The AHAB-Akademie Certified Training Institute uses a blended learning approach to educate more than 2,400 people each year. The students come from a wide range of backgrounds – and itslearning enables them to work at their own pace and in their own style.
“Our distance learning courses are split between online learning, which students do at home and classes at our institutions,” explains Nicola Goltz, a fitness and physical education instructor at AHAB. “Our students come from all walks of life – from young mothers who are looking to qualify as nutritionists to former athletes who want to qualify as personal trainers – so it has to be easy for them to get the learning materials they need. That’s where itslearning comes in.”
The longest distance learning courses at AHAB take about one year to complete, while the shortest can be finished in around four months, but they all follow the same blended pattern. So how do they work?
An individual approach to learning
At the start of the course, each student gets their own personal itslearning account. They can access the cloud-based learning platform anytime they like to find information about their course and study materials, including online lectures, links to articles on the web, podcasts and instructive videos.
According Nicola, many students prefer this approach as it allows them to choose when and how quickly they study – an essential requirement for people who are often working full-time jobs as well as studying.
Completing assignments online
When the teacher feels that the students are ready, she sets them assignments designed to test and stretch their new knowledge. The students complete the assignments remotely, and they can be both theoretical and practical (a Nordic Walking assignment, for example, may include videoing yourself walking).
“Our biggest challenge is ensuring that our students don’t feel isolated,” says Nicola. “At the start of each course, the teachers and students write a short introduction of themselves, and there’s always a teacher ready to respond to questions by email, phone or through instant messaging in itslearning. We’ve also found that weekly discussion forums help create a group bond and so each week the instructor posts a new question in a forum for the group to discuss.”
Moving from the internet to the classroom
After completing the online section of the course, the students study with instructors and other students for two weeks at one of the school’s four main locations in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe and Hamburg. “These sessions can be very intensive,” says Nicola. “If they’re going to be productive, the students must have reached a good level before they come – so the online work is very important.”
On longer courses, the pattern is repeated, with more online learning followed by more face-to-face teaching. The final stage of all courses is a two-part certification: the students sit an oral and written exam, and then work remotely on a written assignment that covers a particular issue in-depth.
Building relationships and qualifications
Does the approach work? “Definitely,” says Nicola. “We have very good results. And often, by the time the students come to us for classes they have already formed strong friendships. Many also stay in touch long after the course is done.”
Together with chief scientific advisor Lars Deutschmann and scientific assistant Josephine Wartenberg, Nicola is working to continually improve AHAB’s blended learning system. Their next goal is to increase the variety of materials they offer students on itslearning – specifically more podcasts, videos and webinars. Why?
“The beauty of our blended learning approach is that students have the flexibility to choose when they study. But we also want them to have more flexibility in how they study,” says Nicola.