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A recipe for blended learning Featured

Blended learning should be so much more than combining chalk-and-talk with e-, or "meat and two veg". What we're after is a unique, dining experience that perfectly hits the spot, leaves us all satisfied and makes us want to come back for more. Smells good? Get your pinny on and read on. 

Beware of definitions of blended learning which are ingredients-based, especially the ones which say you need only have two: e-learning and stand-up. There are many more successful meals possible than just meat and two veg., as we shall see.

Process-based definitions, or recipes, are better as they prompt you to think about what goes with what and how best to prepare your food to maximise your chances of success. But, just as in the real world, there is no single, general purpose recipe; it depends on what you’re trying to do. The next section contains a basic cookery course in the form of a series of hints and tips to help you prepare and provide tasty, balanced and nutritional fare which hopefully should leave your people wanting more.

First, formulate a chronologically ordered list of activities, or “courses”, which constitute the meal. Meal plans are likely to vary according to whether you’re developing knowledge, skills and/or competencies but, in any event, don’t focus too narrowly on the entrée. 

Example menu for developing skills

Your menu plan

  1. Call to action


  1. Overview: objectives and motivation


  1. Awareness phase


  1. Practice phase


  1. Application phase


  1. Feedback


  1. Accreditation


  1. Closing


  1. Keeping skills fresh in the workplace












Note that each of these courses may well require a number of ingredients, which we shall come on to a bit later.

Remember that the most important thing is to get your people to turn up to your meal in the first place, so please be careful with your invitations and think about how best to motivate them to participate.

Fill in the table below as follows:

  1. Add any extra ingredients you think you might need to the bottom of column 1
  2. For each required ingredient, put a tick in either column 2 or column 3 according to its availability
  3. Add your own notes, perhaps on the suitability of the ingredients in your larder and where / how you might purchase the missing items


In the company larder already?

Need to go to the shops?

Classroom courses



E-learning courses






Knowledge bases









Bulletin boards





















Expert observation



Team events




































It’s important to point out here that the word “ingredient” tends to make you think of tangibles – learning content or collaborative technologies, for example. But you probably have more things in your larder than might appear at first glance. There may be events, processes, activities, knowledge and experiences that you might piggyback on to further your learning cause. It’s often the less obvious ones which make the real difference.

Each and every learning method has its imperfections but luckily for us the imperfections in each are different; put another way, any method has its strengths and its weaknesses.

  • Adding in your own criteria into column 1
  • Score each H[igh], M[edium] or L[ow] in column 2




Impact on learning objectives


Reportability of assessments






Development time/cost


Deployment time/cost














Now comes the fun part where you work out which ingredients are required for which courses, the trick being to combine those foods which go well together.

Complete the following table by:

  • Writing the courses of your menu plan in column 1
  • Writing the ingredients you will need for each course, bearing in mind the criteria above and their relative importance
  • Ensure you combine ingredients with complementary strengths and different weaknesses
  • Make sure you have sufficient high quality ingredients to make each course a success
  • Within the limits of your timescale and budget, don’t be afraid of redundancy. Many kinds of learning depend on repetition 

Your menu plan, course by course

Ingredients required





















Now that you have your menu, it’s time to sanity check what you have done:

  • Do you have the right number of courses?
  • Are they in the right order?
  • Is each course well balanced?
  • Are you using sufficient numbers of ingredients / courses to satisfy your most important objectives?
  • Is the menu do-able?
  • Will it appeal to your people?
  • How will you get them to turn up?
  • How will you stop them drifting off between courses?
  • and so on

Before mass-producing of meals, you should pilot your fare on some representative end-users to do some last minute adjustments.

Get some tasters and listen to what they have to say. They can often give you unanticipated reactions and insights which could make or break your programme.

Obviously there will be times when producing stuff to be consumed as efficiently as possible is the order of the day but as trainers and educators we should try to make it as appetising as possible.

Very often though our greater challenge is to help our people take responsibility for their own personal growth and well-being, which is why learning is more about diet than it is about dinners. We need our people to grow psychologically (rather than physically!) and, for maximum effectiveness, we need them to commit to the programme in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Diets are the stuff of learning organisations; dinners are the stuff of training. But what can you do to help your people follow a good diet in between all those formal dinners you’re preparing for them? Unsurprisingly, motivation and support are as important to learning as they are to a healthy diet.

Your last task is a brainstorming exercise. Complete the following table by trying to come up with lateral suggestions which push back your normal boundaries. Bon appetit!

Our organisation can better help their people learn by:

People can better help themselves learn by:

I can improve motivation by: