All You Need to Know about Blended Learning

ILT + eLearning = Reduced Classroom Training

Blended learning 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.

Designing Blended Learning Programs – The How-To Guide

Explore the when, why, and how of blended learning, along with a template to design the right blend.

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What is Learning?

Learning is a Process…

Though most organizations consider employee training and learning as a yearly or half yearly event, in reality, learning is more of a process. Learning is a journeywith the potential to take us from our current position to places we have only imagined and/or thought are not in our reach.

learning is a process

Learning can be defined as “a relatively permanent change in an individual’s behavior arising from experience”.

How can Training Help Achieve your Business Goals?

For any business to meet its business goals, it must:

  1. Sell more
  2. Improve efficiencies
  3. Stay compliant

And training is something that has proven itself in achieving all these three. 

Achieve your Business Goals

The key to make training effective and positively impact business goals is to ground it firmly in the desired performance. Training should help employees perform better by bridging the gap between their expected and current performance. Setting performance-based learning objectives will help link training with performance.

A performance-based learning objective is a statement in specific and measurable terms that describes what the learner will be able to do as a result of engaging in a learning activity. This is the starting point for designing any successful training intervention.

The 70:20:10 Model

The 70-20-10 Model

The 70:20:10 model for learning and development (70% experiential learning, 20% social learning, and 10% formal learning) has largely been adopted by organizations all over the world.

The 70% experiential learning can be facilitated through technology with:

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

Social learning does happen naturally. Harnessing most out of that 20% can be facilitated through:

  • Discussion forums
  • Live chat
  • User-generated content

The remaining 10% constitutes formal training. It ensures quality and forms, the foundation on which experiential and social learning can be built. Formal training can be delivered with the help of technology through:

  • VILT
  • eLearning
  • Microlearning

The 70:20:10 model enables organizations to recognize the need for different training methods in addition to the traditional ones. One such method is eLearning. The benefits of eLearning in the workplace (convenient and flexible access to training modules, cost effective, self-driven and self-paced learning that serves different learning styles, with measurable results and reporting) are taking the training world by storm, with eLearning budgets expected to hit US$200 billion by 2024.

However, training managers are still apprehensive about completely shifting from traditional training to technology-based learning or eLearning. And confining training to only eLearning may not be the answer and may backfire in the long run. This is where Blended Learning comes in.

What is Blended Learning?

ILT + eLearning + performance support = Blended Learning

Digital classrooms or virtual classrooms are a close second.

What is Blended Learning

In other words, blended learning is a hybrid or a mix of the traditional classroom training and a plethora of other technology-driven training methods. Some of the best instructional methods to deliver blended learning are:

Formal Training

Instructor-led classroom training

On-the-job training

E-learning curriculums

Performance Support

How-to-guides /videos/job-aids

Mobile applications

Decision support tools

Social Learning

Discussion boards

E-mentoring

Online forums/Wikis

Bulletin boards

Self-Directed Learning

Microlearning modules

Scenarios

Simulations

Online assessments

Just-in-time Training

Mobile learning

Microlearning

Digital resources

And, here’s a quick look at the digital assets that can be of part of blended learning.

Microlearning Assets

Why Blended Learning?

Why is Blended Learning Right for Training Employees?

The cone of learning answers this question perfectly.

Cone of learning

Reference: Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning

Our 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 involves active engagement and participation, and happens in a classroom training environment, with lots of discussions and interactions with the trainer and peers.
  • Training where the learner takes part in activities, works in simulated environments, or real-life job situations typically happens during on-the-job training, hands-on workshops, or in scenario-based or game-based eLearning courses that can have a combination of interactivities, simulations, and practice exercises.

It is clear that when learners are allowed to participate and express themselves, even the most complex topics can be retained better. This also makes Blended Learning very effective for learning as it combines traditional classroom with online, interactivity-based learning.

Strengths of Classroom and eLearning

Let’s take a closer look at the strengths of classroom training and eLearning.

CLASSROOM TRAINING

  • Availability of SMEs and coaches to adapt to participant needs and questions
  • Live group interactions, collaborations, role-modeling, and mentoring possible
  • Greater capacity for 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 other work demands
  • Addresses topics and issues that are outside of the packaged course material

ELEARNING

  • Self-directed, enabling learners to proceed at their own pace
  • Convenient and flexible, available on-demand (24x7x365), even in remote locations
  • Scalable, with simultaneous, audience and/or enterprise-wide rollouts possible
  • Consistency in the format and delivery of content
  • Easy to update and disseminate
    High individual learning accountability

Combining the strengths of these two learning mediums at the right time, in the right place and for the right need gives rise to a robust blended learning strategy. Keeping the two things in mind – defining the objectives and the mode of delivering the training according to your training requirements is highly essential to form a blended learning approach that suits our needs.

Benefits of Blended Learning

Blended learning is a fusion of instructor-led and self-paced learning methods that addresses your training needs in the following ways:

Provides flexibility in learning

Blended learning gives learners a sense of control over their learning, offering greater flexibility on how, where, and what they want to learn. This is especially useful for employees in remote locations as they could receive recordings of important training sessions through an online medium.

Promotes collaborative learning

Blended learning has the potential to support collaborative learning not only in the classroom and virtual training sessions, but also through online discussion forums. These discussion forums provide a platform for learners and trainers to share ideas, opinions, and experiences which help cater to the training needs and solve any apprehensions the employee might have.

Caters to different learning styles and preferences

Different learners have different preferences and learning styles. While some may prefer classroom training, a few might be inclined toward an online course. Even in online courses, learners may have different preferences, for videos, podcasts, PDFs, or other documents. When training is provided in a blended mode, learners can choose the format they are most comfortable with. This approach also benefits a globally dispersed workforce.

Uses multiple media and learning approaches

Apart from face-to-face training, a blended learning approach gives an opportunity to use multiple media resources such as audio and video. The best practices to create a blended learning course include combining various visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements, making it interesting and engaging for learners with different learning styles and ensuring better training results.

For more details, read our blog on HOW CAN BLENDED LEARNING ADDRESS YOUR TRAINING NEEDS?

Essentials to Create a Perfect Blended Solution

What does it take to create a perfect blended learning solution? To answer this question, certain high-level considerations are required. We need to:

  • Identify the specific training need
  • Gather all relevant content that meets this need
  • Analyze audience to find out when and where they would use this learning
  • Ensure you have the Learning Technology infrastructure in place (LMS, mobile learning and so on)
  • Come up with a template to accommodate content that goes into:
    • Classroom
    • eLearning

Blended Learning in Action – Sample Roadmaps

Product Training

Let’s assume you have to deliver product training to your salespeople who are on the move, traveling constantly.

This is a task that ranks high all four parameters of frequency, importance, learning, and risk. So, learners need initial training in the classroom, followed by self-paced learning, periodic refresher activities, and performance support.

So, here a sample blend you can try:

product Training for Blended Learning

Software Training

Training users on software is a very important, intricate job as they will need to become proficient in using the system – before it goes live. And theory won’t pass muster as they need to do – execute tasks using the application without errors and any errors will lead to costly rework and often highly negative consequences.

To help learners master using the software application, offer them hands-on training, followed by access to support resources. Here’s a blend you can try:

software training

Compliance Training

Organizations need to ensure employees are complaint as per the required standards. However it is much more beyond mere certification, as employees have to understand, interpret, and apply the rules/policies in their daily work to avoid misdemeanors. Apart from the mandatory training, they need reflection activities for practice and reinforcement.  Here’s a sample roadmap you can try:

Compliance and Safety Training

Challenges Solved by Blended Learning

Despite having an edge over conventional training methods, blended learning faces several challenges that can sabotage its success. Here are some hindrances in implementing a blended learning approach and the solutions to fix them.

Adapting to new technology

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

Solution

Start eLearning gradually as basic performance support modules and scale up slowly based on learners’ feedback, pace and, acceptance. Do not introduce the technology all at once. Also, ensure your IT team’s support for network requirements and trainer/facilitator availability to answer commonly asked questions.

Resistance from management

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

Solution

Results speak volumes when it comes to convincing management about blended learning. Management should be educated on the learning difficulties their employees might experience, and how they can assure effective learning, and provide a high visibility program with a cost-benefit analysis through eLearning.

Creating an eLearning course from only existing content initially will help build a business case for a blended learning approach.

Deciding on the best delivery medium

This is crucial for your blended learning program because matching the best delivery medium with the performance objective is essential for your training to create maximum impact. 

Solution

Appropriate learning methodologies can be determined after a thorough evaluation of your business goals and learning objectives. Taking a look at the job task inventory matrix and assigning an effective instructional method to each task can help solve the issue.

Balancing the different learning mediums

Since blended learning involves two very different learning mediums, maintaining a proper balance between the two learning mediums is highly essential so that they do not overwhelm the learner. 

Solution

Employees can be provided with a visual course map detailing the self-paced and classroom sessions.

Including technology in your learning programs is a necessity in today’s world and implementing these simple solutions will make your blended learning programs more enjoyable and engaging for the learners.

Other Learning Formats In Blended Learning

A blended learning approach utilizes multiple instructional methodologies that are combined optimally to deliver learning. In a blended learning strategy, a combination of ILT and various eLearning formats is usually used. While choosing a blended learning strategy, organizations have to analyze and choose the digital components of the course very carefully to help enhance the overall learning objectives. Let us now see how other learning formats help make blended learning better.

Microlearning in Blended Learning

Microlearning modules are small learning nuggets (3-7 minutes), each dealing with a single learning objective and allow for easy absorption and retention, helping close gaps in skills and knowledge, quickly and just-in-time.

Though microlearning can be used in isolation, when blended with other learning strategies it offers great benefits. For example, a micro video can be used to bring learners to the classroom and they can be offered job-aids in the form of infographics and eBooks after the classroom session.

Microlearning can be used to provide a general overview of a training program through video teasers,  infographics, surveys, and game-based assessments. Classroom training can be made more engaging by showing learners video snippets or conductiong polls. Finally, post-training, learners can battle the ‘forgetting curve’  with infographics and how-to videos which will help them retain knowledge better.

Mobile Learning in Blended Learning

Mobile devices have revolutionized the face of learning. Mobile learning or M-learning is learning that takes place when individuals access information through portable and easy-to-carry devices.

Mobile learning offers flexibility of access with multi-device delivery, shorter duration leading to high retention and just-in-time availability, and can serve both as teaching material as well as performance support.

So, blended learning, used in conjunction with various eLearning formats delivers great results and helps in sustaining employee performance and effectiveness.

Our Blended Learning Stories…

Software Training for a Research-based Biopharmaceutical Company

About the Client: Leading US biopharmaceutical company that works on innovative medicines for patients with life-threatening diseases.

Requirement: Develop a blend of classroom, eLearning, and performance support on a new regulatory document management system (RDMS)

Target Audience: Employees across the organization, based on their usage of the RDMS

Solution: We developed role-based eLearning simulations to help employees master task in the software – based on their role.

For employees not comfortable with eLearning, we developed ILT material; users had the flexibility of taking either that or eLearning courses.

We developed quick reference guides (PDFs) that showed the execution of each task with succinct instructions and screenshots – to be accessed at the point of need.

Read the complete case here: https://www.commlabindia.com/case-studies/blended-learning-for-software-training

Onboarding Program for a Contract Research Organization (CRO)

About the Client: A CRO, one of the world’s renowned comprehensive drug development companies

Requirement: Cut down the time spent by new hires in instructor-led training and deliver role-specific eLearning that learners can complete at their own pace

Target Audience: New Hires

Solution: We developed a blended learning strategy comprising classroom training, eLearning, videos, job-aids, and worksheets.

Each ILT session included an icebreaker that ensured new hires got to interact with their peers. Group activities made use of flipcharts and handouts.

Role-based eLearning simulations used ‘watch-try-do’ simulations to take learners through the steps of using the tool, giving them a chance to practice working on the tool in a risk-free environment within.

Read the complete case here:

https://www.commlabindia.com/case-studies/blended-learning