What Is Blended Learning (+ Tips & Tricks to Leverage It in 2023!)
Of course, you've been hearing a lot of talk about blended learning recently.
But you're probably wondering what exactly "blended learning" is, right? 🤔
Fortunately for you, we're here to help! 🙌
We're going to explain what blended learning is — and isn't — and how a blended learning strategy incorporates different methods, tools, and approaches to make learning more effective.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a hybrid learning combination of traditional classroom instruction with online education that caters to different learners' needs, saves costs, and increases efficiency for everyone involved.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with traditional forms of teaching and learning, but rather that technological developments now offer a more flexible, accessible approach.
It's about using different tools to create an approach to education that achieves multiple goals simultaneously, instead of expecting one method to cover all the bases (which it simply can't, as we know).
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning sounds cool and exciting, but it's also extremely practical. It makes as much sense as, well, coffee! ☕
Let's look at some blended learning benefits.
Blended learning saves companies and other educational institutions a lot of money because both learners and instructors spend far less on travel expenses to get to class.
2. More efficient training in the classroom
A blended learning environment makes classroom training much more efficient because learners complete online tasks and review online information beforehand.
Learners come to class prepared with questions regarding applying the information instead of having the educators teach all the course content from start to finish.
3. Best of both worlds
A blended learning program combines the best of offline and online learning, offering a balance between absorbing information and returning to the practical world to apply it.
There are limitations on cost, time, money, resources, etc., in offline instruction, but you have direct access to teachers to get questions answered.
In online learning, or eLearning, you have flexibility, accessibility, and the opportunity to cover more material in less time, but no teacher.
The combination makes the benefits of both options more satisfying.
4. Better retention rates
The more engaging a lesson, the better the memory of what's been learned.
Blended learning methods create varied experiences covering the same information through individual study, group discussions, online and/or practical classes, and then practical application.
All these activities help learners better retain information.
5. Self-paced learning
Learners who absorb information quickly can move on to practical applications and/or other lessons faster.
Learners who need more time to review information can do so without feeling like they are holding others back.
Independent learning allows learners to go at their own pace.
6. Strengthens communication
Blended learning strengthens communication because learners take ownership of the learning experience and participate more actively.
Participation and feedback ultimately improve the learning experience for everyone.
7. Benefits different types of learners
A blended learning approach with various learning activities considers learners' different learning styles and needs.
Hands-on learners will appreciate the group work and practical classes, whereas audio learners will enjoy listening to lessons, visual learners will appreciate video sessions, and readers can use blogs, websites, textbooks, and other materials.
8. Adapts to the latest learning trends
Digital learning tools and methods keep improving all the time.
Blended learning is a way to keep instructors and learners on top of these trends as they unfold, speeding up the process and constantly improving right along with educational technology.
9. Global reach
Another benefit of blended learning is the ability to reach learners globally. This is student engagement on a grand scale!
10. It's fun
Best of all, blended learning is fun. 🎉
We are social creatures, and it's always more fun and motivating when you can interact with others on the same journey as you and learn from others who have been there before you.
Blended learning creates opportunities to discuss the learning experience, different methods of application, and ways to improve it.
Blended Learning Models
There are different ways to implement blended learning, and the following models are the most popular and practical.
1. Face-to-face driver model
This blended learning model is the closest to the typical classroom model — you have an educator who leads the session and assists with feedback, hands-on training, role play, giving feedback, etc.
These sessions are also supplemented with technology.
2. Online driver model
The online driver model means remote student learning is provided online with little or no live instruction.
Digital material is worked through before, during, or after a class, and learners can access it on mobile phones and tablets and go at their own pace.
3. Rotation model
The rotation model provides a varied learning experience as students rotate from one learning activity to another, either structured or self-directed.
These activities can include learning stations and labs for hands-on practice, reading material, group discussions, and more.
4. Flipped classroom model
In traditional learning, instructors teach a class and then give learners homework to complete.
In the flipped classroom model, learners are given material to work through and questions to prepare for class, making the time spent in class much more effective.
5. Self-blend model
This instructional model is popular because it provides plenty of supplemental content such as blogs, video tutorials, white papers, and webinars where self-motivated learners can choose what they want to use to study a subject in more depth.
The amount of additional material covered is up to the learner.
6. Flex model
The flex model is simply another term for personalized learning where learners choose what they want to learn and at what pace.
Instructors are available to mentor and answer questions as needed.
7. Gamification model
This spurs learners to finish working through the material, have fun doing it, and retain what they learn.
Blended Learning Best Practices
Now that you have an idea of the different blended learning models you can use, there are still a few more essential points to consider before implementation.
1. Explain blended learning to your learners
It might seem a no-brainer but, blended learning is all about communication.
Tell your learners explicitly what you're setting out to do and how blended learning resources will benefit them in their learning experience and the intended outcome.
Once your learners understand that they are a vital part of the blended learning process, they will be motivated to participate, give feedback, and do the work.
2. Write clear learning outcomes and objectives
Be clear on the learning outcomes and learning objectives — the knowledge, skills, and concepts the learner will master by the end of the blended learning course.
Also, don't have too many outcomes or objectives at a time.
Rather choose 3 key ones, and use the rest for a separate blended course.
Your learners can then focus on mastering the necessary skills and information in order of priority.
3. Consider learning preferences
It's important to remember the context in which you are presenting blended learning — who are your learners and what are their preferences for learning how to master the skills they need?
Conversations around this question will prevent frustration, wasting money, and make the whole process more efficient from the start.
4. Use the technology
Technology is there to make education easier. Use a learning management system (LMS) that you find easy and intuitive to use, and go from there.
Don't overthink it or overcomplicate it. The simpler it is for you to use and tailor to your needs, the easier it will be for your learners and instructors to use it too.
Implementing Blended Learning
At last, the fun part!
Let's get into the practical steps of implementing blended learning.
These steps are all important for creating an overall learning experience that works, so don't skip this part.
1. Choosing an LMS
Choosing an LMS can easily take you down a rabbit hole, looking at various features. Don't get stuck here!
First, determine the basics you need to get started with.
You can add more complex features as you grow and your budget allows.
2. Blended learning content
Consider what content you already have that you can use, tweak, or revise, and what else you need to add.
You want to make sure that the training content you provide for blended learning works and is adaptable to teaching in different ways and formats, such as quizzes, videos, group activities, and more.
3. Use an authoring tool
What will you use to write your content?
If you've not yet considered using something besides Google docs or Word, take a look at course creation tools, which help you make your eLearning content more interactive without taking too much extra time.
You can also create and update your content on the go.
4. Create a community
Creating a community for interaction is a key part of distance learning because it's more fun than going through a whole course in isolation.
Interaction adds the perspectives and feedback of others, enriching the learning process.
Use social media platforms or tools to create a community around your learning material.
5. Use collaboration tools
Collaboration tools are a must — again, participation and interaction are part of what makes learning more fun, and it also makes it easier for you to provide learning material that is effective and accurate because it becomes a team effort.
There are many free tools to choose from, such as Google Docs, Trello, Asana, and more.
6. Social networks
Social networks have been mentioned above, but they also deserve their own spot in the sun.
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc., all create a way to expand learning on any topic.
It's exciting because, with public posts, you have no idea who might see it and interact, offering more insights and exposure to your material. Use it!
Create your own blended learning experience
Blended learning can drastically improve the morale and engagement of your learners.
Now that we've given you a clear overview of the benefits and some tips and tricks to implement blended learning, it's time to set your own criteria for what this will look like in your business or virtual classroom.
Why are you still here?