Blended Learning: The What, Why & How for Vocational Education
This blog has been updated for freshness and relevancy…
In today’s world if you’re not working “online” you are in the minority. Online is where we’re all at, even when we’re working face-to-face as this blog points out. During the last year it has been even more paramount. Work and study were both successfully transitioned online, and while things are getting back to normal, many are not so eager to completely give up the convenience of e-learning from home, or would like to at least be given the option to balance face-to-face and online learning.
This brings us to ‘Blended Learning’. Another buzz word that’s been whirling around the VET sector recently. But what exactly does it mean?
What is Blended Learning?
Blended Learning: Learners use a combination of In-Person and Online Learning to achieve learning objectives. Often referred to as “hybrid learning”, the amount of each delivery method in a course can vary. The Blended Learning method is much more than just adding computers and internet access to your courses, it represents a foundational shift in the way trainers and learners approach the learning material.
Note: Blended Learning is different to distance or self-paced learning, which means learners are not in the classroom and could be at home or in any other location. The work may be under timed conditions or self paced. During online learning, there isn’t any formal interaction between the student, cohort or trainer.
Why Blended Learning Works Particularly Well for Vocational Education
Blended Learning is a good fit for the VET sector because it requires learners to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical setting or context. This can be achieved by incorporating workplace activities into vocational education, using online resources. The right fit-for-purpose online solution will allow learners, assessors, trainers, and 3rd parties to actively participate in every step of the learning journey, keeping compliance top of mind.
For example, practical assessments can often be conducted offsite and either assessed live via video conference, or recorded and submitted for assessment at a later time.
Top Tip: When it comes to the principles of assessment and the rules of evidence you must be able to show how you collected evidence following the rules and that assessments were implemented in line with the four principles no matter which delivery method is used.
How to Successfully Implement Blended Learning
In order to be successful and provide learners with a quality experience, Blended Learning must be thoughtfully and deliberately implemented. Consideration must be given to each unit and assessment as well as the different scenarios and environments that you’ll be supporting your learners in. Technology should be integrated effectively to enhance the learning experience for trainers and learners.
A blended learning delivery approach doesn’t always require a wide range of technology or devices. It can merely mean adopting a few tools, used effectively, to achieve the desired learning outcome.
For example, learners may attend lessons with a trainer in a more traditional classroom setting, while also completing components of the course, such as online activities or assessments, outside the classroom.
The division between the face-to-face and online components will vary from course to course. The online component may be minimal, simply complimenting an in-class course, or it may represent the bulk of the learning, with learners working independently for the majority of the course and only meeting sporadically with trainers to review their work.
Example 1 – Using online resources to facilitate a course: The trainer may communicate via email and online forums, upload notes, worksheets, presentations, etc. regularly.
Example 2 – Using online resources to communicate and collaborate within a course: The trainer may upload videos, podcasts, quizzes and interactive presentations while using forums to facilitate discussion.
Example 3 – Using online resources as the main element of the course: The trainer fully integrates digital technology into the delivery of the course.
Supporting Your Learners Using Blended Learning
- Ease of use to navigate and manage workload: This will appeal to learners no matter their level of digital literacy. Whether they are tech savvy or not, an easy to use online solution should make it easy for all learners to find units, assessments, resources, calendar, etc.
- Real time submission and feedback: Communicate in a timely manner with all of your learners throughout their journey. With an online solution you can set up workflows that notifies them when assessments have been released, set up due date reminders, let them know when assessments are marked and even send out links to surveys when required.
- Easily consume engaging content: Videos, podcasts, presentations, etc. can all be made available to learners online. You can also embed media into your assessments to enable students to access vital sources of information when they need it.
- Portable and flexible: Learners have the ability to access records at any time, with no need to carry around paperwork.
Benefits of Adopting Blended Learning
- Lower operating costs for RTOs: Blended Learning can be delivered relatively inexpensively. Adopting digital technology allows paperless learning and assessment, which saves expenses in the long term as well as frees up administrative resources and creates a more sustainable business model. With a fit-for-purpose solution you can run other parts of your process online too including enrolment, feedback and more. Automation reduces the amount of time spent on administration.
- Appeal to a wider market: Offering part of a course online will appeal to the more tech savvy learners, while not excluding those who still desire the support of studying face-to-face. Offering a solution that combines the two is likely to be seen as an attractive option.
- Achieve higher learner outcomes: Encouraging individual and collaborative learning facilitates the type of environment required to develop a deeper understanding of unit material. Research has shown that learning is more likely to occur and is enriched when learners go beyond the passive tasks of simply listening, reading or viewing. Blended learning facilitates the active engagement required for a deeper understanding by giving learners the opportunity to discuss and debate their ideas with others
Providing a Quality Learning Experience
Using a fit-for-purpose solution that will meet the needs of your training and assessment strategies is key. If you settle for second rate you are likely to run into trouble when it comes to managing your compliance requirements. An online solution not fit-for-purpose may lack functionality that gives you the control over the validity and authenticity of your assessments.
Why is this? Well, most LMS’s were designed for universities and schools who use them for the transfer of knowledge. The vocational education and training sector is driven by a different set of rules. The national regulator states, “Assessment is the gatekeeper of quality.” So with an undeniable impetus for Quality assessment (tools & practices) within the VET sector, why do we continue to see such high numbers for assessment compliance (75% non compliant) for RTOs audited?
The answer could lie in the understanding of quality and how to apply it in the digital age.
Working with a digital solution, RTOs can achieve more with less and gain appreciation for the bigger picture. In addition RTO’s assessment practices can stand out above and beyond other providers.
There is a growing demand for flexible assessment and training methods. By offering a Blended Learning model that has been thoughtfully planned out to incorporate the best face-to-face and online training, your RTO not only provides learning pathways for more students, but also students that are able to work autonomously, are self-motivated and have developed skills that are transferrable directly into the workforce.
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