There is no official definition or universally agreed-upon meaning of blended learning, but it is a term that generally describes the combination of online learning, traditional in-person learning, and independent study time. Blended learning goes beyond simply using computers for learning and toward a fundamental change in the way people learn. Many people call blended learning a hybrid system and that label is appropriate. Blended learning can also be mixed with microlearning to further evolve the learning process. The idea of blended learning is sound and when implemented correctly, this new method of learning can be effective. However, for success, you must strike the right balance between online and in-person learning. That balance is especially important when other elements like microlearning are involved.
Online Only vs Blended
A study took two groups of American university students where one group completed a class entirely online while the other group undertook the same material through blended learning. The online group was tasked with 13 self-paced modules consisting of videos, discussions, and readings while the blended learning group met for a weekly in-person lesson that was supplemented by online modules and conversations.
The students in both groups were tested on their knowledge of the subject matter and were also asked about perceived learning through surveys. Both groups demonstrated they had mastered the subject matter, but the students had different opinions about how they learned the material. The online-only group felt it was harder to learn the subject matter, there was a heavier workload, and that they had less support than the blended learning group.
One thing both groups agreed on was that the quality of the content was the most important factor in their learning. Both groups agreed that because the material was clear and concise they were able to master the content regardless of the learning style.
It may be tempting to tout this study as proof that the blended learning format is superior to online-only learning, but the issue is more complex than that. There are benefits of online-only learning that blended learning cannot compete with. Entirely online learning enables people to participate from anywhere in the world. There is also a case to be made for having people learning in the same room, particularly within a business, as being physically in the same space helps build a group connection and makes collaboration easier.
Microlearning deals with small units of learning or short-term learning activities. The goal is to deliver information in a short amount of time as microlearning is characterized by brevity. Virtually any content format can be made to fit microlearning, it just needs to adhere to the core tenant of brevity. Short videos, small paragraphs of text, images, audio clips, and more are all good formats for microlearning.
Microlearning is commonly used in online courses simply due to the format compatibility. Watching a short video in person can be inefficient when those people could be watching that same video from anywhere in the world. Online learning and microlearning combine well to create an educational experience that feels more digestible than traditionally heavily text-based online learning.
Microlearning has many benefits for both the learner and the person supplying the education.
Microlearning content is faster to create and deliver. This shorter content takes less time to write and produce, which means it can be sent to students faster. This lets educators respond to changing lesson goals quickly without requiring a massive time commitment to stay on schedule.
Microlearning is also cheaper to make. The shorter content requires fewer resources and needs fewer instructors. Making the content doesn’t require special tools, either, as a standard LMS content editor is sufficient. There are other specialized microlearning creation tools to make content creation even easier, but they are not necessary in most use cases.
The purpose of the short content microlearning offers is to keep the learner engaged as people tend to lose focus the longer a lesson goes on. Microlearning also accommodates the hectic pace of modern life; not everyone has time for an hour-long lecture, but most people can watch a 15-minute video.
Both blended learning and microlearning are new evolutions in education looking to make the experience better for learners and instructors- whether they be in a classroom or in a business environment. Finding the right mix of in-person and online learning is important, but it is easier said than done. A specific situation may lend itself more to online-only learning, but a different one might require the benefits of learning in-person. Should you decide online learning is the way to go, consider adopting microlearning to further improve the experience.
If you are an instructor charged with creating a blended learning, eLearning, microlearning, or any style of course, SkillSource Learning can help. Our consultants, who have specialties ranging from development to instructional design, will work with you to create training and educational content tailored to your needs. SkillSource Learning also has developers well versed in authoring tools, including Articulate Studio, Captivate, Lectora, and more.