12 Steps for Creating Your Own Successful Blended Learning Project

The experiences made by member companies show that there is no such thing as the perfect approach towards a successful blended learning arrangement. There are no two projects, customers or participants that are exactly the same. However, the following twelve steps may serve as a guideline to help you stay on course when designing and implementing your own blended learning project.

Our 12-Step Programme

Step 1:
As in the development of any training measure, co-operate with your customer to collect information on target group, extent, rough contents and organisational structure of the arrangement envisaged. In this stage, also find out and record all details concerning the setting the learners will be confronted with.

Step 2:
Define and factualize the exact learning goals by asking the following questions:

- What kind of knowledge shall the participants acquire during the training?
- How much time is scheduled and needed for this purpose?
- What are the financial resources available?
- Do both the setting and the priority given to the course facilitate independent learning by the participants?
- What has to be done or changed in order to optimize the setting?

These questions must, in all cases, be discussed with the customer, and the answers given must be laid down in writing and mutually confirmed. The conception of the training must not start before having completed this step.

Step 3:
On the basis of the data obtained and the educational goals set forth by the customer, split up subject matter contents into individual units and sub-units. When doing so, make sure each individual unit may serve as a stand-alone module and is aimed at a clearly defined educational goal. The scope of each individual unit depends on its contents, and both theoretical knowledge and personal action competence classify as possible goals.

Step 4:
After defining the individual units, establish a course of action, i.e. identify the methods and activities best suited for reaching the goals set for each of the modules in question, and decide which are the optimum ways of assisting the participants in the learning process.
In this stage, it is advisable not yet to think about whether the contents are better transferred by e-learning methods or during face-to-face sessions.

Step 5:
Design an appropriate transfer strategy. In order to do so, ask yourself what is needed before, during and after the work on each individual learning unit to make sure the participants will be able to put the skills and/or knowledge acquired to practical use.
In which areas of their lives will the participants use their learnings and which path will they follow when doing so?
This step is extremely important since – especially where trainings in a business setting are concerned – a failure to transfer the newly acquired knowledge and/or skills into practice means a lack of return on investment for the customer. No quantifiable advantages may be gained from such an education effort.

Step 6:
Develop an evaluation strategy for measuring the efficiency of your training.
As a general rule, the contents designed should be evaluated by professional trainers specializing in the field. Do not start working on the details before having obtained this feedback.
In large-scale projects, course contents should, in addition, be evaluated by a test group.
The evaluation strategy should provide answers concerning the measurability of
- training results,
- transfer rate,
- participant feedback.

The evaluation strategy should be agreed upon with the customer or at least be communicated to him. In this way, he will know that the desired effects of the training measure developed will actually be reached.

Step 7:
Identify and list all relevant paperwork, documents and training materials already in existence.
In this step, existing paperwork, documents, concepts etc. for each individual learning unit will be collected and viewed to make sure the wheel will not be reinvented for the second or third time. Both traditional and electronic media matching the contents of the learning modules are to be taken into consideration. In this context, any external sources accessible, e.g. materials provided by Content Partners or researched in the Internet, should also be checked for suitability.

Step 8:
Organize research results. All materials found are to be assigned to their respective learning units. At this stage, it remains as yet undecided which media or methods will be used in the final training.
Check whether for any of the learning units in your project there is a total or partial lack of source materials.
The aim of this analysis is to gain a clear view on the percentage of materials that can either be re-used or have to be newly developed specifically for this project.

Step 9:
Decide on the learning methods and resources to be applied in your project. Only at this stage, you will decide which learning units or parts of units are best to be conveyed in a traditional setting, made available in electronic form, or be dealt with in virtual or real-life working groups.
For an easier decision on which contents are suitable for e-learning, please refer to the following practical guidelines:

Contents well adapted for e-learning purposes:
Knowledge of facts and rules within the context of practical matters and problem solution processes are easily conveyed through e-learning methods.
Activities and/or decisions hard to be carried out in practice, e.g. those that cannot be translated into action because this is either impossible or there are dramatic consequences to be expected, offer themselves for simulation by means of e-learning resources.
Processes or activities that cannot be observed in real life because they are either to slow or to fast or take place in inaccessible location are also ideally suited for simulation in an e-learning context.

Contents less suitable for e-learning purposes:
Motor skills, e.g. activities depending on the smoothness and accuracy of human movements that are impossible to demonstrate or describe in a theoretical way are unsuited for e-learning purposes.
Social interaction skills defining human behaviour in various surroundings influenced by situation-dependent social factors and nonverbal communication are suitable for e-learning on a limited scale only.
The same applies to language skills like correct pronunciation, intonation, language melody, use of idioms and grammar in communication settings.

In step 9, the description of learning units is thus completed by information on types of resources and methods to be used. The type of setting as assessed in step 1 also plays a role in this context, given the fact that learning circumstances differ from company to company. Accordingly, there is a need to adapt the learning resources chosen to the setting found in the respective environment. At the end of this step, you should hold in hands a blended learning matrix showing the entire qualification measure including contents, methods and media involved.

Step 10:
Calculate development time and cost. After having decided on the methods and media to be used and under consideration of the materials already at hand, the time and cost involved in the development of learning resources needed for the training must be estimated. The computation results obtained must either be authorized by the customer or cross-checked with the project budget. In case of need, the degree of multimedia sophistication desired must be reduced to meet budget requirements.

Step 11:
Develop all documents, e-contents and other blending learning resouces required.
This step is dedicated not only to the design of any documents and e-contents needed, but also to provide a practical framework for the project as a whole. In order to do so, the different documents and e-contents are placed into context, and if necessary either supplemented or shortened to make them fit exactly into the learning units. In this stage, special care is taken to mutually adapt e-contents and written documentation.

In this phase a trainer & tutor guidebook is prepared, describing the methods and interfaces between different resources. Also in this context, the support structure for the participants is designed.

Step 12:
Carry out a final check of your blended learning course. The entire training including concepts, contents, media and resources, examples and methods are examined by a team of experts to check continuity and design logic. If required, any necessary design changes are made before presenting the training concept to the customer and giving final release.

This procedure shows that planning and designing a blended learning educational tool goes far beyond the mere production of a training course with a greater or lesser degree of multimediality and its publication on a web server.
The main issue is to solve a didactical problem, and in this context multimedia resources are no defining constituent, but mere parts of a possible solution.
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