Focus on Management: Blended learning sparks exciting L&D renewal

NZIM is adopting blended learning,revolutionising the way short courses are delivered, in move to meet emerging managers’ need for relevant, up to date, technology-supported learning in time constrained world, and adding value for employers by delivering real performance gains on the job. The process will also see closer, more enduring partnerships forged between NZIM and programme participants.

“Blended learning is about using many media to achieve learning outcomes and help people make the transition to where they want to be,” says Shaun Sheldrake, NZIM general manager business development in Wellington.

“NZIM currently has very traditional approach to learning experiences, in that all our courses are classroom-based. There are benefits to classroom learning, particularly in terms of interaction with others, and the ability to disconnect from work and immerse yourself in the learning experience. However, it doesn’t provide the support needed to embed learning back in the workplace.

“What we’re developing is blended and extended learning experience based on the 70/20/10 model which is increasingly underpinning organisations’ learning strategies. This model derives from research showing we learn 70% of what we do on the job, 20% through mentoring, coaching, and support from managers or peers, and 10% through formal learning.

“NZIM’s learning has been almost entirely pitched around that 10%, and in order to remain relevant and current we need to have an offering that reflects our customers’ desires and wishes.

“Our target market is 25-40 year-old emerging managers, most likely in their first or second people leadership role, who lead their lives in technology supported way.

“Some things in the learning experience, particularly the knowledge component, can be developed without needing to be in room with people.

“But there is real value in being in group, sharing and learning from others. So we won’t turn everything into e-learning as some others have attempted, because this does not work on its own.

“The experience we’re crafting is based on four-phase approach. Instead of enrolling in three-day classroom-based course, you will be engaging in four-week programme at the same price.”

In Phase 1 participants get welcoming email from the facilitator, and access to the online workspace and forum. This not only hosts course pre-work but also acts as virtual “meet and greet” as everyone introduces themselves and breaks the ice before anyone sets foot in the classroom.

In Phase 2, because the pre-work phase has already developed participants’ foundation knowledge of the topic and group bonding, classroom time can be shorter but richer, more intense experience, enabling three-day programme to be shortened to 1½ or two days depending on the particular topic.

Phase 3 is all about the transition back into the workplace, with participants using the online environment to continue accessing pre-work, as well as extra resources or material used in the classroom. In Phase 3 the facilitator sends emails, teasers, case studies and support tools to the group almost daily.

“You don’t just get dumped back into the workplace – you are expected to deliver something,” says Sheldrake. “For that week you’ve still got the cohort supporting each other as they transfer the new skills into the job.

“In Phase 4 we move to one-on-one mode where the facilitator follows up with individuals to make sure the skills are being put into practice on the job and offer help where needed. This comes right back to the fact that people are being funded by their organisation and the on-the-job component is delivering value back to that organisation.

“At an individual level we can give learners more relevant and up to date learning experience that meets their expectations and integrates with the way they live their lives.

“From their funder’s point of view we can offer learning experience designed to not just give them skills but change their performance on the job. From the NZIM perspective we build an enduring relationship… get connected and we’ll help you develop your career.”

NZIM has been testing the concept with customers in recent months, with the response described as overwhelmingly positive. Sheldrake and Tait Grindley, NZIM general manager business development, Auckland, have completed an extensive review of 2013 short course offerings and modified the programme to make way for new blending learning based courses.

Three pilot courses will be run next month – Introduction to Management, Project Management and Dealing with Difficult Behaviour, selected for their different styles and content.

An important part of the pilot will be working with team of six facilitators. Sheldrake says far from driving down facilitation time, the blended learning model potentially does the opposite, and facilitators are key part of the journey.

“We will ensure these pilot courses deliver on all of the promise they’re showing at the moment,” says Sheldrake. “Through December-January we will analyse what elements worked and, all going to plan, will set up schedule to migrate all of our short course content and experience into blended models over 2013-14.

“We’ve got lot of hard work ahead of us over the next two years to, in effect, reinvent ourselves.”

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