Creating Blended eLearning Experiences

In my previous article, The Government’s Take on eLearning Effectiveness, blended eLearning fared well in the US Department of Education’s meta-analysis of 45 different studies of eLearning from the last decade. But what does it really take to create effective blended eLearning experiences? To get this right, it’s useful to choose a model or framework that helps you cover all the bases. One of the best I’ve come across is Badrul Khan’s blended e-learning Octagonal Framework. It can serve as your guide in planning, developing, delivering, managing, and evaluating blended learning programs.

Creating Blended eLearning Experiences

Here are summaries of what’s involved in each of the eight aspects of Khan’s Octagonal Framework:

Institutional. This aspect means making sure the organization is equipped to design, offer, and manage a blended experience. This should involve conducting a needs analysis to make sure you understand learners’ needs.

Pedagogical. This second aspect involves nailing down the specific learning objectives so that you can then figure out what delivery method is most appropriate for each one.

Technological. Once you have identified the delivery methods to be used, technological choices around the learning environment and tools to deliver content need to be made. Such choices may include items as a learning management system (LMS) and learning content management system (LCMS), all the hardware and software needed, and appropriate bandwidth for everything.

Interface Design. An appropriate interface design must be chosen and implemented for each aspect of the blended program, and it has to be sophisticated enough to integrate all the different aspects into a cohesive whole. Elements at play here include content structure, navigation, graphics, and the all-important help function.

Evaluation. This includes both the effectiveness of the course or module from the learner’s perspective as well as evaluating learners’ performance. Appropriate evaluation measures must be selected for each delivery method employed. For more information on eLearning evaluation, see my series of articles as follows:

Management. This aspect is about lining up everything you need in terms of infrastructure and logistics to properly manage a blended learning program, especially since you’re using multiple delivery types. That means more work than a single delivery type, but it’s worth the extra effort.

Resource Support. This aspect is about determining what resources, both online and offline will be made available to learners and keeping all of that organized. This might include access to instructors and tutors through various methods.

Ethical. This final aspect asks designers to think through any ethical considerations that may appear, such as learners from different cultural backgrounds, language accommodations, and equal opportunity access to the course or module.

Keep in mind the various benefits of taking a blended approach:

  • Better learner outcomes.
  • Extending the reach of eLearning.
  • Flexibility to optimize cost and time of development.

By keeping your eye on the prize and using a solid model such as Khan’s Octagonal Framework, you’ll be well on your way to leveraging the full power of blended eLearning for the organizational results you need.

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