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Planning Online Learning to Meet the Needs of the Learner

Blended Learning

Developing and implementing an effective blended or virtual model of delivery is challenging, and committing this to a documented plan can be even more challenging. The principles of Gerald Grow’s Staged Self Directed Learning Model and Blooms Taxonomy provide us with a brilliant framework for steering us through the planning stages and the on-going differentiation requirements of our learners. Their use enables us to establish a learner led approach to developing our model of delivery and ensures that the appropriate support needs of learners are central in its implementation.

The Grow Model defines four stages of dependence when learning: dependent, interested, involved and self-directed, which then defines the role of the teacher, mentor or manager. Stage 1 is when learners are ‘dependent’, meaning they require others to help them navigate through their learning and provide help in understanding the learning process and the content of the training to be able to meet their required objectives. These learners will need considerable direction and are what N Entwistle (1994) called ‘surface’ learners that tend to reproduce knowledge. The other end of the scale, stage 4, is when learners are defined as ‘self-directed’, meaning they have high self-direction, and the teacher or trainer acts more as a delegator. At this stage learners will negotiate their own learning and they are what N Entwistle called ‘deep’ learners who tend to transform knowledge. Reflecting on these stages when developing virtual learning enables us to properly consider how we will effectively support our learners.

So how can we use this to aid the development of our virtual model, well a ‘self-directed’ learner will be able to navigate their way through a flexible learning structure online and will seek advice and support from their peers, or the teacher or trainer, as and when they need to. In planning for this type of learner the instructional design of a course could include an online group forum for open discussion, the opportunity for online collaborative work and plenty of online resources for deeper and extended learning. The ‘dependent’ learner is likely to need considerably more contact with the teacher or trainer and specific direction on the route through the online learning. Support for this type of online learner is likely to be regular video chats, immediate online feedback following short bite sized chunks of learning, Whatsapp messaging, live online training conducted one to one or with small groups, plenty of short term target setting with visual recording of achievements. If delivering a blended model, follow up any online learning with practical face to face activities and support.

The ‘interested’ learner, stage 2, is likely to need guidance and motivation, which can be achieved by providing them with appropriate learning strategies for achieving their set goals through virtual learning.  Managing the learning process online can be challenging for learners, but it is an important step in becoming a self-directed learner, making them a more digitally able employee. Fun, engaging and interactive online learning can go a long way towards motivating learners, but guidance is required to help them with time management and organisation of their learning. This type of support can be achieved with online discussions, calendars and task management which are managed by both the learner and the person supporting them. Online live formal training scheduled at regular intervals can help to keep the learner on track and the availability to the learner of video chat for short interim support can give them the confidence that help is at hand if required.

The teacher or trainer of an ‘involved’ learner, stage 3, is in fact more a facilitator of learning and the formal delivery of training is likely to reduce as their learners are already keen to explore their subject on their own and see themselves as growing professionals. This means that those providing the support are likely to involve learners in decisions about their learning and the setting of their targets. To facilitate the move towards independence the virtual tools can include those used for the stage 2 learner, but with the requirement for learners to take more responsibility for managing their learning and with the introduction of collaboration tools.

So, let’s look at incorporating Blooms Taxonomy into our planning. The diagram below is not an exact science, as qualification levels cannot be directly attributed to levels of the Bloom Taxonomy, but it can help us to plan the virtual activities that are suitable for the knowledge and competency requirements of a qualification or professional development training, and the Grow model can help us to identify appropriate online support mechanisms in conjunction with learners’ competencies.

A teacher or manager will always identify the aims and objectives of a learning programme, will plan the learning activities to meet these objectives and identify the assessment activities which will inform whether the objectives have been met. Planning a blended or virtual model is no different, but it’s imperative that delivery methods, assessment methods and the support tools to meet the needs of learners are appropriate. In using the above model to achieve this through a blended or online model we will in addition be developing digitally able independent and self-motivated individuals.

Author: Carolyn Lewis, Managing Director, eLearning Marketplace Ltd

The multi award winning eLearning Marketplace is the UK’s largest provider of immediate access online training with customers in over 40 countries. Courses range from compliance and professional development to vocational qualifications up to Level 7. We work with subject matter experts and large e-learning publishers to bring our customers a unique catalogue of over 2000 online courses with a price match guarantee. Customers have free private use of cloud based software to track, manage and evidence staff training, allocate licences to users and run sophisticated reporting. With a Trusted Shops rating of Excellent and a national award for customer service, your learning and development requirements are in safe hands with the eLearning Marketplace.
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