The changes in online and virtual learning are still coming so quickly that it can be tough to keep up. Technology updates and enhancements enable new features in virtual classrooms. Evolving work structures push training into hybrid environments. Learners and L&D pros alike are moving toward immersive and blended learning solutions. What do all of these terms mean, and how are they impacting your ability to do your job?

Lucky for you, a new book offers many answers. The Facilitator’s Guide to Immersive, Blended, and Hybrid Learning by Cindy Huggett offers something to anyone facilitating in virtual classrooms, no matter their current level of knowledge and experience.

Understanding the basics

In her trademark style, Huggett starts with a level-set, offering clear, concise definitions for terms we see tossed around frequently and that mean different things to different people. Whether you use her definitions or not, opening this way ensures that all readers can follow her guidance and gain value from the book without struggling to understand what she’s talking about.

For new facilitators, Huggett reviews some basics such as the difference between instructing and facilitating. More experienced facilitators can skip ahead to chapters devoted to specific angles on facilitating: Immersive or hybrid classes, blended journeys, or using augmented or virtual reality as part of a learning experience or journey.

An overarching theme common to her other works is an emphasis on the need to be comfortable with the technology you use as a facilitator and the need for practice. Lots of practice. This is essential—and complex, as technology options rapidly multiply. The chapter on tech again supplies basic definitions and overviews of the types of platforms and tools you’re likely to use, with plenty of images.

Also true to form, Huggett supplies resources throughout the book and at the end including checklists, suggested additional reading, quotes from practitioners, and, a new source, QR codes that open short video messages. One glitch: Not all of them worked on my phone.

Shifting from presenter to facilitator

Huggett’s focus is on “highly interactive” facilitation so she emphasizes that the role entails much more than delivering content. In this book, she also leans heavily into the concept of learning experiences and learning experience design (LXD), “an interdisciplinary approach to designing learning that combines user experience theory and practices with learning research and instructional design principles.” This matters, she writes, because in immersive, blended, and hybrid learning, “training is more than just the content presented—it’s an intentional effort focusing on how, why, and when learning happens. In other words, the experience is what enables the learning outcomes.”

That ties together with a later discussion of facilitators needing to focus on the learners and on their participation, going “from speaking at the screen to speaking with the people on the other side of the screen.”

It’s not all lecture; the book offers techniques for accomplishing this; strategies that leverage both basic and newfangled tools that many virtual platforms offer, from emoji feedback to “next-gen” polling and whiteboards; and detailed coaching for facilitators.

Making sense of new learning approaches

Hybrid learning—where some people are physically present with the facilitator while others attend the class virtually—and blended learning journeys, which include both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences—are concepts that are new to many facilitators. The chapters addressing these offer clear explanations of the concepts and the challenges associated with them, along with guidance for meeting these challenges.

Similarly, Huggett addresses the use of AR-augmented reality assets in virtual classrooms and potential uses for fully immersive virtual reality experiences. These chapters are more overview than comprehensive guide, but they succeed at explaining what options are out there and how you might use them to enhance the training and facilitation you deliver.

Recommended for …

The Facilitator’s Guide to Immersive, Blended, and Hybrid Learning targets facilitators facing new tools, platforms, features, and environments. It’s enough of an overview and thorough enough to serve well an ID just starting out as a facilitator. Those who spend significant time facilitating in any of these environments may well seek deeper content—and can begin with the recommended resources and references at the end of the book. Its focus on emerging tech and situations likely means that most virtual training facilitators will pick up valuable information, guidance, and practices.

Learn more

Shifting learning culture, adopting new training strategies, and navigating changing technology can be an uphill climb; don’t undertake it alone. Explore the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace with your learning leadership peers.

The Learning Guild’s Learning Leaders Alliance offers a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and for aspiring leaders wanting to build their skill sets. The Alliance Membership package includes access to exclusive digital events and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe.

Cindy Huggett will be featured in the March LeaderChat, a Learning Leaders Alliance monthly event. Her interview with Learning Guild CEO David Kelly will be available on demand to LLA members from March 7, 2023.