I thought a refresher on blended learning would be a useful CPD exercise, so towards the end of May (the 20th) I enrolled on the free ‘Blended Learning Essentials:Getting Started‘ 20 hour course at Future Learn by the University of Leeds and UCL Institute of Education. This was completed today.
The aim of doing this extended learning activity was to refresh my prior learning, learn something new (which I certainly did), and to then apply any areas for improvement to my own work situation, which I have already started to do.
The course was well structured, providing a good variety of activities, with text and video information. The short videos were effective and maintained attention; the longer videos (30 minutes +) unfortunately lost my attention early on – the content was very good as was delivery, but I found myself wanting to ‘do something interactive’. For my own work situation for the online learning platform I manage, the use of small bite sized video clips (possibly up to a maximum of 5 minutes) would be more fit for purpose. On the few videos which are currently included on the works platform, most are under one-minute at the moment, although some are longer.
There was a lot of different open digital tools which can be used by learners, although having a few to focus on would I think help, at least in the short term, otherwise a learner might get bogged down in trying to use too many different tools just for the sake of it. What is the purpose of the tool and does it achieve the desired objective? This really needs to be asked. Surely it’s better to be competent in the use of a smaller selection of tools, and develop from there, rather than try and take on too may at once – especially if the tools are the ‘in thing’, yet end up wasting a lot of valuable time. Experiment, but have a timescale and fixed purpose in mind, otherwise I can see learners spending a lot of time exploring a wide range of tools and not spending adequate time actually learning the required subject matter: Unless of course the subject matter is the exploration of open digital tools.
The use of discussion forums is currently widely available on the works online learning platform, although learner and tutor engagement is limited. The potential to develop and extend peer discussion as well as tutor and learner discussions was well demonstrated within the course and this is certainly one area for improvement in my own practice, so further investigation is needed into how this can be better implemented in practice.
The use of social media tools, especially Twitter, is well established within my industry, however, the use of social media as a learning tool is in its infancy. Providing clear guidance on the responsible and appropriate use of social media is one area which needs to be provided to learners and is therefore a significant area for improvement.
With learning being a social process, the use of social media can really be seen as a natural partner in collaboration between learners and engaging new and established learners. The importance of discussion to help develop learning was well demonstrated within the course.
The videos within the course which showed learners engaging in different ways with technology was very helpful and just demonstrated how accessible and easy the capture of work activity or images (such as weeds, pests or diseases) can be for a learner. This can then be discussed or queried later by peers or a tutor, if so desired by a learner. The process will also help learners develop their own personal ‘knowledge portfolio’ which relates specifically to their own occupation. Adding reflective commentary would also benefit a learner as this provides context to why the feature was captured.
Having a structured, yet flexible, learning programme is essential if learners are to be directed / self-directed to achieve course outcomes. The use of DADDIE – Define, Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate, was well described and underpins the process of a structured learning programme: Learning Outcomes –> Course Material Content designed –> Learner needs identified and met –> Pedagogy (Andragogy) –> Assessment. Review and evaluate to determine if the process as well as assessments and learning outcomes are a match. The cornerstone of most of our courses are what is called level descriptors and these determine the depth of knowledge expected from a course. Course design is fairly well structured along the lines given above, although continual improvement is and should be an ongoing process.
“The whole process of blended learning is to use digital technologies to enable every learner to achieve their potential learning”, (well that’s what I wrote down, but maybe there’s a mis quote somewhere in there!) is something which I am passionate about – lifelong learning, and digital technology (and blended learning) can certainly provide a positive contribution to this.
A planned 4 hours per week for 5 weeks didn’t quite work out as planned; overall I reached the target but a bit more discipline would have helped engage on a more regular and even basis.
A really useful and engaging learning process for me, which has helped to generate some new ideas for incorporating into my work’s learning platform.
Chris Gray, 30th June 2019