The Real Question on Blending

Blending.  Blends.  Blender.  Settling in with a cup of freshly pressed coffee (a new routine for me) that is a blend of Colombian and Arabica.

We talk about blending in education (blended learning), and most of the time I have a problem with the way we talk about it.  As of this writing the Wikipedia definition reveals what is commonly considered – blending as a mix of ‘traditional’ classroom with some online / e-learning elements.  Driving the conversation is often a presumption that:

  • Classroom is best for when you need people together
  • Online or e-learning is what you do on your own (asynchronously)

Wrong.  We should begin with the real question:  What parts of the learning experience are best addressed synchronously and what parts are best addressed asynchronously, and only then consider modality.

Today’s technology provides a number of great virtual venues for bringing people together all at once, to have shared experiences, to take a deep dive with an expert on a particular subject, to practice skills and get team feedback from a coach, etc.  We also know that often a learning design includes a social networking component to bring disparate parties together (in the case of creating culture), and also personal coaching and feedback on development assessments.  These are very good reasons to bring people together physically.  But let’s not jump to the conclusion that plane tickets must be bought!  Thoughtful applications of virtual classrooms / webinars, 3D immersive spaces, and even really innovative uses of teleconferencing can provide your learners with the opportunity for group dialog, problem-solving, coaching and feedback that they need.

It’s hard to think of a learning situation in which you would not want to provide preparatory material of some sort – be that a podcast series, a list of articles, an introductory video, some data-gathering tools, etc.  Similarly it’s tough to think of a learning situation in which you would not want to provide your learners with resources to help them after the shared, live experiences are done.  These are some of the reasons we should consider e-learning tools for asynchronous learning.  So here’s my simple list of examples:


  • Data collection (assessments, evaluations, local observation data, etc.)
  • Core content topics (frameworks, concepts, examples)
  • Networking (profiles)
  • Discussion (questions from experts for debate)
  • Performance support tools
  • Content updates


  • Team work
  • Skills practice with coaching
  • Group Q/A sessions with experts
  • Facilitated peer-feedback sessions
  • Networking / culture-building

So let’s free ourselves a little to think about blending independently from modality.

Enjoy your coffee.  Or tea.

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1 Response to The Real Question on Blending

  1. Steve Mahaley says:

    Reblogged this on Red Fern.

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