Hearing a lot of talk about “blended learning” and wondering what the fuss is about?
So you should, because it’s just as relevant to the corporate training world as it is to figure out how to homeschool your kiddos (thanks, Covid).
Blended learning is not about multi-tasking and snacking while meeting with your work supervisor on Zoom either, in case you were wondering. (We see you there…)
This article will explain how blended learning incorporates different methods, tools, and approaches to make corporate training more effective with examples, strategies, and tips, as well as how to start implementing it.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a hybrid learning combination of traditional classroom instruction with online education in a way 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 require a more flexible, accessible approach.
It’s about using different tools to create an approach to education that achieves multiple goals at the same time, 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!
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
Blended learning makes classroom instruction much more efficient because learners are completing online tasks and reviewing online information beforehand.
Learners come to class prepared with questions regarding the application of the information, instead of having the instructor teach all the 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.
In offline instruction, there are limitations on cost, time, money, resources, etc., but you have direct access 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 instructor. The combination makes the benefits of both options more satisfying.
4. Self-paced learning
Learners who absorb information quickly can move on to practical applications and/or other tasks.
Learners who need more time to review information can do so without feeling like they are holding others back. Blended learning allows learners to go at their own pace.
5. Better retention rates
The more interesting a lesson, the better the memory of what’s been learned. Blended learning creates varied experiences of 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.
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 takes learners’ different learning styles and needs into account.
Hands-on learners will appreciate the group work and practical classes, whereas the audio learners will enjoy listening to classes and the readers can also use blogs, websites, textbooks, and other material.
8. Adapts to the latest learning trends
Digital teaching and 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 accessibility on a grand scale!
It has the potential to take your company’s methods around the world, opening the door to many more opportunities for growth.
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 that you can 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.
Some Things to Consider
Before you rush into implementing blended learning, there are some things you need to take into consideration so you don’t waste funds on the wrong tools and approaches:
You need a Learning Management System (LMS) — this is where you keep the content and track students’ progress and learner engagement. It simplifies the process of giving instruction, and the process of learners’ participation.
Remember that online training is not the same as in-person training. Online instruction can incorporate different kinds of media, presentations, webinars, workshops, informational videos, and more, so be specific about what training is going where, why, and how.
Blended Learning Models
There are different ways to implement blended learning and the following models have been found to be most popular and practical. Read through each one and consider what applies best to your context and remember, you can always change what doesn’t work as you go.
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 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 in a structured or self-directed manner. 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 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
The gamification model is where corporate training is combined with fun elements such as rewards, competition, mastery of different levels on a leaderboard, and so on. This spurs learners on 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 key points to consider before you begin with implementation. These points can mean the difference between a smashing success and having the process flop.
Explain blended learning to your learners
Yup, it’s all about communication, before you even begin with blended education. Tell your learners what you’re setting out to do and how blended learning will benefit them in their learning experience and the intended outcome.
Once your learners understand that they are a key part of the blended learning process, they will be motivated to participate, give feedback, and do the work.
Clear learning outcomes
Be clear on the learning outcome — what knowledge, skills, and concepts must the learner have mastered by the end of the course? How will you ensure that you, the instructors, and the learners are confident and competent by the end of it?
Also, don’t have too many outcomes at a time. Rather choose 3 key ones, and use the next for a separate blended course. Your learners can then focus on mastering the necessary skills and information in order of priority.
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.
Use the technology
Technology is there to make education easier. Use a learning management system 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, we’re at the fun part — we can finally 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.
Choosing an LMS
Choosing an LMS can easily take you down a rabbit hole, looking at various features. Don’t get stuck here!
You can add more complex features as you grow and your budget allows.
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 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.
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 tools such as iSpring, Adobe Captivate, Lectora Inspire, or Articulate 360, which helps you make your content more interactive without taking too much extra time. You can also create and update your content on the go.
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 like Kajabi to create a community around your learning material.
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.
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
Now that you have a clear overview of the benefits of blended learning and how to go about implementing it, it’s time to set your own criteria for what this will look like in your business.
Start a training needs analysis by having conversations, asking questions, and listening.
You’re at the start of something that can drastically improve the morale and excellence of your whole business, which in turn will have a wonderful impact on your results!