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Joitske Hulsebosch keeps pushing the online elements of training every day

Joitske Hulsebosch has been pushing the boundaries for decades, in the L&D world. Even when she lived in Africa for a long time for her work, decades ago, she embraced the Internet. As an owner of and author of three books, she is one of the most inspiring professionals, putting blended learning more and more on the map every year.


Photo: Joitske Hulsebosch speaking on 'her' event LOSmakers, november 2022.

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'Hahahaha' That's how the interview with Hulsebosch begins. The laughter is at least as loud when asked about her own career. 'My career? Hahaha.’ She laughs as if it's all no big deal. Maybe it's false modesty, but it doesn't feel like that. It feels genuine, just modest which is typical of the the L&D world.

But Hulsebosch’s career is actually pretty impressive. She studied tropical cultural engineering at Wageningen University. She worked abroad for about a decade, in Ghana, Ethiopia and Mali, not far from Timbuktu. In the beginning, in the 1990s, there wasn't much on the Internet for her as an organizational consultant.

From the moment she could start working online, she immediately grasped the possibilities of the Internet. "I was always very much into online technology. And then I met Sibrenne Wagenaar, I think around 2005. We both share a fascination with the possibilities of the online. world – especially  social learning, from each other, in networks. We wanted to see if that was possible online as well. And it worked! With different tools than today, but never the less." says Hulsebosch. 

'Online facilitation is a profession'

The online enthusiast can still get annoyed with the fact that online thinking and doing is still not always taken seriously in the L&D world. 'Even now, in 2023, people often think: we just offer some material online during a training and nothing else. Online learning is still an undervalued phenomenon within training. Online learning is really different than giving a inperson training. Online facilitation is a profession… its really more than sharing a video. It's such an undervalued child, I don't get that," sighs Hulsebosch, who has always been working online. Her company now focusses on online learning and she hasalready helped thousands of employees to become digitally proficient and to master blended learning and social learning.

The training world world is lagging behind, according to Hulsebosch. The model of knowledge transfer of trainers online is very old-fashioned, following very old patterns.. It’s still often a matter of trainers saying: I'm going to tell you online how to work. I'm going to explain it to you as a trainer in a e-learning module. We are still not really out of that model, while you can also learn socially just fine online. Look at all the social media! Sibrenne and I are are really into social learning and community learning. Doing more with this is now a logical step, especially because the  training and development world is  still stuck in an old-fashioned knowledge model.’


Photo: Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar. Together they started Ennuonline, a successful company.

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Blended learning

Hulsebosch quotes an old saying: 'Teachers will not be overtaken by technology, but by teachers who know how to work with technology,' which based ona quote from L&D expert George Couros.

She says, "You can keep saying as a trainer, 'I can’t work with computers.' I certainly know a lot of people like that. I think everybody knows them. They say: I'm going to stay in front of the group and that’s it. I really don't think that is acceptable. There are so many wonderful developments in our field, so many improvements, you have to embrace them to be a great teacher or trainer.’

The conversation with the fanatical Hulsebosch then naturally turns to blended learning - something she and Wagenaar make a large part of their money from, helping companies integrate it into their training courses. In 2010, Wagenaar and Hulsebosch though were a little stuck on the term ‘blended’.          

'Blended learning is een optimal mix of all kinds of learning activities'

‘We didn't like the term blended learning. After all, it is literally taken from the English blended learning. We didn't think it was appropriate at first because it doesn't say much except that it's a mix of elements’, she says. 'Slowly, fortunately, it got the right connotation and became more and more accepted. The definition is still a mix of online and offline elements, which is the 'narrow' definition of blended learning. We prefer to think of blended learning as 'an optimal mix of all kinds of learning activities' - for example, you can also mix with learning alone, in small groups, or a broader community. 


There is still a world to win with online learning

When Hulsebosch and Wagenaar started Ennuonline in 2008, they thought that fifteen years later, everyone would be much further along with online learning. But that’s not the case at all. Blended learning, social learning, all those things are still evolving. 'It has only become more relevant. It's something that is generating a lot of work right now, it's even more on the agenda than ever before. We always want to stay ahead by embracing new developments. That's a conscious choice, to stay just a bit ahead. The same is true now with ChatGPT. We already organized a MeetUp for that, which was very popular.'

At the many companies Wagenaar and Hulsebosch visit, the redesign to professional blended training is going well. What organizations often run into is how they are going to produce the online learning content. Because organizations and trainers suddenly become ‘creators’ of creative content within a training - think videos, infographics or podcasts. 

The key question, notes Hulsebosch: how should that online content be created and what level do you aspire to? In principle, as a company, you will probably aim for a higher level, compared to an individual trainer, but even then, you want as high a quality as possible. 'You often see organizations wanting to introduce professional  content from scratch, with professional cameramen and everything,'

'Just start off by doing it yourself first' - Hulsebosch on online elements in blended learning

She is actually not in favor of that. 'With professional people involved at the beginning of the process, it can cause a kind of alienation, in the sense that the online part of the training is \ is pulled away from the trainer.'

But then, with all these new online elements, how should you go about making a training blended?

'Just start off by doing it yourself first. That's what we demonstrate ourselves with Ennuonline.'

But isn't this a bit amateurish? Shouldn't a training course look as professional as possible?

Hulsebosch: 'No. We say: start with content on the fly. After this, consider which content is important to have a professional create. Again, to direct others, you have to have experienced creating those online elements yourself that make a training blended. I just think there is no right or wrong.


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Social learning

Every year Hulsebosch has a Christmas dinner with Ennuonline, where they discuss what the theme for the coming year will be. This year that has become ‘informal and social learning’. In short: the power of informal learning.

'Social learning is really a new way of learning. It's learning with each other, collective learning. It's a new way of looking at learning. Because who are seen as the experts? They're often not the trainers anymore. Look at where people go to learn,' says Hulsebosch. 'You have to start analyzing that carefully. Sometimes a trainer is put in front of the class. But with informal learning, people go to someone else and they see them as an expert. So how do you facilitate knowledge sharing? That's really a different way of looking at it.'

She cites social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn: people share an endless amount there, and learn from each other. There they do, she wants to say. 'So thats the way it should be with learning for work. I personally notice that the  idea of the 'flipped classroom' always catches on. This means that people get information online, before they go into class. That makes the live session more valuable. But that should be mixed up a lot more. It's boring to just share your knowledge online. People are social creatures, they want to learn from each other online as well," expert Hulsebosch teaches.


LOSmakers is a big event for Hulsebosch 

Much of what people learn through social learning actually remains invisible. And that’s  a shame. Ennuonline is initiator of the 'LOSmakers' (Learning and Training with Social Technology, that's what it stands for), a close community of real L&D professionals, who also communicate a lot with each other via Slack, among other things. Hulsebosch believes in communities. 'But that has to be in your DNA a bit. You learn from that. For example, I read the book ‘Design for how people learn’ by Julie Dirksen. Julie also has a Facebook group, and there you discuss with each other and can read along with questions from other learning professionals. So I also joined a digital community ‘Digital Fitness’ with people who are really into tech. I learn so much from other people about many different things. That's how I feel it should be.'



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