What is blended learning?
Blended learning uses two or more training methods combined together to achieve the desired learning outcomes.
An example would be a mix of traditional classroom training supported by prerequisite digital learning modules.
Blended learning can be a particularly effective approach, as it offers all the benefits of both traditional classroom-based, and online training.
However, for blended learning courses to be effective, you must design them carefully, and use the correct tools for the job.
Like any other training effort, you need a strategy so that you can deliver a meaningful and immersive training experience to your learners based on sound instructional design principles.
Challenges of Traditional Learning
Challenges exist with traditional training solutions, including:
- The high cost of implementation, both in terms of time and money.
- Inconsistent messaging and teaching styles of instructors.
- Time away from work and interruption to a trainees daily tasks.
In many cases, eLearning can go some way to mitigating these challenges, however, simply taking your classroom based powerpoints and throwing them into an eLearning format isn’t usually the answer.
The shift to Digital Learning
Both employers and individual students are using digital platforms and purchasing digital course subscriptions that enable them to learn what they want, when they want, via website content, video training, and content-rich mobile learning apps.
Digital Learning can be defined as any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to build a student’s learning experience and provides opportunities for on-demand learning.
The move to web and app-based digital learning responds to learner needs for both broad and deep knowledge, and it addresses workplace skills that require frequent updating.
Increasing desire for digital learning coincides with decreasing costs for hosted content platforms, Microlearning platform subscriptions, and production of video-based courses. This has led to a growth of digital-only training vendors and solutions.
Challenges of Digital Learning
It’s often the very flexibility of digital learning that can lose learners in terms of engagement. A self-directed learner can decide to stop learning at any time and will do so if the content is not engaging.
Time spent creating a great eLearning course is wasted if learners do not complete the course, or are able to ‘skip through it’ when their engagement level wanes.
Key challenges when delivering effective Digital Learning include:
- Poor instructional design
- Lack of engagement and completion
- Unclear Motivation and Intent
- Lack of Relevance
- Limited access to Technology
Ways to use Blended Learning
The training industry is shifting, and offerings that blend live or virtual training with digital assets and assessments are growing in importance.
Blended learning solutions address some of the challenges we discussed above so can help to avoid the major pitfalls of using either of these formats as the sole training deliverable.
There are several ways you can combine digital and traditional learning methods to make a blended solution:
- PRE-Course: The learner can prepare knowledge at home in their own time using a desktop, laptop, or mobile device leaving the precious time in a classroom for discussion and simulation.
- In the classroom: Digital devices can play a role in giving individual real-time feedback and engaging as a group all at the same time.
- POST Course: The learner can reinforce and practice what has been taught in class on their mobile device, and receive updates to both core course material, and performance support-related material.
Blended learning is cost-effective, but it can also be a more natural way to learn and work concurrently.
When to Consider a Blended Learning Approach
A blended solution can be used for almost any training approach or objective; however, it is often best used when a mix of core skills and deep learning is required.
These requirements can be met using pre-and post-course digital elements combined with deep instructor-led learning.
Mobile and micro-learning can also fit into almost any training strategy, however, the types of training where this approach really shines are often those where location independent delivery, and dripped content feature, for instance:
Blended Learning Checklist
Do four or more apply to your organization? If so it may be time to consider a blended approach!
- Are your employees travelling offsite to attend live training sessions?
- Are your employees dispersed across several different worksites?
- Do you train more than 200 employees a year?
- Do you rely on a train-the-trainer approach?
- Do you launch new products frequently?
- Do you have many products and services that are complex and thus employees need time to get to grips with features and benefits?
- Are you launching the same training to multiple cohorts (over time, across locations)?
- Is your training aiming to evoke behavioural change?
- Is your training aiming to engage employees in a continuous manner rather than simply over the course of a 1 or 2-day program?
- Is the retention of knowledge delivered by your training important to the success of the company?
Please count how often you answered with a yes. Each ‘yes’ equals one point.
Your organization is small and simple. All your employees work in the same office and do not travel much. Under these circumstances, you do not need digital enhancement. Just watch the space if and when you grow.
Your organization faces a few training challenges. A blended approach would help to mitigate some of these challenges and should be investigated further.
Your employees would benefit from being able to access the course curriculum before or after the training. Both the acquisition of complex product knowledge and behaviour change need time to take effect and cannot be delivered in one-off classroom events. A blended solution will deliver better learning outcomes, that in turn will drive customer satisfaction and sales.