The Value of Hybrid/Blended Learning

faoblended Image from From

Via Stephen Downes came this snippet that caught my eye.  Discussing design models for hybrid/blended learning and the impact on the campus ~ Stephen’s Web.

Tony Bates writes, “Despite all the hype about MOOCs, hybrid learning is probably the most significant development in e-learning – or indeed in teaching generally – in post-secondary education, at least here in Canada.” I think that if you look inside universities, this is true. But outside formal education institutions, the hybrid model is virtually nonexistent.

Hm, in my world, which is definitely outside post-secondary education and not in Canada, blended models are front and center. So I thought I’d leave Stephen a note and get Mike Culligan, a colleague from LINGOS and Last Mile Learning, to chime in. Here is what we replied in the comments. I have added some links to mine which were not in the original comments!

Re: Discussing design models for hybrid/blended learning and the impact on the campus

I wanted to give you a heads up that the hybrid model is indeed alive and well outside of formal education institutions. FAO’s most successful learning programs are now blended (particularly good examples in S. Africa around Food Security Policy learning projects) , LINGOS.ORG has been getting very good results w/ blended and showing significant resources savings from their traditional F2F offerings, and better results than pure play elearning, and other organizations in development are moving in the same direction. Little old me too – much of the capacity building/structured learning I facilitate is now blended. I think the problem is these different worlds don’t talk to each other very much. [Comment] [Permalink]

More examples – International Development

I work with LINGOs – the international development organization Nancy White mentioned above. In addition to the examples she provided, there are more examples from Plan International, Management Sciences for Health, etc.

> One of the programs with the longest track record is the Virtual Leadership Development (Program ). Operating since 2002, the program’s website describes the learning experience as follows:

>”Rather than giving a few top level managers off-site leadership training for one to two weeks or more, the VLDP trains up to 12 teams of four to 10 people virtually over the course of 13 weeks. The VLDP requires approximately four to six hours of individual commitment per week. Team members work independently on the VLDP web site with additional support from the program workbook. They also participate in on-site team meetings within their organizations throughout the program. During the VLDP, each team plans and develops an action plan that addresses a real organizational or programmatic challenge facing them.

I recently completed a desk study with Scott Leslie for another organization (and I think we’ll be able to share it soon!) to review their elearning options and again, the blended learning option was high on our analysis. My work a couple of weeks ago in Kenya with leaders of agricultural networks which focus on learning across various ag domains again identified blended as a significant option, allowing both the deeper focus and relationship that we can wring out of F2F, with the ongoing, “home-based” learning that the network members can do online.

Formal, informal and in-between, blended RULES in my experience. What about in yours? Stephen, your post also reminded me we still have a lot of network weaving to do to help this type of learning permeate across the membranes of the .edu, .org and .com worlds!

13 thoughts on “The Value of Hybrid/Blended Learning”

  1. I’m very interested in a blended approach to “dialogic engagements” as well. What makes this powerful in a teaching or training context can also work when convening “conversations that matter.” I’ve gotten especially inspired about how a hybrid format could allow for variations on traditional in-person processes like World Cafe and Open Space Technology.

    I see two basic models. One, along the lines of the Virtual Leadership Program described above, has local nodes that gather regularly in person, paired with virtual components where more diverse small groups and a gathering of the whole are supported.

    The other model involves bringing all participants together one or more times. I like the idea of using these gatherings to book-end the conversational process, with virtual dialogue in between them. Other variants might only have a single large gathering, perhaps integrated with a conference.

  2. Ben, yes, this model makes a lot of sense. Sometimes the sequence matters and varies by context. For example, a group that will spend MOST of its time online can sometimes usefully benefit from STARTING online and testing some assumptions, then coming together to validate (or disprove). This “tunes up” their online antennae vs starting with default comfort zone of F2F.

  3. That strikes me as very insightful, Nancy. Another benefit of waiting for the F2F piece is that participants get a little extra juice from the fun of “materializing” with people they already know at least a bit from their online interactions.

    By the way, I always find it valuable to distinguish synchronous and asynchronous online elements. How often do you see engagements where all three of these levels are given significant weight in the design?

    It’s tricky business creating a context where people work together in all these ways, to be sure, and some will always gravitate to one aspect or another. My sense though, is that we’re still only scratching the surface of what can be done when we connect using the full spectrum of tools now available to us.

  4. Ben, I think it is very useful that you brought up synch/asynch. When a group has a real challenge focusing, the synch is essential. When it has rhythm and flow, asynch gives flexibility and, in a calmer world, time for more reflective response. However, today’s pitched race to get a zillion things done compromises our interactions at every turn. 🙁

  5. Open source communities have been doing informal blended learning for decades, using various asynchronous means of communication combined with f2f meetups.

    These highly successful communities often get overlooked when people are examining real world examples of blended learning.



  6. A related tweet from Bill… but heck, he beat me here with a comment. Thanks, Bill! Lets get more of these examples out there!

    Bill Fitzgerald

    Open source communities have been doing informal blended learning for decades:… // @NancyWhite @Downes

    01:19 PM – 23 Jul 13

    1. Stephen Downes replied a bit more on OLDaily today…. He wrote:

      All good examples, but all cases where learning is offered by instutions. Sure, they’re not colleges or universities, but they’re certainly not instances of self-managed informal learning either. I think the closest you could come to hybrid learning in the non-institutional learning community might be things like barcamps and hackathons.

      What? Come on Stephen, when you get outside of institutions, hybrid learning is everywhere. It is the air we breathe and it doesn’t restrict itself to event based things like Barcamps and Hackathons! Communities of practice today are often blended learning, if you open the term up beyond structured offerings. My neighborhood “sustainable seattle” group is one – between web and F2F work parties.

      Hm, I’m also wondering why the focus on institutional vs non institutional. I’m beginning to think I’m not fully understanding the point you are trying to make. Say more, Stephen?

  7. Thanks for sticking up for the existence of blended model courses outside of academia. I developed and now continue to facilitate a blended model course in Victoria for Volunteer Victoria, our local volunteer centre. It’s one day in person, four weeks online. I believe this course is fairly unique in Canada in terms of courses to train individuals in the profession of volunteer management. And the model works very well. It’s called “Leading Volunteers: Foundations in Volunteer Management.” My aim is to get more non-profits going in this direction!

    1. Beth, thanks for sharing your example. What do you think are the highlights of your design? What insights have you gained in running the offering? I’d love to know more.

  8. Nancy we have an online pre-week for the course which is designed to get the participants comfortable with the online mode and give them some practice things to do, like use a wiki – usually a very new tool to most of them. And we have structured one of their assignments to be leading and managing a forum discussion in pairs, so that we turn over the responsibility of guiding discussion on the various sub-topics within each unit to the participants. My co-facilitator and I jump in and add value where it’s most relevant, but we do give them essentially facilitation responsibility of that discussion, so it’s meaningful to them.
    My biggest compliment last year after the course was something like, ‘Wow, I had no idea an online course could be so engaging and interactive!” which made me beam with pleasure. 🙂 I think in nonprofit there just aren’t a lot of people taking online courses and what they have seen they haven’t necessarily liked, the courses have been just self-study. Our course goes a lot deeper and is very active, engaging and relevant. We build relevancy into the course in many ways, lastly having them work on a team project together to solve a current volunteer management issue that one of them is facing. Thanks for asking!

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