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flipped learningVocational education and training professionals are all familiar with the common demand from employers and learners: achieve higher levels of learning and performance with fewer resources—and with employees spending less time away from their jobs.

Flipped learning is one model training organisations around the world are embracing to meet bottom-line demands, maximize value, and increase quality productivity.

Already popular in higher education, the flipped learning model is gaining momentum in vocational training. Training organisations in Australia have been using "blended" delivery modes to maximise effectiveness of training resources for more than two decades, but flipped learning may provide a different focus to this blended approach. Although there seems to be no single model for the flipped classroom, the term is widely used to describe almost any class structure that provides pre-recorded lectures, reading materials, and self-directed exercises followed by a classroom, workshop-based learning experience. In this way, class becomes the place to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning.

The good news is that the flipped model can provide learners with a new way to integrate the best of classroom learning with self-directed, learner-generated activities.

The downside

Flipped learning is easy to get wrong. Sure, the concept seems straightforward, but an effective flip requires careful preparation—the same as every other learning solution. Recording lectures and preparing pre-course materials still requires significant effort and time, and out-of-class and in-class elements must be carefully integrated for learners to understand the model and be motivated to prepare for class.

In particular, designers need to keep in mind four key aspects of the flipped classroom model:

  • Demonstration and application: How can we develop materials that support learner-generated personalised projects and presentations?
  • Meaning making: What sort of pre-class activities help learning stick? Should we use blogs, podcasts and videos, and social networking and discussion boards?
  • Experiential engagement: What sort of hands-on activities maximize in-class time? How can we leverage games, simulations, labs, and other experiments?
  • Concept exploration: What other media-rich tools, such as video and audio lectures, will reinforce learning, and when should we use them?

Are our trainers prepared for flipped learning?

Clearly, introducing a flip can mean additional work and may require new skills for the trainer. It is important that training organisations upskill trainers' capabilities to ensure they can design and deliver effective training solutions using a blended delivery mode, before considering flipped learning

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ADDIEInstructional design involves doing far more than designing instruction. In that sense, it is really a misnomer. Instructional design is designing a system that enables students to not only learn, but to do. Here are the components of this system:

On-the-job training and simulations
Instructional designers analyze the work environment to ensure that it supports training. This involves identifying and making recommendations to remove possible roadblocks that are present in systems, processes, authority levels, responsibilities, and accountability. These roadblocks, if left in place, block trainees when they try to apply what they've learned. They set them up for failure.

When training is conducted off-the-job in a simulated environment, instructional designers work with industry representatives to identify equipment, resources, and standards required to be represented in a simulated environment, and ensure relevance of assessment to the workplace.

Competency and Success Criteria
Instructional designers working for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) must unpack and interpret endorsed components of units of competencies to determine competency in the assessment process. But also work with industry stakeholders to determine what observable changes in behavior or changes in business metrics will indicate that training was a success. Will employees use reports generated by the new software to present business results at the weekly team meeting? Will the number of customer complaints be reduced? Will the number and amount of add-on sales increase? For example, evaluating the success of the TAE40110 Certificate IV in training and assessment, we could ask RTOs: is the number of non-compliances in assessment practices reduced? Are RTO's quality indicators improving?

Pre-Training Activities
Instructional designers design activities that take place before the training to whet learners' appetites and prepare them for the training. Examples of pre-training activities could include having learners gather sales call notes to discuss in training or take a survey or quiz. It could also include a conversation between a learner and their supervisor to set expectations for what the learner will do differently when they return from training.

Course Materials and assessments
Instructional designers design and develop course materials based on the principles of adult learning theory. At a bare minimum, the course very clearly and explicitly answers questions such as: What do I do when I get back to work? What job will I be able to do?

Instructional designers working in a RTO environment, design and develop assessment plans, that includes procedures and tools to collect evidence of students' performance, and is used by assessors to make competency judgments. Assessment practices must follow the principles of assessments and rules of evidence (Standards for RTOs 2015 – Clause 1.8)

Post-Training Support
Instructional designers think beyond the training to what happens when learners return to the workplace. They design checklists, glossaries, quick reference guides, and other job aids for learners to refer to if they forget something they learned. They may also design coaching calls, mandatory labs, and specific work assignments to help support learners as they begin applying what they learn.

Evaluation Data
Instructional designers circle back to make sure the training worked. They evaluate business metrics and look for observable changes in behavior in the work environment.

In today's environment, where Australian Vocational Education and Training Sector (VET) is going through a crisis, where the value of VET is a question mark for some stakeholders, it is important that we can see instructional design as much more than designing instruction.

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learningUnderstanding which modality to use for what type of content or training is key to making the blend meaningful to the learner. When selecting an approach, you need to consider the content, the audience, and available resources, including technology. In our RTO environment, the content is determined by the unit(s) of competency included in the training product. Another consideration is risk, which may dictate the modality of compliance training.

Risks are inherent in any type of training. There is a false sense of security in corralling students into a room to learn something. In spite of being a captive audience, they still choose whether they want to learn or not. It is partially the trainer's job to make sure what is being presented is relevant to the learner and gives them reasons to invest in what's being learned. It's the instructional designer's job to create a learning program that engages and gives the learner opportunity for practice, assessment, and, in some cases, application on the job. A blended approach is no different; the same elements must be in place for it to be successful.

In todays regulatory environment, where RTOs are required to demonstrate the amount of training provided, it is important to review and understand the learning process and the mix of activities that constitute the training journey. How will you ensure that learners are completing self-directed activities? Will you have them complete a workbook and upload it to the LMS, or send it to a trainer or coach? Will you require them to complete a test at the end of self-directed learning? Have you built enough interactivity into your virtual instructor-led courses that you force participation, or is it simply a boring lecture that will prompt learners to reduce your screen for an hour and work on email?

Even in this day and age, few RTOs take time to actually measure application. Many transformations from classroom to blended learning happen without any sort of baseline measure of classroom effectiveness, so making a comparison is futile. If you are considering a blended learning approach, make certain that you are putting proper measurements in place so you are able to make improvements where necessary and continue refining your efforts. And don't forget to ask industry about the learning program, training practices, training resources, simulations, etc. They will tell you much of what you need to know to take it to the next level.

It is amazing that in the 21st century many trainers and assessors still rely on the classroom for most or all facets of vocational training. Blended learning addresses all the aspects of adult learning that a classroom often misses—practice, application on the job, and assessment of performance steps. In addition, there must be some type of performance support to reinforce what has been learned, which a blended approach can easily achieve.
Here's a breakdown of blended learning modalities:


  • face-to-face trainer-led or virtual trainer-led (synchronous)
  • recorded session (asynchronous)
  • video
  • e-learning
  • web-based resource links
  • interactive PDFs


  • in person
  • interactive chat
  • threaded discussion
  • email
  • Skype
  • telephone
  • e-learning interactivity


  • live hands-on
  • role play
  • virtual lab
  • simulation
  • workplace training


  • printed
  • electronic
  • online access


  • Interview
  • formal pre-assessment and post-assessment
  • live demonstrated performance (Observation)
  • Products
  • Written work (Portfolio)


  • coach, mentor, or peer mentor, either in person or virtually
  • printed, electronic, or online access
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