All about
Blended Learning

Blended learning in corporate training is the perfect fit for today’s learners as it combines the flexibility of anytime anywhere learning with direct interaction with peers and the instructor.

Introducing Blended Learning

What is Blended Learning?

Simply put, blended learning is a strategy where we use a mix of face-to-face classroom-based training and online training programs to address different phases of learning in order to maximize learning.

Blended learning = Instructor-Led Training + Online Learning (synchronous and asynchronous) + Performance Support

What is Blended Learning

And as blended learning is basically a hybrid of traditional classroom training and eLearning, it’s a given that a well thought out blended solution will also offer the benefits of both training formats.

So, what are these benefits? Let’s have a look.

Classroom Training

  • Presence of SMEs and coaches
  • Live group interactions, collaborations, role-modeling, and mentoring
  • Hands-on experiences with physical devices and equipment
  • Face-to-face sharing of experiences and social interaction
  • Dedicated time in a controlled environment, away from work demands/distractions
  • Closer simulation of actual work performance, particularly soft skills

eLearning

  • Self-directed learners
  • Convenient, flexible, available on-demand (24x7x365), even in remote locations
  • Scalable, with simultaneous audiences and/or enterprise-wide rollouts possible
  • Consistency in format and delivery of content
  • No logistic hassles, reduced time away from work
  • Easy-to-manage administration and analytics
  • Ideal in a multi-cultural/-lingual context

Combining the strengths of these two learning mediums at the right time, in the right place, and for the right reason helps develop a robust blended learning framework.

Blended Learning in The Learning Journey (Learning is a process, not an event!)

Though most organizations look at employee training and learning as an annual or semi-annual event, learning is more of a process. It is a journeywhere the learner goes from a stage of ignorance to awareness to mastery of the subject, bringing about “a relatively permanent change in an individual’s behavior arising from experience”.

The Learning Journey

  • Inform Me: Present new information and content
  • Show Me: Demonstrate/model new information for desired knowledge and performance
  • Challenge Me (Let Me Try): Allow practice with guidance, coaching, and feedback
  • Assess Me (Final Challenge): Assess learning
  • Reinforce my Learning: Provide learning at spaced intervals to improve recall

Blended learning provides greater opportunities to offer continual learning experiences across the learning journey in various formats to help learners excel in their performance.

Benefits of Blended Learning

Blended learning offers numerous advantages for both learners and organizations.

Provides Flexibility in Learning Promotes Collaborative Learning Caters to Different Learning Styles Bids Goodbye to Scheduling Hassles Cuts Training Costs and Improves ROI

Blended learning gives learners control over their learning, offering greater flexibility on how, where, and what they learn. This is especially useful for a globally dispersed workforce or for those in remote locations. Learners can also choose the format they are most comfortable with.

Blended learning supports collaborative learning in the physical and virtual classroom, and also through online discussion forums. These forums enable learners and instructors to share ideas, opinions, and experiences and help allay any apprehensions learners might have.

Different learners have different learning styles. Some prefer the classroom and others an online course. A blended learning program with combination of various visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements engages learners with different learning styles and ensures better training outcomes.

A major problem with a one-size-fits-all classroom training or a pre-scheduled virtual classroom session is that not everyone may be available to attend training at the same time. Most of these scheduling problems can be resolved with blended learning.

With most of the training being done online, there are huge cost savings on travel and accommodation. Also, setting up an online learning solution is much more scalable with rapid authoring tools. Development time and costs can also be cut by repurposing digital assets from existing classroom material and online courses.

Provides Flexibility in Learning

Blended learning gives learners control over their learning, offering greater flexibility on how, where, and what they learn. This is especially useful for a globally dispersed workforce or for those in remote locations. Learners can also choose the format they are most comfortable with.

Promotes Collaborative Learning

Blended learning supports collaborative learning in the physical and virtual classroom, and also through online discussion forums. These forums enable learners and instructors to share ideas, opinions, and experiences and help allay any apprehensions learners might have.

Caters to Different Learning Styles and Preferences

Different learners have different learning styles. Some prefer the classroom and others an online course. A blended learning program with combination of various visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements engages learners with different learning styles and ensures better training outcomes.  

Bids Goodbye to Scheduling Hassles

A major problem with a one-size-fits-all classroom training or a pre-scheduled virtual classroom session is that not everyone may be available to attend training at the same time. Most of these scheduling problems can be resolved with blended learning.

Cuts Training Costs and Improves ROI

With most of the training being done online, there are huge cost savings on travel and accommodation. Also, setting up an online learning solution is much more scalable with rapid authoring tools. Development time and costs can also be cut by repurposing digital assets from existing classroom material and online courses.

Formats of Blended Learning

Live Formats

  • Instructor-led (classroom) training
  • On-the-Job training

Social Learning

  • Discussion boards
  • Online forums

Virtual Collaboration: Synchronous

  • Live eLearning classes
  • E-mentoring

Virtual Collaboration: Asynchronous

  • Email
  • Bulletin boards
  • Online communities

Self-Paced Learning

  • Web learning modules
  • Online resource links
  • Simulations
  • Scenarios
  • Video and audio CD/DVD
  • Online self-assessments
  • Workbooks

Performance Support Systems (EPSS)

  • Help systems
  • Job-aids
  • How-to videos
  • Knowledge databases
  • Mobile applications
  • Performance or decision support tools

Digital Assets of Blended Learning

Digital Assets Of Blended Learning

Why Blended Learning for Employee Training?

There are 4 good reasons to opt for blended learning for employee training:

1. To Leverage the Cone of Learning

Cone of learning

Reference: Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning

The Cone of Learning shows that recall is highest during active learning represented in the last two segments (at the bottom) of the pyramid – participating in a discussion or giving a talk, or working in simulated environments or real-life job situations that typically happens during on-the-job training, hands-on workshops, or in scenario-based or game-based eLearning courses.

When learners are allowed to participate in the learning, even the most complex topics can be retained better. This makes blended learning very effective for learning as it combines traditional classroom with online, interactivity-based learning and performance support.

2. To Apply the 55:25:20 Model of Learning

Blended learning is ideal to deliver training according to the updated 55:25:20 model for learning and development (55% experiential, 25% social, and 20% formal learning).

The 55% experiential learning can be facilitated through:

  • Scenario-based learning
  • Online software simulations
  • How-to-videos

The 25% social learning can be offered through:

  • Discussion forums
  • Live chat
  • User-generated content

The 20% formal training can be provided through:

  • Virtual Instructor-led Training (VILT)
  • eLearning
  • Microlearning

3. To Beat the Forgetting Curve

A typical graph of the forgetting curve shows that almost half the newly learned knowledge is lost within days or weeks unless it is reviewed or reinforced.

Forgetting Curve

The forgetting curve is propped when learning is reinforced in spaced intervals. With blended learning, various training formats (eLearning, just-in-time microlearning assets, and performance support tools such as job-aids) can be used as shown here – boosting learning, recall, and on-the-job application.

4. To Offer Personalized Learning

If personalization is the goal, then blended learning is the means to achieve that goal!

Here’s how blended learning can help tailor a personalized learning experience.

  1. Instant Access to Training: Blended learning enables organizations to offer – along with a blend of instructor-led training and self-paced eLearning courses – searchable microlearning assets and job aids for instant access to the required content (performance support).
  2. Learner Control over Training: Learners who are content with traditional training can attend the instructor-led training sessions; and those who would like to learn at their own place, time, and schedule, can do so by accessing the self-paced eLearning courses.
  3. Freedom to Learn and Practice with Peers and Colleagues: With blended learning, learners can be encouraged to discuss the training on a message forum/board on the LMS. Collaboration between learners and colleagues/seniors is possible even with eLearning. A link to the organization’s internal social network allows learners to clarify, discuss or share learning points. Web conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet also help facilitate collaboration between learners and their instructors/peers/colleagues.
  4. Training Adapted for the Needs of Different Learners: Before training, learners can take an online pre-test to identify their preferences and proficiencies. This allows instructors to skip content learners are already familiar with and focus on the knowledge gaps. Classroom time may be devoted to discussions, coaching, and one-on-one teaching followed by self-paced eLearning course/s for in-depth knowledge about the concepts.
  5. Training that Relates to Problems Learners Face at Work: The instructor in the classroom uses examples/anecdotes/best practices from his/her own experience to drive home points and engage learners. This can be followed by eLearning with different instructional strategies (scenarios, simulations, virtual reality, augmented reality) to challenge learners with problems they face every day on the job. The learner is then given opportunities to solve them the right way, in a safe, risk-free environment. 

Getting Started With Blended Learning
Blended Learning Models

One popular misconception about blended learning is that it always has to start with classroom training followed by online training or with online training followed by classroom.

That is so not true! There are many blended learning models that can be leveraged for effective training. Here are four core models of blended learning.

Blended Learning Models & Their Features

Rotation Model

Rotation Model

A fixed schedule with a smaller online component that ‘rotates’ among classroom training, eLearning, collaborative group activities, and discussions.

Flex Model

Flex Model

Customized training schedule with online training + group activities/ personalized interventions and one-on-one support and individual tutoring interventions.

Enriched Virtual Model

Enriched Virtual Model

Primarily online learning + mandatory classroom training (physical or VILT).

Very useful when there are few instructors available.

À La Carte Model

À La Carte Model

Primarily classroom training supplemented before and after by online training (microlearning formats such as videos, infographics, interactive eBooks).

Challenges of Blended Learning

Despite having an edge over conventional training methods, implementing blended learning does have several challenges that can sabotage its success. Here are some challenges and their solutions.

Challenge

Solution

Difficulty with Technology

Employees might face problems with installation, compatibility, and other technical aspects that might make them averse to digital modes.

Start Small and Scale Up

Start eLearning gradually and scale up slowly based on learners’ feedback and acceptance. Ensure IT support and availability of facilitators.

Resistance from Management

Management might resist the implementation of blended learning due to misconceptions that technology-enabled learning is not as effective as traditional learning. 

Let the Results Speak for Themselves

Management should be:

  • Educated on the learning difficulties employees might be experiencing
  • Provided with a cost-benefit analysis of reducing classroom training and including online through a high visibility blended learning program

Deciding on the Best Delivery Medium

Matching the best delivery medium with the performance objective is essential for your training to create maximum impact.

Let the Training Needs Dictate the Choice of Training Modalities, Not the Technology

Determined appropriate blended learning methods after a thorough evaluation of your business goals and learning objectives.

5 Best Practices for a Blended Learning Approach

1. Evaluate Content for the Online Format

Take stock of all your learning material and decide on components you wish to move online.

  • Identify the training material that already exists.
  • Review the content with the help of SMEs and see if the existing content is adequate to meet the learning objectives.
  • Determine which components need to be enhanced or updated to make them online ready.
  • Decide on new content that needs to be created to bridge gaps in existing content.

2. Base your Design on the Learning Objectives, NOT Technologies

Blended learning is about using technology to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Use the learning objectives as a road map to design your blended learning strategy, aligning the content, assessments, and activities for the most optimal learning experience.

Consider the function before choosing the form (the digital learning method) rather than going for the latest technology.

3. Consider Microlearning for the Online Component

To address the modern learner’s short attention spans, use a curriculum of microlearning modules in your blended learning, each dealing with one learning objective – short enough for learners to retain the information and use it to improve their work performance.

Microlearning Formats

Here’s how microlearning can be used in the blended learning strategy:

Pre-training: Introduce basic concepts via microlearning videos or case studies.

During training: Augment classroom sessions with short learning videos and infographics.

Post-training: Provide performance support after the completion of the training – micro-FAQ modules, ‘how to’ micro demo videos or simple explainers.

4. Leverage Rapid Authoring Tool Templates for Quick eLearning Development

Rapid authoring tools come with their own media library and ready-to-use templates. There are standardized templates for the GUI, introductory slides, summary, assessments, and more to be reused across courses. These templates can be customized and reused to meet your requirements.

5. Evaluate the Online Component with a Pilot

Use a pilot run to test the technology, instructions, content, activities, and user experience, so that any problems can be fixed before the final launch. Here are some tips on how to pilot your online learning:

  • Determine the length of the pilot
  • Select your audience to represent the full spectrum of the workforce for whom the training is being designed.
  • Allow the sample group to test the course/s in different locations to get an idea of the bandwidth and Internet most learners will have access to.

Blended Learning in Action – Sample Roadmaps

Product Training

Let’s say you need to deliver product training to your salespeople who are constantly on the move. It is very important for them to have comprehensive, up-to-date knowledge about their products, and access to learning resources for handy reference.

So, they need initial training in the classroom, followed by self-paced learning, periodic refresher activities, and performance support.

Here’s a sample blending learning framework you can try:

product Training for Blended Learning

Software Training

software training for blended learning

Training users on software is very important as they will need to become proficient in using the system – before it goes live. And just theory won’t do as they will need to execute tasks using the application without errors.

So, offer hands-on training, followed by access to support resources.

Compliance Training

Compliance training is much more than mere certification, as employees have to understand, interpret, and apply the rules/policies in their daily work to avoid non-compliance.

Apart from the mandatory training, they need reflection activities for practice and reinforcement.

Compliance and Safety Training

Blended Learning: A Guide to Boost Employee Performance
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