Implementing blended learning, in the form of a learning network, to enhance social learning
Keywords:social learning, blended learning, learning network, online community, synchronous learning, workplace learning
This study is an extended professional project exploring how new employees perceive the benefits and challenges of a blended learning approach, the ways in which a learning community can contribute to this and what the implications of using such an approach implies for my practice as a trainer. This research is conducted within the context of the Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (VDAB), or the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency, which is the public employment service of Belgium’s Dutch speaking region. The project involved the basic pedagogy of one specific course, and a specific employee group of new instructors, as part of their mandatory training. The blended learning approach is a combination of face-to-face with online learning. The latter includes synchronous sessions, namely Hangouts, as well as asynchronous learning, involving an online learning community. The research followed the exploratory single case study methodology and involved two stages: a preliminary survey to obtain participants’ background information; and a qualitative content analysis of the online community, involving participant-observations and semi-structured interviews. The study showed that a blended course not only requires more preparation time, but also different trainers’ skills. Although some benefits were acknowledged, i.e. user-friendliness and time- and place independency, it was the lack for socialization, i.e. direct and informal interactions with peers, that was disliked mostly. With regard to the learning community the teacher’s predominance was striking. The implications of this for improving the employees’ digital skills are discussed and some specific recommendations are made.
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