11. Learning methods are timeless

Designing blended solutions
In this series of posts (first post here), I describe a simple process for designing blended solutions that are both efficient and effective. This has three stages: (1) analysing the unique characteristics of the situation in which the solution is to be deployed; (2) selecting the right blend of methods to meet the needs of the situation; and (3) determining the delivery media best suited to these methods.
In the first two weeks, I explained how to carry out stage 1 of the process, analysing the situation. This has three elements: the learning, the learners and the logistics – the three Ls. Armed with the information gained from this analysis, we can move on to the most creative stage in the process: selecting the methods that we believe will meet the learning requirements, for the audience in question and within the given constraints.

Learning methods are timeless

Strange as it may seem, the methods we use for teaching and learning have been with us for a very long time. Thousands of years ago, Socrates would have had very much the same choices as you do now. If he ever became tired of Socratic questioning, the great man could have employed a wide variety of alternative approaches – lectures, games, role-plays, case studies, demonstrations, assignments, discussions, and so on. These methods may go in and out of fashion or be dressed up with fancy new names (witness ‘job aids’ becoming ‘performance support’) but they stay essentially the same. As Juliet so wisely remarked: ‘A rose by any other name would smell so sweet.’
Learning methods are the tools we use to facilitate learning. Importantly, they – and not technologies – are what determines whether a solution will be effective. That’s why we have to get the methods right first. A blended solution should not involve a trade-off between effectiveness and efficiency. With the process I describe in this series of articles, the idea is to select an effective strategy and then – without compromise – choose the most streamlined mode of delivery. Quality is a given.
So how do we select the most appropriate methods? Well, this is not entirely a rule-based process; it requires you to make careful judgements based on what you know of the particular situation and how you apply key learning principles. There are two ways in which you can systematise your decision-making and make sure that you consider all the options, rather than relying on the same old, familiar techniques. A good place to start is by selecting the most appropriate overall strategies – and that’s where we’ll head next.
Next up:  Four strategies for learning