Blended Learning and Mobile Performance Support: Ahead of the Curve

“We can’t keep thinking of training as a one-time event.”

That sums up the philosophy behind blended learning and the majority of mobile learning being implemented today—and it couldn’t be more true. Those of us in the training industry have heard the phrase “forgetting curve” more times than we care to remember, and I’m sure by now we all get the idea. But just because the phrase is overused in blog posts like this one, doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem many people still aren’t addressing.

Blended Learning header

There are plenty of objections to mobile learning, and actual uptake is still much less than the marketing hype would have us think. Desktop eLearning is still “king,” but recent statistics show mobile learning is on the rise for real this time. Why? Mobile learning gives trainers a practical tool for combatting the forgetting curve.

How blended learning and mobile learning combat the forgetting curve

There are two ways to combat the forgetting curve:

1. A higher degree of initial learning

Blended learning is a great way to establish a higher degree of initial learning (a nice coincidence that the definition of blended learning includes mobile). By integrating e-learning courses with face-to-face instruction and sprinkling in some really engaging game based learning, you can create a variety of opportunities for synthesis, practice and reinforcement. Using a variety of mediums will make your learning more “sticky,” and you’ll avoid burnout by keeping the learning solution from becoming too repetitive. Not only are you ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks, you’re also making it easier for them to remember what they are learning.

2. Reinforcement

The forgetting curve remains in effect no matter what training techniques we use. We can’t avoid it… but we can sure reduce it. Mobile learning provides opportunities for “just in time” reinforcement and extended practice. By reinforcing the learning at well-timed intervals, you’ll give your learners, who are already challenged with multitasking and daily distractions, the best opportunity for success. Mobile learning allows you to deliver on-demand support wherever and whenever learners need it. This is how mobile learning is going to secure its place in the world of formal eLearning and “training” for years to come.

"Mobile learning is an essential piece of the blended learning puzzle"

How we incorporate blended learning and mobile learning

I sat down with one of our Senior Learning Designers, Kristen Hewett, to discuss how we advise our clients on implementing blended learning, mobile technologies and performance support. Here’s what she had to say:

Could you do a brief overview of the various elements combined in a recent project?

Well, this curriculum includes various learning solutions, over several phases. The solutions span from online discovery-based modules to face-to-face training sessions, and even a mobile app with performance support tools and reinforcement activities. Much of the curriculum is story and scenario driven, with real-life examples that learners need to respond to. Because the audience is competitive, we’ve incorporated some games and game elements, too.

How do you envision these elements working together to make the learning solution more successful?

The different phases offer learners multiple opportunities to learn information and practice their skills before they have to use them in a sales situation. We know that repetition and activities that mimic real-world situations help with remembering. Essentially, practice really does make perfect.

So in this case, learners need to know the new product features. First is the online solution (which is prework for the face-to-face training) where learners explore the product and complete a scavenger-hunt style activity to find the new key features. Then, at the face-to-face session, they have to pair those features to a customer need through a table-top game. Towards the end of the face-to-face session, they even have an opportunity to demonstrate the feature to another learner for feedback.

Finally, the performance support mobile app includes a list of features and benefits the learners can go back to for a refresher.

Were there any obstacles in pitching this to the client?

Because this is a global product rollout, they wanted to consider how different elements of the curriculum would be received in various countries. To that end, we made a decision to talk about activities in terms of discovery-based learning as opposed to games. There was thought that discovery-based might be better received. We’re still waiting on feedback but so far, they seem pretty positive about the materials.

Is it difficult for a company to manage a blended learning solution?

Managing a blended learning solution is new, so it may take organizations a little more time to get used to it. For our project, we recommended that the performance support portion live somewhere else—not in the LMS. We also suggested an email campaign to drive learners back to the materials. Is that more work than a one-and-done course? Sure. But it will help learners remember the materials, it’s an important step to take. We can’t keep thinking of training as a one-time event to get the results we want.

Do you think “support modules” are successful? For instance, flashcard apps— are these good uses of mobile learning?

Support modules are the best use of mobile learning. The best feature of mobile learning is that it can be just-in-time support, right there, when it’s needed. Support modules are the perfect use for mobile tech.

Less buzzwords, more action

I hope Kristen has given you some insight into how blended learning and mobile learning function in a real-world consulting scenario. We talk about blended learning and mobile learning on the web constantly, even though actual implementation numbers don’t match up. Training can be an expensive investment, and when it’s done right it can make your organization a powerhouse of innovation and success—but when you don’t go all in and provide engaging learning experiences with reinforcement, it can be a waste. And we all know that when a training solution fails it’s not just bad for that company, it’s bad for our industry as a whole.