Blended Learning: Tools for Teaching and Training

Sarah McNicol (Evidence Base, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 16 May 2008




McNicol, S. (2008), "Blended Learning: Tools for Teaching and Training", New Library World, Vol. 109 No. 5/6, pp. 294-295.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Today, information professionals in all types of organisation are required to provide end‐user education and staff training, often to large and diverse groups. Although most made basic use of ICT, such as PowerPoint, alongside face‐to‐face learning, achieving a truly blended learning approach is something which can be difficult for those who are not primarily teachers or trainers. This book offers a holistic approach, showing how to combine the best of traditional and new approaches to make the best use of each.

This book is very clearly set out, with the aim of each chapter being set out at the start. The author uses plenty of visuals to illustrate key points and to present complex information in a manageable way. Barbara Allen has purposefully structured the book so that the chapters can be read in any order and readers can dip into the sections they need at a particular time. Chapter 2 presents an overview of the tools and technologies involved in blended learning. These include classroom‐based tools, such as PowerPoint and interactive whiteboards, but also communication tools like bulletin boards, messaging, webforms and e‐mail. There is also a discussion of social networking software and e‐learning systems such as VLEs. Chapter 3 is the most theoretical of the book; it gives an overview of different approaches to learning and teaching, including the learning environment, learning styles and specific approaches such as problem‐based learning and work‐based learning.

The following chapters take the reader through the process to designing and delivering a blended learning experience. Chapter 4 describes, step‐by‐step, how to design a blended learning programme, while the following chapter does the same for individual learning activities. Chapter 6 is, perhaps, one of the most useful, especially for readers who lack confidence in delivering learning to large groups. The author considers group learning activities, including team building, and also examines group processes, including team roles, online group learning, working with diverse groups, and how to handle large groups.

The remaining chapters look at broader issues. Chapter 7 explores working as a tutor, in particular the demands of e‐tutoring. Learning communities, especially online communities, are the subject of Chapter 8. This includes advice on mentoring. The final chapter deals with project management, which, as the author explains, is especially relevant if blended learning activities are devised as part of an externally funded project. This chapter also looks at gaining accreditation for a programme and documenting a project.

his is not a book for those just embarking on providing end‐user education or training. For someone with no background in this area, it would probably be a bit overwhelming. However, it would be a really useful guide for those who wish to improve their practice, and in particular to make better use of new technologies within a more traditional programme. In these circumstances, the advice given would be extremely valuable; the book guides the reader step‐by‐step through processes, and the example materials provided would be particularly useful as templates which could be adapted. These include, for example, a visit risk assessment, ice‐breakers, text for introduction messages and example online activities. Also, the case study sections were extremely helpful to demonstrate how the tools and techniques described could work in practice. Furthermore, there are plenty of links and additional resources suggested for readers to follow up, especially for the various tools described in Chapter 2. It would have been useful to include a separate list of these as an appendix.

In summary, this would be a valuable reference book for librarians or students wishing to better exploit blended learning opportunities and develop their teaching or training skills.

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