Does blended training require a specific evaluation system? To answer this question, we will take into account all the dimensions of the training, particularly its contextual dimension.
Studies on training effectiveness put the emphasis on quality and relevance of content.
To evaluate the quality of the design (regardless of modality), we will consider, in reference to the work of D. Merril (in “First Principles of Instruction, Educational Technology Research & Development”), the following main points:
>> Content has to be suited to the training objectives.
>> The participants’ representations concerning the key elements of content must be expressed and taken into account.
>> Adoption of content must actively commit participants. To do so, it is necessary to facilitate many interactions, between the participants and with the trainer.
>> During the training, the learner has to experiment the effectiveness of the content to solve problems which make sense for him or her.
It is important to keep these criteria in mind when you design the “distance” component of the training. How does an online module leave space for the expression of initial representations? How will the learner be able to compare its performances with those of its peers and obtain feedback from the trainer? How are the suggested problems relevant to him or her?
Built on the designer’s representations, an e-learning module or a video do not necessarily generate exchanges or controversy. Hence, the crucial importance, in a blended solution, of using Web conference tools, social media and collaborative tools as educational tools in their own right.
Around courses — whether they are face-to-face or digital — it is crucial to create a true learning environment (mostly when face-to-face interactions are limited). That is to say, collaborative working experiences focusing on problems to be solved, opportunities for each learner to contribute but also to share with the trainer. This specific environment creates the vital ecosystem for the learning process.
It is important to note the needed time for the trainer to monitor the group and each participant — and also the needed time for each learner to attend the distance learning element and to share with other learners.
Evaluate Context in a Blended System
Training is not a “product” you can “ingest” whatever the environment. Its effectiveness can only be understood in an organizational and managerial context. This is particularly true for blended solutions that associate different training modalities. The “distance” part involves different actors, particularly the management. It has a determining influence on the quality of the participant’s learning environment.
During the diagnostic phase preceding the solution’s design, it is necessary to check if the manager is able to (and wants to):
>> provide time,
>> provide material (access to computer, smartphone, tablet…), and/or
>> take into account the time spent for training (including exchanges with peers) that do not take place in training rooms.
We can deduce a three-tiered evaluation process including the context and inputs. The contextual environment includes access to distance training methods but also managerial support (or tutoring support), the allotted time and the organization’s learning culture. The learning environment integrated into the blended portion covers frequent interactions between trainers and participants, and also between participants and participants. It includes a forum, possibility for everyone to post contributions and to get feedback from peers and/or from the trainer, wikis and other sources. Evaluation of the design focuses on each part of the training architecture and the coherence of the whole.
—The author, Mathilde Bourdat, works for Cegos.
More information at the website www.cegos.com.