Blended learning and game theory

by Viv on October 3, 2008

Last week’s ELN conference on Synchronous Learning was, from my perspective as chair at least, a rare occasion when potential buyers of e-learning were getting exposed to balanced comment about the usefulness of a key part of the learning blend. With the large variety of learning channels available, it’s fairly obvious that an intelligent approach to blending rather than “this way of learning is always superior” approach is going to be the best way to provide the most effective learning experience for a given budget. This set me wondering why the message of a balanced approach often gets obscured in the general noise of the e-learning marketplace. I think the answer can be seen in terms of game theory.

Picture the learning marketplace where there are suppliers of face to face training, self-paced e-learning, coaching, virtual classrooms, authoring tools and all sorts of other ways to learn. In the game theory context, these suppliers can choose to “co-operate” or “defect”. If as a supplier of bespoke e-learning content I consistently assert that this is the best answer to all of my customer’s needs, I will do ok at selling it (in the short term at least). If I say that a balanced approach is best, I will lose some of the potential customers already talking to me to suppliers of other forms of learning. Unless there’s a significant amount of other suppliers in the marketplace advocating a balanced approach who will act as referral partners, it’s in my self-interest to rubbish the other channels of learning.

In the longer term, I trust that buyers will value working with suppliers who can talk cogently about the balanced approach and make it work. But in a difficult market, can suppliers afford to spend energy focused on anything beyond the short term? As someone who comes to e-learning from a face to face training background, I genuinely believe that a balanced approach is correct and left the day at the ELN with a clearer view on how Synchronous Learning can contribute to the blend.

If you would like a copy of the top tips that participants pooled re Synchronous Learning, just mail me.

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