I learned a lot in grad school but the bookend blend is one of my favorite grad school takeaways.

This blend comes from my professor Dr. Allison Rossett and though you wouldn’t want to eat a bookend it’s a great metaphor for how to create a blend.

Warm up. The main event. Follow up.

This is an incredibly flexible recipe. It’s more of a mindset than any particular advice. The bookend blend allows you to choose any kind of technology or activity. It can be high tech or low tech. It could be a quick check in with a real live human. It could be a well-executed 5 minute follow up at the next manager’s meeting. The only limit is your imagination.

The main ingredient is time. (Or thyme if you prefer food metaphors) Extend a single training event into a process that helps them learn. Learning is a physical process. Our synapses get a coat of myelin as we gain expertise.  Even if we’re only thinking for a minute or two, that’s what it takes to build that neural synapse. Fire those neurons to build expertise.

Warm Up
Start off with an event that gets the learner’s mental wheels turning. Maybe it’s a SCORM course that’s pre-work before they get to the sales conference where they’ll learn more. Maybe it’s a video that tells the story of a manager with a tough decision to make. Let that question linger and tell them to discuss what they’d do when they arrive at the session. Ask them to think about what they’d do and come to the class prepared to discuss. Invite your learners to engage with the content and look for easy ways to get them thinking before they come to the main event.

The Main Event
The main event is the substantial part of the blended learning design. This is likely to be an instructor led training course, but it could be any number of other options including coaching, webinars, practice simulations, or an online module.

Follow Up
It’s hard work building neural connections. Don’t assume the main event can transform your learners. Most skills require practice to develop. Plan accordingly. Schedule a follow up conference call, an email, or coaching. Even send out a quiz as a follow up exercise to the main event. Even if it’s only a few additional seconds spent reading an email, fire those neurons again for better results.

Key Takeaways

You wouldn’t get in shape by going on one jog. Don’t assume a single training session will get the job done. Look for easy ways to extend the time they engage with the content.

When we learn, we are actually building neural synapses.  The more we engage the cells that store that information, the thicker the coating of myelin that lines the synapse. Look for opportunities to engage that synapse and fatten up that myelin. Even a few seconds in an email is enough. Find quick and consistent ways to get that synapse to fire.

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