Thinking back to my past life as an L&D consultant, blended learning has been part of my routine for about the past 10 years. When starting out my learners had to complete their online content, which was content heavy and laborious. Then we would go to class and go through the same information all over gain but with the aid of PPT … dare I say it “death by PowerPoint”.

Thinking more recently, I can see how my style has changed. I used the LMS as an information repository and build the content so they would learn online in a fluid manner that would take the students through content, videos, assignments and then test their knowledge through scenario based MCQ’s. In class we would tackle case studies and projects. In theory this is great – however I noticed that sometimes a project would work with one group and not the other. Same project, different group, so what was I doing wrong?

It wasn’t until the end of topic 4 that I realised what the missing component was: social presence at a granular level. By this I mean, the groups as whole participated and engaged however groups that had an unspoken but dynamic scored about 10% better than groups that seemed to have a missing element.

According to Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013) in Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry, social presence is driven by personal communication, where a group is able to express emotions and learn in a risk-free environment. Therefore creating their own identity.

When I put them in groups I did not factor in the different personality types, the different learning styles and communication styles of the learners. Sometimes it worked, but more than often it didn’t… So what did I learn this week – it’s not just about dividing the group up into odd and even numbers or groups of 4, randomly. We need to consider who is present and comfortable online opposed to who is present and comfortable face-to-face. Either requires a level of social presence.

Have a great Monday!

Blended Learning