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Vanessa Gray – Blended Learning Team Lead

When the twin stars of client needs and business values align the decision to innovate is simple, and it’s easy to harness the creativity and energy of a team to develop a new and exciting product.

We know that our clients want to squeeze every last drop of value from learning opportunities, and that pulling people out of their day-to-day role for skills development can be a huge challenge.

As a business we have crystallised our own thinking so that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that we only offer learning experiences that aim to change behaviours. Understanding the theory and concepts of influence at an intellectual level isn’t enough for us, or for our clients.

The Blended Learning programme is the result of this serendipitous alignment and developing it has been a rewarding and exciting journey for our community of project managers and consultants. We’ve learnt a few things along the way and hope that our experience of designing and building a learning journey that builds influence skills across a range of media is one that will resonate.

Our starting point for new developments has always been the feedback we get from programme participants. Over the past couple of years participants have told us that they want:

  • More active experiential learning
  • The option to learn theory and concepts before they arrive on the programme
  • Shorter programmes that bring about behavioural change
  • More opportunities to apply their learning to the real world

This feedback gave us the impetus to start looking at the brave new world of blended learning. The further we explored the more we noticed the congruence between the principles that underpin the Positive Power & Influence programme and best practice blended learning design, including:

  • self-directed learning
  • personal responsibility
  • a continuous learning environment

As we moved through the design process we tried hard to adhere to some core principles:

Design for outcomes. We kept asking ourselves – why are we doing this? What do we want participants to come away with? Our focus was to make sure that people left the 3-day Blended Learning programme with the same depth of skill and experience that they achieved on the 5-day Immersive Learning Programme.

Content and mode of delivery should drive decisions around technology. It’s easy to end up designing a programme around the available technology. There’s a lot of shiny new software out there and there are also limitations in terms of what the software can do. By putting the learner experience first, decisions about technology are simplified. Wherever possible, we opted to utilise generic technologies available to the widest audience – standard web browsers, YouTube, Skype, etc. that required no additional investment or steep learning curve for our learners. Our existing Influence Hub became the framework within which each element was contained.

A good blended learning programme has a spine. Learners should have decision-making powers that enable them to experience content in a way that matches their preferred learning style, but there must be a clearly defined map through the process. We presented this map up front, giving people time and space to complete each step before the group phase began.

Design for synergy. The components need to fit together as a whole. They should reinforce and augment one another. The Positive Power & Influence programme works to move participants through the change curve. The blended journey has to reflect that process so that we create change and facilitate deep learning. We mapped out the flow of the programme so that each step sat at key points on the change curve.

A coherent aesthetic is important. With different members of the team working on content we needed someone to hold the aesthetic at every stage or we risked diluting our brand and confusing our learners. We made a member of the project team directly responsible for ensuring consistency.

Assessment is an opportunity to learn and to diagnose. How will participants know that they are ‘getting it’ and how will workshop facilitators know who has completed the pre-workshop sessions? We wanted to ensure that learners applied the learning to their own experiences and that they arrived at the workshop with lots of data about their current use of influence skills. So each step on our blended flow asks learners to consider and write down how and why what they have learned applies to them.

Implement a strategy of continuous improvement. This is version 1.0. We will continue to develop the blended learning programme so that it meets the needs of our learners. We are looking at how we can provide just-in-time mobile content, apply concepts of spaced repetition, use open badges software to recognise modular learning, and encourage collaborative learning for our alumni.

 

With these principles to the fore, we have designed a programme that moves our learners from theory and concepts, to diagnosis, practise, and application. The pre-workshop phase employs written and video content, plus a virtual classroom session, all of which are linked by a series of activities that shift theoretical understanding into personal application. This means that learners arrive on the first morning of the three-day workshop with a good understanding of their influence strengths and challenges, and ready to immerse themselves in skills practise and experiential learning.

We think we’ve developed something that can respond to the way people want to learn today, and to the way organisations want to work with learning providers.

We ran our first blended learning programme this month and have had some fantastic feedback from participants and facilitators. Our first blended cohort gave us some clear ideas about how we can build on this success for the next programme in September.

It’s been quite a journey but this is a flexible and sustainable programme, built on sound values and principles, and we are confident it will propel our learners into the influence stratosphere!

If you want to find out more about Positive Power & Influence: the blended approach, please take a look at our website: www.positivepowerandinfluence.co.uk or contact us on +44 (0) 1273 770764.

Feedback from our Blended Learning Launch Programme

The course far exceeded my expectations.

Fantastic experience. Learned so much, especially about myself.

Much more interactive and practical than I expected. Lots and lots of opportunity to give and receive feedback which is invaluable. Exceeded expectations

Intense, fun, challenging, and highly recommended.

Engaging, interactive and impactful.

Probably the most effective and valuable course I have ever attended. So worth the investment.

Time and money well spent. Expecting impact.