Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I've just started a MOOC called Becoming a Blended Learning Designer through Canvas.

I've just started a MOOC  called Becoming a Blended Learning Designer through Canvas.

Why?

Mostly because I love to learn and I love to share information with others.  If I didn't have such a terrible phobia about speaking in front of a crowd, I would have been a teacher.  Instead, I've taken several courses in teaching methods and Adult learning and have applied it to training in a retail environment - with smaller groups that allow me to share and interact, without breaking out in a cold swear - ugh!

A bit about me and why I am interested in Blended Learning

At a previous employer, a home-goods store, all training was Face to face (F2F).  Materials were available on the Intranet to print and teach from.  Courses designed (I swear!) by people who have never taught a class in the middle of a cookware department, on a busy day to the only associate on that half of a store!  Classes were constantly interrupted, cancelled mid-way through by a well meaning manager or ended with someone called to cash.  To say they were unproductive would be an understatement.  When the learning was validated through role plays, or - heaven forbid!, a mystery shop, it was very evident that the methodology did not work.

Unfortunately, in a corporate environment, messages from the front lines are often ignored.

Another employer had on-line learning down to a science!  Or, so they thought!!  With a minimum amount of time mandated to be dedicated to training per associate per week, the thought was to sit an associate in front of a computer, have a lot of information pushed at them to take notes on, and then quiz the living be-jeepers out of them (a WHMIS course had no less than four (4!) tests in order to complete - sometimes as long as 3 months after the class was taken).

Now, this strictly on-line learning worked for some, but not my team.  Although they were dedicated to the learning process (an advantage to having 3/4 of my team 40+), they felt isolated by this learning process.  They had no one to talk to about what they were learning as they were all at different places.  They had no one to whom they could ask questions. It was not always easy to relate the content of the materials to the practicality and reality of everyday life.  

I had to make a change.  Right away.  Before my crew bailed on me.  And I had to go against the corporate plan and training policy.

I organized F2F training with every vendor and supplier I could.  If someone was an expert on a topic and I could get them in, I did.  Sometimes, the teacher was me.  I rearranged schedules to allow everyone to attend a session at some time over a 3 month period.  I made sure they could ask questions.  I gave them notice about who was coming and when.

And they studied.  They reviewed websites.  Catalogues.  Brochures.  Anything they could get their hands on.  At work.  At home.  Whenever they could.

Why?

So the time they had F2F could be used for interactive learning. So they could ask questions - specific to the product we carried.  Things their customers were asking and that they couldn't answer.  They learned a lot.  They challenged their instructors to learn more and teach more.

And what happened?

Sales went through the roof!  Confident, well informed, educated individuals who understood what products were right for what jobs sold their little butts off!  A department which would generally be a mid to bottom rated department in a Hardware/Lumber store became #1!!

Blended Learning

That was my first foray into blended learning.  Balancing an on-line component with a F2F component in a mix that worked for the group in question.  Not that I knew at the time that was what it was called.  I also didn't know at the time that people were studying the effectiveness - or that my results and conclusions based on my highly unscientific study would be in line with real studies by professionals.

I was happily surprised when I read the chapter for module 1 of my course that I had been on the right track.  Now to learn more so that next time, I can have the proper mix and the right tools at my disposal.