Training, as was known before, referred to employees congregated in classrooms or conference rooms where an instructor or a subject matter expert (SME) shared knowledge. It was a one-way process, with knowledge transmitted from the instructor to the learner. The instructor played a key role in the process and the successful outcome of any training solely resided on the capabilities of the instructor. Possibly because, there was very little scope for interaction. This was also true with any other form of knowledge transfer that existed – books, newspapers, radio, and television.
However, today that is not the case. Knowledge exchange is more transactional, with dialogues and conversations that could include counter opinions; most of this can happen in real-time as well. So, training, in today’s context, is a collaborative experience with scope for interactions at different levels and through different media. This has led to what we have been hearing a lot lately – hybrid mode learning, mixed-mode learning and a more common blended learning. All these terms mean the same thing – the use of more than one delivery method for training. It refers to training where you use multiple media and formats – classroom training, eLearning, videos, podcasts, wikis, discussion forums, and eBooks.
Do you think this hybrid learning or blended learning is right for your organization? Here are some instances when blended learning will be right for you.
When there is a lot to share and very little time
Some training programs require more time because it involves a deeper understanding of the subject. Take for example, a pharma sales training. The training needs to educate pharma sales representatives about pharmaceutical products, rules and regulations for selling pharmacology products, effective selling techniques and of course fundamental knowledge about pharmacology and associated terminology that is crucial when talking to physicians.
Having just one format of training will take many weeks for the training to complete. You can reduce the training period considerably by adopting blended learning. The same is applicable for other training programs, particularly in Insurance and Manufacturing sectors and in Sales training (particularly when dealing with complex products).
When you need to coordinate between multiple stakeholders and learners
One of the challenges of traditional training methods is fixing a time for training that is convenient to all. It is never easy to fix a time that suits the trainer and participants (if they come from different locations or even divisions within the organization). Added to that, you may also have to handle venue and accommodation matters. In such situations, it is best to go in for blended solutions, keeping face-to-face interactions to the minimum. Saves you lot of time and cost.
When you have geographically dispersed employees
There is a limit to the reach of classroom training programs. You can accommodate only so many participants. That does not mean, others in the organization do not need training. They simply are deprived for logistical reasons. This need not be the case when you adopt a blended learning strategy. You can include more number of employees – particularly those who work in remote and far flung places, to ensure that all the employees are part of continuous learning.
When you need to train employees frequently
In some sectors, such as retail segments, call center domain, turnover of employees is high. Every month there would be a sizable number of new employees joining the organization. Imagine having to provide classroom training to them, only to see that they leave the organization in a few months. In such situations, it is best to adopt online training, restricting the need for face-to-face training to the bare minimum – may be just hand-holding by an immediate supervisor. Blended learning would be most cost-effective because, digital learning resources are created once and can be used by employees over and over again.
When you want to plan career progression
When you plan to invest in employees for long-term benefits, providing them career progression opportunities is a good strategy. It means, you can assign a set of courses that employees complete and with the completion of each level, they qualify to go to the next band/level within the organization. The onus of completing the course is on the employee. All you will need to do is develop an online curriculum and career progression plan and let employees know of their career path. It becomes very structured and transparent, when you have it all on the Learning Management System (LMS). This is impossible through the traditional classroom format, but quite feasible in blended format. This way, learning will be a journey and not an event in an organization.
If any of the above situations resonate with your company, it is time for you to consider blended learning solutions. You can start small by building small digital learning assets and progressively graduate to eLearning courses and more.