactive generic content interactive customised content performance support simulations At the simplest level, documents, PowerPoint presentations and other simple, non-interactive resources can be described as e-learning content, and this is commonly what is meant by e-learning in education. Interactive generic content is what most of the large catalogues of generic e-learning content offer on management, IT, financial and other areas of training. This content is appropriate for basic skills and generic topics but are not tailored to your organisation.

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Interactive customised content tends to be used as training that tackles business issues particular to your organisation. They are seen as giving you ownership, competitive advantage and more effective learning as the content is specific to your organisation, culture and job roles. Performance support is the on-going support for specific tasks available on demand. This gets away from the concept of a course towards workplace support for real tasks as they are encountered, used and mastered. Simulations are becoming possible as the technology matures. These are increasingly used in performance simulation and to bring sets of skills together, as in business simulations. See Epic White Paper on Simulations and e-learning.

Online components: e-tutoring, e-coaching or ementoring


One-to-one, electronic support can include: e-tutoring e-coaching e-mentoring 360 degree feedback This is similar to the face-to-face deliverables mentioned earlier. The difference is that e-tutors will need new skills but many more learners can be supported by fewer tutors, coaches or mentors. It is important to be clear at the outset about what type of personal online support is required. Support can include combinations of the following roles: administration by managing the process of e-learning, tutoring as a source of subject-specific advice, coaching towards course driven goals, mentoring as motivator and counsellor in managing personal development and assessment.

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See Epic White Paper on E-tutoring and e-learning.

Online components: online collaborative learning


Collaborative learning can include: Asynchronous (not in realtime) collaboration email bulletin boards Synchronous (in realtime) collaboration text chat application sharing audio conferencing video conferencing virtual classrooms It is important to make the distinction between asynchronous (non real-time) and synchronous (real-time) collaboration or community activity. Methods of electronic collaboration vary in complexity. At the simple end of the spectrum of complexity, we have email. Email is perhaps the most underrated learning tool on the Internet. It has become so embedded in everyday use that we forget how recent, necessary and important it has become in asking for, receiving and sharing knowledge. Exchanging views and information has become quick, easy and cheap, with the added advantage that it will be stored and ready for you to look at in your own time. The middle ground is occupied by discussion boards, bulletin boards and audio/video conferencing. These are simple techniques used by groups of people who see themselves as a community of learners. Although easy to set up, they are difficult to sustain. These communities need to be nurtured and developed.

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Virtual classrooms and integrated learning environments lie at the top end (although some regard virtual classrooms as a direct transfer of the classroom to the web and question its status as a collaborative tool). We need to decide which methods work best: asynchronous, synchronous or both? These methods all have different technical, pedagogic, resourcing and cost implications. See Epic White Paper on Collaboration and e-learning.

Online components: online knowledge management


Knowledge management systems include: searching knowledge bases data mining document and file retrieval ask an expert Knowledge management and e-learning have existed as separate disciplines and come from different sources, but have a lot in common. Knowledge management has come from the IT world with a focus on technology and the need to find relevant data quickly. E-learning has come from the learning world where the focus is on the mind of learners and the ability to learn and apply knowledge. It is not hard to see that the two are intimately linked. Learners need access to knowledge to learn and can rely less on remembering things if they have ready access to such knowledge. Web technology has brought the two together on the desktop and it makes sense to tie the two together in blended solutions. We are far more likely to make a success of both if they complement and support each other. Performance is ultimately the application of knowledge, and so knowledge management can be used to underpin and support learning and application.

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Online components: the web


This is the future itself. As the Internet becomes bigger, better faster, quicker and cheaper, it becomes an indispensable tool. The main features of Internet access include: search engines websites user groups e-commerce sites Search engines have become the primary means of accessing content and services. It is often preferable to use a search engine, such as Google, than the search function within a specific website. The simplicity, ease of use and customer acceptance of the search engine make it a wonderful knowledge search and acquisition tool. This, along with the bookmark, past history and local storage of data makes the PC an incredible knowledge and learning tool. Research resources are migrating wholescale onto the web as the Internet becomes the primary knowledge base and tool for the exchange and sharing of knowledge. Web links are the new booklists. Good websites can provide quick access to printable and copyable material in learning. This is a vastly underused resource in most training environments, largely because the time has not been taken to find, store and recommend the good resources. The fact that over 50% of homes have access to the Internet also pushes learning beyond the boundaries of the school, college, university, library, company or organisation into the home. These homes now have a built in college, library and knowledge management system. Whats more, with broadband the media types are also more accessible, either to stream, download, or, as with books, CDs or videos, easy to order and buy. The web, Google and intranets are all part of our everyday lives. Most e-learning is not formal through
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designed courses, but informal, through content and resources found on the Internet or intranets. It is important that these resources are understood and used in blended learning. For example, the company website should be a key component of any induction programme.

Online components: mobile learning


Mobile devices include: laptops PDAs mobile phones We are now entering the wireless world, where mobile devices and laptops allow you learn on the move. Many more people have mobile phones than have PCs and with the increasing functionality and convergence of these devices, the opportunity for blending in mobile learning (m-learning) is clearly on the horizon. They are in constant use on air, rail and motorway routes including airports, railway stations, motorway stops and hotels. These are places where you are often free from distractions, meetings and interruptions where things are quiet and you are on your own; ideal conditions for learning. Mobile devices are unique in being personal, portable and powerful computer and communications devices. Senior managers, sales people and field engineers are just some of the potential learner populations that already use these devices for the informal sharing of knowledge. Of course, they have their limitations, both physical and psychological. In practice, with a laptop, using a CD-ROM may be more convenient than online access. Nevertheless, a number of applications are being tried including learning diagnosis, self-assessment, performance support, language learning support, collaboration, mentoring, coaching and reinforcement. See Epic White Paper on M-learning.

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Criteria for blended learning


When you are deciding on the right blend of learning delivery methods, there are a number of key factors you have to take into account: Does my new approach improve learning outcomes? Is the blend appropriate for my audience? Does the blend fit into the culture of my organisation? Do we have the resources to cope? Can our infrastructure support online components? Is the blend scalable? Is the blend sustainable?

When you design a blended learning solution you need to constantly be asking yourself Does this blend lead to the best combination of benefits and cost savings?. Having a list of components allows us to move forward and make decisions on which components are to be used in a blend according to a set of agreed criteria. Components are the elements that can be pieced together and integrated into a blended solution. Criteria are the principles and policies, which shape the choice of components in a blended solution. Lets consider the following six criteria: Learning Learners Maintenance Scalability Resources Sustainability

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Learning
It is not easy to determine a blend until the desired content and learning outcomes have been clarified. It is worth considering both content and learning outcomes, as there is disagreement amongst theorists who see learning as a process and those who see learning in terms of its outcomes. Our task is to identify a workable schema that states some general types of learning and examine how these influence our choice of components in a blend. A considerable amount of work has been produced by cognitive psychologists over the last 50 years. These include Bloom, Gagne, Mager, Belbin, Biggs and Collins, Pedler, Merriam and Caffarella. In practice the schemas produced by these authors are very similar, resulting in the following general categories: Knowledge Procedural skills Mental skills Interpersonal skills Psychomotor skills Attitudes Aspirational learning Knowledge or comprehension learning is highly dependent on memory and recall. Knowledge is usually of information, facts, concepts, figures, ideas or principles. Of course, a general understanding of the meaning of the knowledge is also important. You may be expected to show understanding by being able to list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label or name. Taking knowledge further you may also be expected to order, group, make inferences, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate or summarise.

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This is increasingly colonised by e-learning, knowledge management and the web. As search and retrieve replaces memorisation, these resources have become learning resources. Procedural skills involve following processes or routines from memory, manuals or computers. Knowledge of a range of procedures is required and learners appreciate the significance of the parts in relation to the whole. You may be expected to apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, solve, modify, relate, classify or find. Software procedural (systems) learning is best delivered on the screen. It is a skill some learn by doing, usually in small steps that are brought together into entire procedures. Scenario-based, show me, try it, test me approaches are proven in this area. Other procedures may require actual work with plant or in the workplace. Mental skills involve the application of methods and theories in new situations, solve problems using required skills or knowledge. Problem solving is demonstrated by coming up with effective solutions. One can move forward from this position to what consider more complex learning outcomes where a high-level synthesis of knowledge and skills is necessary. Leadership, management, business planning are likely to require more complex blends offering room for application, activity, case-based learning, practice and simulations. These skills are generally learnt by doing. At one level, one can analyse, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, compare, select, explain, infer, integrate, plan, design, prepare, assess, decide, rank, grade, test and measure using e-learning. The application of business skills through business simulations is also happening. However, the real application of skill may need some social reinforcement and human intervention through coaching or e-tutoring.

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Interpersonal skills have been increasingly recognised as a distinct skill set in themselves, along with emotional intelligence. These are skills in listening, questioning, presenting, interviewing, counselling, appraising and so on. Writing skills, telephone skills and electronic communication skills using email etc are also included. Online methods can work well for telephone techniques and performance simulators go a long way towards delivering strong skills in the likes of interviewing. However, people also need to practice these skills with other real people leading to role playing and workshops. With team-oriented skills, delivery moves towards more collaborative events, whether these be offline or online. Psychomotor skills involve the acquisition of skilled movements and perceptual abilities. These may be in sports, dance, music, driving, crafts, keyboard skills or flying an aircraft. These usually involve the actual learning and practice of the skills under the tutelage of a coach. Some specific skills, like keyboard skills, can be learnt through elearning. However, in flight training, these skills are learnt through a combination of theory, flight simulation and actual flying. Attitudinal change requires the learner to be made aware of existing attitudes and, if theres a gap between those and the new attitudes or values, to be able to understand and apply those new attitudes. This shows itself in changing or improving attitudes towards people, objects or concepts. Understanding the values of a new organisation in induction, diversity, equal opportunities and a whole range of sales, customer care and management skills involve attitudinal change. E-learning can be used to explain values and, through scenario observation, allow the learner to identify when values are being supported or rejected. Attitudes can also be changed through exposure to others with different sets of values through collaborative work.

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Aspirational (Pedlar) or transformational (Bateson) learning involves personal growth and a profound change within the learner. The learners goals are pushed beyond expectation through deep reflection and fundamental change. At this level, the learners may need to be part of a peergroup or receive personal coaching. They may also need exposure to a wide variety of knowledge sources. To conclude on content; a simple decision on blends may include a distinction between knowledge and skills, then types of skills (mental, interpersonal, psychomotor). Attitudinal change should be seen as something different as should aspirational learning that leads to the transformation in an individual.

Learners
To understand blended learning we must focus on learners. Learners blend anyway. Theyll learn through lots of different learning encounters. In learning a language the learner is likely to take some classes, use online resources, CD-ROMs, audio cassettes, audio CDs, videos, watch TV, listen to radio programmes in that language, use books, access dictionaries, get a pen-pal, speak to native speakers, even go to that country for practice. Blended learning was always the norm for learners! Playing to these natural behaviours was always going to be successful. The danger was in being too single channel in focus. It is the supply-led, learning industry that forces people into narrow-track delivery. Note that the main culprit here is classroom delivery, still by far the most unblended solution in training. E-learning practitioners are also guilty. However, both need to recognise that the classroom, e-learning or any other single form of delivery, was never the single solution to any learning problem. The trick is to find optimal blends for individuals so that they get structured learning experiences in a fixed time that is aligned with their and/or the organisations aims.
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The learner population has to be profiled, including Number of learners Geographic dispersion of learners Available time by learners Learners motivation to learn Novices versus experts Academic versus non-academic Large numbers of learners may need scalable online solutions because of cost, but only if the network can support online learning. Small numbers may require less scalable offline solutions. Geographically dispersed learners again mean high travel and accommodation costs and networked online solutions can give access and scalability. Internationally dispersed organisations have a great deal to gain from the delivery of consistent quality content globally via the intranet or Internet. Available time means the time available for learners to complete the given learning tasks. In educational contexts, learners can be devoted full-time to learning, in the workplace this may vary from agreed annual days for training to little or no time at all. Learners motivation to learn will greatly influence the marketing and selling of the blend and, in particular, selfdirected components such as e-learning. In any case, it is wise to assume that learners will need encouragement, and to provide support and implementation plans. Novices are very different from experts. You must be careful to identify the range of expertise and diagnose or tailor your offering. For example, novices will expect more basic knowledge and worked examples, whereas experts will expect problem solving and simulations.

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An Epic White Paper

To conclude on learners; consider first, the number of learners and their geographical spread. The nature of those learners must then be taken into consideration in terms of their ability to learn and motivation.

Maintenance
Different types of content need different levels of maintenance. Non-volatile factual content such as basic science may need little or no updating. Middle ground content such as management skills may need a modest amount of updates. However, induction, product knowledge, legislative issues and many other topics will need major updates. The real issue is planning for this maintenance with resource and budget. Your chosen blend will affect your ability to update. Offline Workplace learning Face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring Classroom Distributable print media Distributable electronic media Broadcast media Online Online e-learning content E-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring Online collaborative learning Online knowledge management The web Mobile learning **** **** ***** ***** ***** ***** Maintenance **** ***** *** * * **

Fixed distributable media, whether theyre print or electronic media, are difficult to update. Updating also has to be followed by reprints and redistribution costs.

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An Epic White Paper

Audio and video in whatever format are difficult and expensive to update. Re-scripting has to be followed by re-recording (by the same voiceover artist) and video has to be re-shot and re-edited. Human delivery in the classroom could be described as modestly updateable as changes can be adopted and delivered quickly. On the other hand, single-source webdelivered content can be updated at source, without the cost of redistribution. To conclude on maintainability; some blends are easier to maintain than others, with online activities, on the whole, being easier to maintain than offline media.

Scalability
Scalability is the ability of a delivery mechanism to cope with large numbers, on-demand at little incremental cost. Scalability is usually achieved through technology. A hand written letter can be scaled through word-processing, photocopying, printing and ultimately, the most scalable of all, email, where huge numbers can be delivered instantly, on demand and at a tiny incremental cost. Face-to-face mentoring or coaching, although very effective, has to be used sparingly, as it is the most expensive and least scalable form of delivery. The problem can be alleviated if the one-to-one delivery is mediated online. This dramatically reduces costs on travel, etc, and more learners can be handled by an individual coach. The classroom is only scalable in the sense of having more people in the room at any one time. A good example, would be a conference with thousands of people seeing a keynote speech by an industry guru. Scalability can also be increased by capturing on video and broadcasting the result on the web, an increasingly common phenomenon. Virtual classrooms also give scalability reaching people at a distance.

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An Epic White Paper

Offline Workplace learning Face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring Classroom Distributable print media Distributable electronic media Broadcast media Online Online e-learning content E-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring Online collaborative learning Online knowledge management The web Mobile learning **** *** ***** ***** ***** **** * * ** *** *** ****

To conclude on scalability; if scalability is an issue, with large numbers of existing or potential learners, it has a significant impact on costs, distribution and maintainability. Overall, if you need a scalable solution, your blend is likely to have a much greater technology bias.

Sustainability
The sustainability of your blend will make the difference between short and long-term success. Cultural resistance is usually the major obstacle to change and if you exist in a culture where change is difficult, newer components may be difficult to implement. The tunnel vision exhibited by purveyors of technology in learning can ignore the very real legacy, history, social context and institutional values of organisations. It is not that technology changes fast, but that people change slowly. It is the soft stuff that is hard. At a cultural level you may have to either accept or attempt to change attitudes towards, training as a reward, technophobic attitudes or openness to learning at home.

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An Epic White Paper

Sustainability is also likely to be helped by avoiding sheep-dip approaches to learning and supporting learners on an ongoing basis through continuous support. This can be achieved through access to web-based collaborative environments, e-learning content, knowledge bases, the web and other offline electronic and print media. Sustainability also needs good change management with relentless communications and support for learning initiatives, whatever the blend. It is particularly important when new, unfamiliar components are introduced into your blends. Sustainability may also entail the introduction of a learning culture or learning organisation. Otherwise learning will be seen as a spoon-feeding process. Some online components may need a more enlightened selfdirected approach to learning. To conclude on sustainability; at one level sustainability will depend on cultural issues and change management may be needed. On another level, sustainability will depend on the ability of your blend to support an ongoing learning culture within the organisation.

Resources
Whatever your intentions in blended learning, if you dont have the human, organisational, technical and fiscal resources, youre bound to fail. The type of blend you want may be different from the blend you can deliver. Resources to consider include: Human resources Physical infrastructure Technical resources Budget Human resources can be the rate limiting step in a headcount sensitive organisation. The more complex the

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An Epic White Paper

blend the more management bandwidth and expertise is needed to design, develop and deliver that blend. Assess your training design, development and delivery capacity in terms of both people and their skills. Designing for the classroom courses is very different from design in elearning. Face to face coaches do no necessarily take to ecoaching. Project management is a high level skill. The more complex the blend and the more technology components you consider, the greater the need for good, experienced project managers. The physical infrastructure should also be available for classroom activities along with the appropriate equipment. Technical resources have to be addressed if any of the web-based options are to be included in your blend. They include a supportive IT department, back-end, network, security and user access. Budget is, of course, of paramount importance. Do you have a budget and is that budget adequate? Different blends have different fiscal consequences. Having the ability to do an overall or project-by-project ROI is useful. See Epic White paper on Return on Investment. To conclude on infrastructure; if you dont know in detail what people, physical resources and technical infrastructure you have, youre working blind on your blend. Your expectations on delivery, quality and cost need this sort of reality check. Content may be king, but infrastructure is God.

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An Epic White Paper

Categories of blended learning


Blends can be a blessing or a curse. Like any recipe with ingredients, it can turn out to be sublime in taste and appearance, modest fare or an ill-cooked mess. We can now consider some models for blends. The aim here is not to recommend complicated blended learning, without having considered the components and criteria first. However, it is worth considering a move from the simple to the more complex in terms of identifiably different approaches to blended learning. Lets consider the following four levels of blend: Level 1 - Component Level 2 - Integrated Level 3 - Collaborative Level 4 - Extended

Level 1 Component

A component blend takes separate delivery channels and strings them together to make a simple blend i.e. the components are separate in the sense of being standalone. They would function effectively on their own if the others did not exist. If there were only one component, it would be difficult to justify the use of the word blend. However, there is no absolute rule against having a single method of delivery. Some of the best learning experiences can be delivered from a single book or live experience. More commonly,
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the number of components will be determined by the criteria of; learning outcomes, learners, culture, learning resources, electronic infrastructure, scalability and maintainability. A serial blend would be a series of components that are expected to be taken in a specific order by the learner. This is the commonest type of blend. It may simply be some e-learning followed by a workshop; a twocomponent blend. A three-component induction blend may be a buddy on arrival, some e-learning and a live meet the managers session. More complex component blends may include diagnosis, reading, followed by elearning, which in turn is consolidated in a workshop. A parallel blend is the multiple delivery of components offering a variety of different and complementary ways of tackling the same learning task. This is typical in education where a book, several papers, tutorials and lectures may all offer different perspectives and methods of learning the topic. There is less reliance on structure and order. The components are more akin to resources, multiple channels offered simultaneously to the learner. Some radical constructivists argue that this is exactly what we should be doing in learning, as learners must be free to construct knowledge autonomously from available resources. Although component blends may be the simplest of blends, they may be more suited to experienced learners. Self-directed learners, who have learnt how to learn, and know how to structure and proceed with their own learning, may well react better to resources from which they can choose, rather than pre-defined structure.

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Level 2 Integrated

An integrated blend is designed to integrate the components into a single mutually supporting structure. Each component is designed with the others in mind including direct design features, style, cross-references, links and dependencies that make the learning experience a single unified whole. Common design features such as a brand, logo, layout, palette and font may be applied across the entire offering to give it cohesion and unity. Stylistic unity can also be sought with a stylesheet for tone of voice, vocabulary and approach to learning. Direct links from one component to another should be sought e.g. cross references from print to web resources and vice-versa, from e-learning to collaborative discussions, from e-learning course to online assessment and so on. Dependencies may include initial online diagnostics and introductory e-learning which may determine whether you should or can attend the workshop or classroom event. Assessment is usually an integrated component as the chosen assessment method will need to draw directly from the components used in the blend. Indeed, the design of the blend may have been influenced by the need for assessment. E-learning gives you formative and

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An Epic White Paper

summative assessment, however, it is limited in terms of submitted assignments by learners or observational techniques.

Level 3 Collaborative

A collaborative blend brings further cohesion to the components and learners by providing face-to-face or electronic tutoring, coaching or mentoring and/or collaborative facilities. To sustain a learning community it must advance through structural and psychological levels: Administrative (one-to-one) Contributive (one-to-many) Bonded (group identity)

Communities normally start out as administered (one-toone) communities. They include basic functionality with email addresses for individuals, an email alias for the course group, course notes and other course collateral. Many e-learning initiatives using learning management systems or learning environments do no more than this. They manage information about learners, courses, content and instructors. They then advance into being contributive (one-to-many) communities. These involve digital relationships. Individuals may contribute personal profiles.

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Collaborative relationships will form between tutors and learners as well as between learners and learners. At this level the contributions are regular and the group will be building a sense of community around these contributions. But the sense of group identity is still likely to be one-to-many, with each individual learner feeling like a contributor. Finally communities become bonded (group identity). This is a more mature form of group identity. With a collective sense of purpose the contributing members feel part of a group, rather than just contributors and consumers. The group will move beyond a community for the sharing of information and learning, to mutually supporting learners, and advance to the level of a community that learns. Some key features of an online learning community that lead to success are: Learning objectives and tasks Social communication in the group Functionality of collaborative learning environment Resources available for learning Defined role and expectations of e-tutor, coach or mentor Defined role and expectations of learners See Epic White Paper on Collaborative e-learning. The extra components this model considers are: face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring e-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring online collaborative learning

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Level 4 Expansive

An expansive blend takes learning beyond the boundaries of the predictable components of formal learning into the workplace, use of offline print resources, use of electronic media, the web and even mobile learning. The artificial gulf that exists between formal and informal learning blends and blurs when other resources are used in blended learning. These useful resources are often ignored, simply because of the mistaken assumption that people always need formal instruction to learn. Sometimes these resources are cheap, even free, and encourage a more expansive view of learning beyond the idea of learning as a reward or learning as a classroom activity. The workplace is where most actual learning takes place, yet it is often ignored as a resource or place for reinforcement in formal classroom cultures. The workplace should be used to the advantage of the learner in reinforcing or transferring learning to real applicable performance. Distributable print and electronic media can be used to introduce timeshift or asynchronous learning into the equation. These can be used to encourage learning before and after the synchronous events.

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Technology introduces a further raft of expansive opportunities. The extra components this model considers are: workplace learning distributable print media distributable electronic media broadcast media online knowledge management the web mobile learning We live in a media age, where the problem is a surfeit of information. This we can turn to our advantage as there is a wealth of untapped resources at our fingertips on the web, intranet, knowledge bases, television and radio. The consumer electronics industry has also penetrated the workplace, home and pocket with devices that can be used to deliver learning or learner support. Never have so many good and cheap resources and devices been available to the interested learner.

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Conclusion
We have seen how blended learning is not new. What is new is the sheer range of possible components in a blend. We must decide, through selected criteria, how these components should be blended to produce fruitful blends. People hold on to the familiar. This is sometimes what draws them towards blended learning. Vendors of elearning have been at fault in presenting build it and they will come models based on large catalogues of content and an LMS. Attention to motivation and people was rare. On the other hand cultural inertia, the reactive, protective attitude that resists change is also common. It is equally as destructive. Blended learning is an attempt to rise above these crude positions. In designing, developing and delivering different types of blends - component, integrated, collaborative or expansive - we must be sure that we have thought about the learning outcomes, learners, culture, learning resources, electronic infrastructure, scalability and maintainability of the proposed solution. Increasing choice is not an end in itself. Good cocktails are not normally made by including as many different drinks as you can muster. They are carefully crafted blends of complementary tastes, where the sum is greater than the parts. In some cases, as with whisky, a single malt is superior to the blend!

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An Epic White Paper

Appendix 1 Component list

Six offline component groups Workplace learning Manager as developer learning on the job projects apprenticeships shadowing placements site visits

Six online component groups simple learning Online learning resources content interactive generic content interactive customised content performance support simulations E-tutoring, e-coaching or e-mentoring e-tutoring e-coaching e-mentoring 360 degree feedback Asynchronous (not in realtime) email bulletin boards Synchronous (in realtime) text chat application sharing audio conferencing video conferencing virtual classrooms Online knowledge management searching knowledge bases data mining document and file retrieval ask an expert search engines websites user groups e-commerce sites

Face-to-face tutoring, coaching or mentoring Classroom

tutoring coaching mentoring 360 degree feedback lectures/presentations tutorials workshops seminars role play simulations conferences

Online collaborative learning

Distributable print media

books magazines newspapers workbooks keeping a journal review/learning logs Audio cassettes Audio CD Videotape CD-ROM DVD TV radio interactive TV

Distributable electronic media

The web

Broadcast media

Mobile learning

laptops PDAs mobile phones

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Other Epic e-learning white papers


Excellent stuff Virgin V.Shop Well structured and easy to follow CGNU Extremely well written nice to see a company looking deeply at the issues. Independent researcher General The markets for e-learning E-learning: return on investment Organisational benefits of e-learning Customer e-learning Games and e-learning Psychology The psychology of e-learning Motivation in e-learning Definition Learning design for e-learning Blended learning Blended learning in practice Collaboration in e-learning Simulations and e-learning Induction and e-learning Development Reusable learning objects Standards in e-learning Accessibility and e-learning Testing for e-learning Delivery Change management and e-learning M-learning Learning management systems The Napsterisation of learning (Peer-to-Peer) Evaluation and e-learning E-tutoring Knowledge management and e-learning

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