Blended Learning: Avoiding the Blind Spots
Blended learning experiences have become widespread among university-based business schools, but they are not always optimally designed to meet the needs of executives, according to a recent report sponsored by UNICON, the Consortium for University-based Executive Education.
“Although there has been much progress, there appear to be many opportunities for further improving the design of blended programs, in particular with respect to the use of technology,” according to the report, authored by Giuseppe Auricchio, Kati Clement-Frazier and JoEllen Prouty McLaren.
The study took an in-depth look at both the implicit and explicit reactions of senior managers who had recently participated in university-led leadership development programs designed according to a blended learning model. Among their findings, the researchers discovered that:
- Executives desire more information prior to blended learning programs, particularly regarding the blended learning process and methodologies.
- They frequently have varying levels of blended learning skills, as well as limited familiarity with learning via the technology employed by educational providers.
- Expect learning platforms to simplify and consolidate skills-building using tools that strengthen positive learning habits.
- Desire follow-up activities and different forms of on-going support to keep them on track following the learning experience.
“As in many cases a good evaluation of current practice depends on the ability to ask the right questions,” the authors wrote in the report.
They encourage program designers to ask the following questions when designing blended learning experiences:
- Have we communicated to participants the meaning of their involvement in the program, and how this experience relates to them and their organization?
- Is this design choice the best match for the range of our group’s learning needs?
- Do participants know how to use the process / tools / practices we’ve selected for this experience?
- Are we collectively making engaging in the learning experience as easy as possible for our participants?
“Perhaps the biggest opportunity for providers of learning experiences is to look at executive education beyond a cognitive perspective and adopt a more holistic view of learning. Looking at learning from various opportunities – physical, spiritual, socio-emotional – repositions learning as participative rather than passive,” reflects Clement-Frazier in the report.