Blended Learning 101: Basics, Benefits & Best Practices

According to our research, the overwhelming majority of organizations use a blended learning strategy to deliver training. Blended learning is the norm, not the exception. This likely comes as no surprise to you. Online is often the method of choice for fact-based knowledge and performance support, while instructor-led training and other interpersonal activities are the standard go-to for helping learners build soft skills and practice complex tasks.

If you are new to training and development or just looking for a refresher, this article is for you. Read on to learn the basics of blended learning, its key benefits and the best practices we use when designing blended learning curriculums.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a combination of learning solutions. Essentially, it combines classroom or face-to-face learning with self-paced online learning. This gives learners an element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Blended learning uses multiple delivery methods to present a series of learning events. Delivery methods may include eLearning, video, mobile, and/or live training. This helps present learning content in a way that best serves the learner and the content being taught.

Benefits of Blended Learning

A blended learning strategy can benefit your employees, as a variety of learning approaches can stimulate their interest and increase their engagement. Blended learning offers:

1. The best of both worlds

Blended learning allows the flexibility of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience. It gives the learner time to learn when it is most convenient for them. Learners can complete introductory modules at their own pace, rather than the pace of the slowest or fastest member of a group in the class environment. Then, learners benefit from the hands-on practice and coaching opportunities that face-to-face training provides for your more challenging learning objectives.

Blended learning also allows you to provide the right contextual practice via live, face-to-face training. It doesn’t force you to make concessions but allows you to create the interactions that are going to benefit your learners the most.

2. Stronger learner engagement and knowledge retention

Learning science shows that knowledge retention can significantly improve with the addition of a new element in the learning process. This is true even if it is something as simple as a drag and drop interaction in an eLearning course. By offering a variety of different approaches, blended learning can help learners remember what they need to be successful on the job. Blending face-to-face and online training creates a much richer training experience. It helps your employees learn and remember much easier than they would if they were offered a single-solution approach.

3. Simplified training logistics

Blended learning also reduces the cost of delivering basic, foundational knowledge. Depending on the solution used, analytics and completion data will give you a picture of what learners know and don’t know before they attend a live session. Because everyone completes the same pre-work or online modules, you can then teach the actual application of these skills in the face-to-face environment.

Potential Downfalls of Blended Learning

When I spoke with some of our Learning Technologists, most of them mentioned time and budget as possible constraints to a robust blended learning strategy. Blended learning obviously takes more time to design and develop than just a single course, for example. If some stakeholders are skeptical of the upfront investment, a strong training implementation strategy can help identify potential risks and build consensus early.

Other possible challenges include:

Finding facilitators for the live training events: Like any projects that involve logistics and scheduling, allow plenty of time to plan for this early on.

Making sure learners complete the pre-work before attending ILT: Create a communications strategy and align efforts with learners’ managers. Make learners aware that top performers will be recognized and rewarded when they attend the live training event.

Making sure learners are engaged and pay attention during ILT: Design a variety of interactive activities and avoid lecture at all costs.

Ensuring that learners complete any post-work and use the provided performance support tools: Perform a careful needs analysis up front to ensure you are designing the optimal tools for learners.

Blended learning curriculum design: What to consider

Create a cohesive curriculum

One of the most important things to consider when designing a blended learning curriculum is how to l solutions in a curriculum feel consistent and connected. How does the live meeting build on the pre-work, for example? A blended curriculum shouldn’t just repeat everything from one learning solution to another. All the solutions should work together to reach the common goal. Often, you may decide to use a story or a theme throughout to tie the pieces together. It should feel like one experience to the learner, not a series of separate courses or events.

Identify any constraints

You also want to consider your constraints. Your budget, timeline, and the time your learners have available all have a huge impact on what the right learning solution will be for your situation. A realistic picture of your project constraints will help you decide what to cover in an eLearning course, what can be done in person, and what should be used for follow-up.

Take a look at some of the blended learning curriculums we’ve created for organizations just like yours.

6 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Training

Earlier this year, we published the results of our 2017 Learning and Remembering Survey. In the survey, we asked respondents to tell us one thing they would improve about learning & development and/or training at their organization. This question was perhaps the most open-ended, and it received a wide variety of responses. Many respondents were most concerned with improving the design of their training. They often mentioned a desire to make it more engaging in some way:

“Have enough time to develop groundbreaking and engaging training.”
“I would like to find new ways to make the learning more engaging.”
“Technology! We don’t use many resources that would make learning fun and engaging.”
“I hope to make it more fun and engaging for learners.”
“Improving the tools/technologies that surround engagement of your learners and allowing them to personalize their learning.”

Some respondents wanted to improve the technology they use to deliver training, whether it was a new intranet or an improved LMS. However, others focused more on the big picture. They wanted to make learning a bigger part of their company culture, or to make more time for effective needs analysis that could influence and improve their designs.

I’m sure these responses sound familiar. And some of these issues may seem like monsters that will take forever to fix. I’m here to tell you that with a little expert advice, you can create better training, you can increase buy-in, and you can improve the L&D culture within your organization. So why not start today? It’s all about taking that first step…

The 6 Steps to Success

Whatever challenges you face and whatever improvements you want to make, the six steps outlined below can help you get started:

1. Start with what you don’t know.

A thorough needs analysis should always be the first step when you need to improve performance or change behaviors. Zero in on the “need to know” information and make a solid plan for identifying the right learning solution. Regardless of the type of learning solution you plan to create, taking the time to properly assess the situation and gather appropriate information will go a long way towards assuring the success of a new project.

Once you identify the underlying issues, you can start creating a plan to overcome them, which leads me to my second point…

2. Define a goal and tie learning objectives to that goal.

Has your organization defined a specific business goal? If so, write it down. Do not start your training initiative without setting a goal. Everything else flows from the goal. You can then focus on crafting relevant learning objectives and tying them to your goal.

These objectives should outline what learners need to know, do, or believe to achieve whatever instructional goal you have defined. For example, when we create game-based learning solutions for clients, we use Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide our game creation. Once we know the skill level we want players to achieve, we can choose a game type that can best help them achieve targeted skills.

3. Want engagement? Think like a marketer.

If you want to engage people and really get them excited about training, you have to actually make it “buzzworthy.” But how? We often challenge trainers to think like marketers. What is the implementation strategy? How will you promote the training to learners? Spark interest through a series of emails, promotional graphics, videos of key stakeholders talking about the initiative, etc. Get creative and plan on a series of messages across multiple mediums. The more relevant your content, and the more excitement you create, the more likely learners are to engage.

4. Use the FIT approach

This idea comes from a recent Forbes article. Instead of ignoring or not being aware of the aspects of their organization they’d like to improve, some people see way too many things to change. If that’s the case for you, you might want to use the “FIT” approach: feasibility, impact, and timeliness. Here’s how:

“Look at those things you want to change, and decide which is the most feasible (you actually can change it – it’s in your control, and you have the needed resources), most impactful (will have the greatest positive effect on your life (organization) with the least amount of energy/budget expended) and most timely (you can do it now, and doing it will create a foundation for further change).”

5. Stop skipping the reinforcement.

We’ve talked a lot about reinforcement lately in other blog posts, at conferences, and with clients. But this is only because we can’t stress enough how important reinforcement is. It is crucial for learners to actually retain anything from the training you spent so much time and effort on. That’s why we like to think of reinforcement as an insurance policy for your training. In this article, we outline six different reinforcement tools you can start using today.

6. Consult an expert.

It may be true that your company can take on the project in-house. And we can’t argue with you if you have the time, people, expertise, and software to do so. But rarely do organizations have that magical blend of resources ready to go to get the project from start to finish in a way that hits the mark.

We do have the time, people, software, and expertise (in project management, scripting, course authoring, instructional design, implementation, and previous experience) to successfully implement your project. We also bring a unique outside perspective and can suggest solutions that have been successful for other clients.

Want to view the rest of the survey results? Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report.

Emerging Learning Technologies: Promise vs. Hype

Go to any of the big L&D conferences or trade shows and you’ll hear buzz and conversation about virtual reality, augmented reality, and 360 video. Explore the pages of Inc., Forbes, Tech Crunch, or Mashable and you’ll find articles. Search Twitter using the hashtags #AR, #VR, #360video and you’ll find links to innumerable posts.

For almost a decade now, we’ve been hearing that these “emerging” technologies will become viable solutions to add to the L&D practitioner’s toolbox. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to emerging technologies of any kind so I follow these discussions and explore where I can. After watching and waiting for numerous years, I felt like this year is the year where all three technologies reached a tipping point, of sorts.

So, last month, our Director of Technology, Brandon Penticuff, along with a great team of people, hosted an “emerging technologies” day so everyone at BLP could experience the new tech in the span of a two-hour hands-on lab. Afterward, we talked about what we saw as promise, and what we saw as “hype.”

This post summarizes what we explored, how we felt about it, what we learned, and what we plan to do next.

The technology defined

Want to replicate our learning lab? Here’s how we defined each technology and the tools we used to explore it:

  • Virtual Reality – This is the “hottest” of the three technologies in terms of the buzz it generates and its sizzle factor. It is computer technology that uses headsets, sometimes in combination with physical spaces or multi-projected environments to generate a completely artificial environment into which a user can become completely immersed. It often uses other inputs such as wands to allow for interaction through simulated touch or tool use. For our demo’s, we used HTC’s Vive and PlayStation VR.
  • Augmented Reality – This emerging technology seems to have the greatest challenge getting people to understand how it can add value or even what it actually is. It is the integration of digital information with a user’s real environment. Unlike VR, which creates a completely artificial environment, AR uses the existing environment and overlays digital information on top of it. For our demos, we relied on the iPhone and a Nintendo 3DS, along with some AR cards designed for use with the Nintendo.
  • 360 Video – This type of video is frequently labeled “virtual reality,” but we see it as a distinct category. These videos are also often called “immersive” videos because the intent is to immerse you in whatever environment they display. They are videos where a view in every direction (360 degrees) is recorded at the same time, typically by using a omnidirectional camera. The viewer has control of the viewing direction. We used an Insta360 Nano camera (purchased for $199) to record video and Wonda VR (subscription-based software as a service with a free trial) to create an immersive, interactive prototype for our team to test.

What we explored

We took commercial games available for Vive and Playstation VR, videos we could get via Oculus store and via Nintendo, and an interactive 360 video we created ourselves and allowed people to play. Via virtual reality headsets, people cooked recipes, battled spaceships, demonstrated archery skills, competed in a luge competition, and played a fancy form of Pong. They escaped from a crumbling skyscraper under attack by unknown enemies. They solved puzzles that emerged when placing a Nintendo DS over a simple “AR” card. In the interactive 360 video we created, they figured out where the safety hazards were in our office.

Our reactions to it

VR made several of us nauseous – not just one or two of us, but a few of us. For me, at least, the feeling of motion sickness lasted a few hours afterward. We aren’t unique. A quick scan of the landscape reveals that motion sickness with VR is a common problem (25% – 40% experience it). Women experience it more than men. People over 50 and 12 and under have more trouble with it than those in between those ages.

Despite the motion sickness, almost everyone was at least initially engaged by what they saw and experienced. There was lots of laughter and variations of the phrase, “Oh cool!” echoing around the area as people experienced the various games and apps.

The headsets required for VR and the 360 video were cumbersome and not super comfortable to wear. Google Cardboard viewer isn’t a comfortable device to use because of having to hold it up to your head. But a cheap $25 headset like this works just fine for viewing videos.

What we learned and what we’ll recommend to customers

Virtual Reality

There are very specific situations where full-blown virtual reality will definitely make an amazing difference in a learning experience. Those situations will be very specific and the minority of corporate situations rather than the majority of them. The best use case is going to be cases where learners need to build skill prior to being able to perform on a job. And this skill is difficult or impossible to simulate without creating an entire artificial training environment of some sort. (Think about surgeries, firefighting, operating large, complex expensive equipment.)

Even in situations where the use case is strong, these hurdles must be addressed:

  • Hardware requirements – Right now, users have to be tethered to a computer, which puts some constraint on where you conduct training.
  • Motion sickness factor – The high incidence of motion sickness means that the duration of most VR experiences must be limited (10-15 minutes seemed to be tolerable for our team. A few of our experienced VR users did say that motion sickness becomes less pronounced if you gradually increase your exposure over time, but most training situations won’t allow this.)
  • Development and maintenance expenses – Right now, VR is expensive to produce. It requires 3D art, skilled programmers, and specific tools that aren’t in the “rapid authoring tools” category.
Augmented Reality

Our team was decidedly mixed on this. Brandon points out that its best uses are going to be as a reference tool or guide. Consider the backup cameras in newer cars. These contain digital overlays to make it easy to guide your car as you back up. This use of augmented reality is simple but very effective. We all agreed it could have some great specific applications. But these would be more reference or resource applications than training applications. For example, agricultural sales reps might benefit from being able to position a phone over a field and “see” a crop emerge from the ground and virtually “grow” in front of them, showing them what a plant looks like in its natural environment at various stages of its development.

At its simplest level, being able to position your phone over an icon on a piece of equipment and have a troubleshooting checklist become visible could be helpful.

360 Interactive Video

This technology excited us the most. Wonda VR let us create interactions that a viewer can control with eye movements. This allows learners to practice making decisions in an environment that mirrors the one in which we want them to demonstrate skills or recall knowledge. The price is right, the solutions are easy to develop, and videos can be watched as 3D experiences… or not, depending on equipment and need.

Lessons Learned From a Former Biotech Training Manager

Life science organizations face unique training and development challenges. The subject matter is highly technical, there are many different roles to train and the industry is highly regulated. While some learning strategies cross over well from other industries, life science trainers know all too well that what works in retail or hospitality may not transfer to their world.

To explore these challenges in greater depth, I interviewed Dennis Carroll, Senior Learning Designer here at Bottom-Line Performance. Dennis has seven years of training, learning development, project management and staff management experience in the life sciences. Specifically, he was a Global Training Manager for Envigo RMS, Inc – a pharmaceutical and biotechnology research company. His experience gives him a unique perspective on the day-to-day challenges life science companies face and how they overcome these challenges to deliver effective training.

How did you end up in a training role at Envigo?

I worked in laboratory animal science at another organization right after I finished my undergrad in biology. I moved up from a contract position to a full-time position in the lab animal science training group. My new manager, David, oversaw all of the technical departments in the company’s lab animal services group. I eventually took over  more management responsibility (Controlled Substances, New Hires, etc). David left to join Envigo as a global director, and asked me to join him in the newly created role as global training manager.

What knowledge or skills did learners at Envigo need to have to be successful in their jobs?

The scope of the training group was predominantly focused on the operations teams – the folks who bred rodents used in research applications, and maintained the facilities. The biggest focus was on process-related training. There were many QA/QC forms to be trained against, and little infrastructure surrounding how folks would be trained. Most learners were left with two options: read dense SOPs and/or work with a more experienced person side-by-side.

What challenges did you face when trying to help these learners build the necessary knowledge/skills?

The organization is global. The biggest challenge there is designing training that meets all of the various national laws associated with laboratory animal production. The second biggest challenge is implementation: the learners typically worked within a facility for 8+ hours/day with no access to the internet; there were few people designated as trainers; and time was very limited for onboarding and ongoing training.

What was the most rewarding thing about your job as a training manager?

Getting to meet people from all over the globe. Being able to come in, hear their concerns, and work with them to design and develop solutions that would meet their needs.

What methods did you use to deliver training at Envigo? And do you feel like those methods were effective?

We developed an onboarding instructor-led training (ILT), delivered by ‘regional trainers’ (myself and two others hired for the role), that proved to be effective in reducing turnover at the sites in which it was delivered. We chose those sites specifically for their high levels of turnover, and were able to demonstrate a reduction in that key indicator. We also developed a global biosecurity training, designed for leaders in the organization. This was extremely successful in creating lateral communication across sites, and getting learners to troubleshoot biosecurity concerns within their facilities.

Other options we pursued included SOPs/work instructions deliverable via mobile device (iPad for the most part), and a video onboarding series.

In your experience, what are some unique challenges for trainers at a biotech or life science company versus trainers in other industries?

The roles are extremely technical. It’s hard to find that unicorn who can be effective both in life sciences and in learning design, development, and implementation. Another challenge is how spread out most life science groups are. Because of the level of skill set specificity for each group, it’s very difficult to create effective learning solutions that apply to all groups equally.

How has your life science and biotech background helped you in your role as a Senior Learning Designer at BLP?

Many of our clients are in this type of field. The benefits I’ve realized include being able to speak easily and fluently with senior-level client managers about their work and know how to communicate with them succinctly and to the point.

Think back to when you were first starting out in a training role. If you could give your former self advice, what would you say?

Get buy-in early and often. From the organizational leadership to the learners themselves. Having everyone participate in learning design and development makes the learning solution not only more effective, but usually leads to having more resources available and fewer roadblocks in development.

Come and See Us at LTEN 2017

Bottom-Line Performance will be speaking and exhibiting again at the 2017 LTEN Conference and Expo. Join us for one of our sessions or come say hello at booth 407!

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the professional goals of trainers and educators in the life sciences by providing the clarity, community and career resources needed to excel in leadership and learning. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to over 1,700 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies.

6 Pervasive Corporate Training Pitfalls

Remember when you were new to learning and development? If you really are new, congratulations and welcome to the field! If you’ve been around for a little while, I want you to think back: what do you wish you could tell your former self about what he/she is getting themselves into?

Maybe you would warn “past you” about how easy it is for learners to tune out during training. Or perhaps you would tell a cautionary tale about how upper management is not easily convinced that the creative approaches you will want to try are worth the investment. I’m sure you’d want to mention just how often the content you need to teach changes, and how you are often left with too much to cover and too little time to do so.

Are any of these challenges yours? According to our 2017 Learning and Remembering Survey, there’s a good chance they might be. We asked 150 L&D professionals what challenges they face when attempting to deliver effective training. Here are the most common responses:

As you probably noticed, the most common training challenges cited are highly interrelated. For example, lack of time to either create effective training or participate in training could lead to low learner engagement and lack of knowledge transfer. And because this often leads to poor results, managers are unlikely to support future training endeavors. Without this support, it’s hard to come by the budget and buy-in needed to do training right.

If only your former self had known what was coming! Let’s take a closer look at the top six training “pitfalls” that came up in the survey results.

Not enough time for training

At over 21 percent, the number one challenge people cited in the survey is a lack of time for training. I’m sure this comes as no surprise – organizations face time restrictions every day. This is especially true when trying to squeeze training into employees’ busy schedules. Constraints like these can make it seem impossible to create training that really makes an impact.

The solution? Consider breaking training up into smaller chunks. Your busy employees need something quick and easy to access. Sales reps, for example, are out in the field most of the day and have little time to sit down at a laptop. Call center reps work in high production environments where they’re on the phone all day with limited time for anything else. Most people simply don’t have time to take training all at once. But microlearning could be a good solution to help people fit learning into their busy schedules.

Learners aren’t motivated or engaged

How much of your company’s training only exists to check the box? How often is your job ready to comply with regulations or teach basic, routine procedures that employees must follow? It’s easy to see how training like this can become rather dull and why this was the second-most mentioned challenge in the survey. And when employees take this training, it’s no surprise that they disengage and fail to see how what they are learning impacts their job or their organization.

In a recent project, we partnered with a mining company to revamp their onboarding and annual refresher program. The goal was to connect compliance training with business needs while creating an engaging learning environment. The curriculum uses gamification, game-based learning and hands-on activities instead of standard lectures to engage employees. While these approaches were needed to increase engagement, the most important thing we did was help learners see how day-to-day processes they were learning connected to the big picture. And learners who understand the ‘why’ will usually produce better results.

Managers and stakeholders don’t buy in

In the survey, lots of respondents also mentioned their struggle to get managers and stakeholders to buy into a new training program. For example, maybe everyone agrees your company training is outdated and deserves a fresh new look. But one stakeholder isn’t convinced that training is the answer to your problem. They argue that past training experiences failed and wonder, “What will training really fix?

We know from experience that training can change a learner’s knowledge, behaviors and attitudes as long as it’s planned carefully and designed to meet specific objectives. This is why we perform rigorous analysis upfront to identify a company’s pain point. We also identify what the course/curriculum should lead to as an output in learning knowledge, behaviors and attitudes, and why content has to be specifically focused on those objectives.

Training doesn’t lead to knowledge transfer or retention

Oftentimes, organizations expect their employees to learn and remember everything. Knowledge retention is important because you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money to create and implement a learning solution that no one will remember. Yet stakeholders and designers make choices every day that thwart training efforts and result in wasted dollars that yield no result. Learners take a training course, return to the job site, and don’t apply what they learned because they don’t remember what they were taught.

If it’s so easy to forget, how do we get people to remember? We know from experience that short-term learning strategies aren’t the best solution. But the right training can make a significant impact on the success of your training plan. It should be designed in a way that helps learners remember by teaching and reinforcing key skills and knowledge. This is why you must carefully consider learning science during the instructional design process.

Problems with technology and accessibility

Lots of organizations also face challenges when it comes to technology and training accessibility. While learners might prefer a more “anytime, anywhere” approach to learning, the L&D department struggles to put the tools and technologies in place to make it happen. The IT department and existing mobile device usage policies are often roadblocks to mobile learning adoption.

What sets successful learning technology implementations apart from the rest is usually not the new technology itself, though that should obviously be good and suitable for the target learner. The real difference-maker is implementation. You need a way to objectively evaluate technologies and separate the good from the bad. We’ve come up with this simple technology checklist to help you out.

Not enough budget for effective training

Funneling money into learning and development hasn’t always been viewed as a good way to spend company budget. This is because it’s hard to predict the impact training actually has on company performance. Sometimes, organizations may not see the outcomes they want from past training and may be reluctant to invest in future training.

We recommend you show stakeholders why the training matters and how it connects to the business goal. We also recommend using automated tools or templates that already have a learning framework in place. You need a tool that allows you to deliver high-end training and one that is much more cost effective than building a learning solution from scratch. Knowledge Guru is one such tool; others exist as well.

Want to view the rest of the survey results? Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report.

Do Your Learners Know the ‘Why’?

Many learning leaders struggle to help learners feel accountable for their own growth and development. They devote time and budget to create more and more training, yet see little change. This common expression partially sums up the problem:

“When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

I fall into this trap from time to time… and I know that trainers do, too. When a need arises, they design another course, another workshop, or another PDF. They create the types of training their organizations are used to and wonder why nothing changes.

Without proper design and alignment, training is a solution in search of a problem. It might have all of the right content and still fail to help learners change their behavior. Sometimes training is too general and not meaningful to learners in their specific role. Other times, it is not memorable and easy to recall at the point of need. Most often, it is simply not motivating. Most training fails to transition from “something the organization wants me to do” to “something I want to do.”

The result? Learners do not feel accountable for their own learning. Training is something they have to do… not something they get value from. They know they are supposed to take it, but they don’t see how it connects to the big picture.

Reasons for Low Learner Accountability

There are many interrelated causes to low learner accountability. When we asked 150 learning professionals what they would change about learning and development in their organizations in our 2017 Learning and Remembering Survey, answers fell into these categories:

The top two answer categories in particular have a clear impact on learner accountability. When training is learner-centric, relevant and available at the point of need, learners are engaged and knowledge transfer happens. When learning is emphasized and prioritized in company culture, employees become more interested in taking advantage of training opportunities. But when training designs are less than optimal or learning is not a priority in company culture, the opposite happens.

Let’s pretend you have the budget, buy-in and time you need to do training right. What would it look like? How do you translate business goals and learning objectives into motivating, meaningful and memorable training? And most importantly, how do you make people active participants in their own learning?

The answers will differ depending on the organization, but here are my general recommendations:

1. Identify difficulty, frequency and importance of tasks and plan accordingly

Do you know what a typical day on the job looks like for your learners? If you do not, you risk emphasizing the wrong things in your training and causing learners to tune out. Gather insights through job shadowing, focus groups and surveys to determine what tasks are the most difficult, important and frequently performed. This will help you determine which skills should be emphasized the most versus what should be put in a reference guide.

2. Show the Why: Connect processes and procedures to business acumen

Processes and procedures are often not fun to learn and sometimes tedious to follow. When learners think training is just a way for the company to “tell them what to do,” it is no surprise that they tune out. Yes, they heard about the process, but they do not feel motivated to follow it. They don’t see how it connects to a greater purpose.

The best training finds a way to connect everyday processes and procedures to who the organization is and what it stands for. For example, we partnered with one of our clients to redesign new hire compliance training to show how each policy or procedure helped the company achieve its mission of “Helping the world grow the food it needs.” This was a much more powerful message than simply trying to teach “Do this, this, and this.”

3. Space out the learning and blend multiple mediums

Research on how quickly we forget new information is well documented. How important is training really when it is delivered once with no follow-up? Well-designed training includes a variety of solution types, all carefully connected to learning objectives. Reinforcement is key.

Register for our upcoming webinar, Reinforcement 101: How to Help Reps Say and Do the Right Thing, to identify the best training reinforcement strategy for your organization.

For example, a new technician training program might include solutions like this:

  1. Foundational product knowledge and company facts delivered in short microlearning chunks.
  2. Instructor-led sessions where technicians practice the most important, difficult and frequently needed skills.
  3. Ongoing reinforcement on key behaviors delivered via mobile devices.
  4. For any knowledge that a learner does not need to be able to recall from memory, performance support resources should be readily available.

4. Make training easy to access and learner-friendly

What good is a performance support resource if learners can’t access it when they need it? With a few exceptions (call center workers or hourly employees, for example), you should design training with mobile devices in mind. Learner satisfaction will rise if they can complete training at the time and place that is most convenient for them.

Keep in mind that training is yet another form of media competing for learners’ attention. They will be comparing it against the fabulous user experiences provided by consumer-facing websites and mobile apps. How does your training stack up? It does not have to be as sleek as a Google app, but it should be good enough that the user interface and technology do not detract from the learning experience. Gamified courses and full blown learning games do not need to be as fun as a commercial game, but they do need to be “fun enough” to engage and motivate. Here’s an example.

5. Think like a marketer when it’s time to launch

Sometimes, trainers stick to the tried and true to avoid implementation headaches. When you add eLearning courses to an LMS and assign them for completion, there is very little risk of botching the rollout. Successfully integrating a new mobile app or portal into busy people’s workflow is another story.

To remedy this, we often challenge trainers to think like marketers. What is the implementation strategy? How will you promote the training to learners?  How will you show learners why the training matters and how it connects to them? Spending time on a rollout plan, and not just the design of the training itself, pays dividends. While thinking about how to implement and promote training can seem daunting (isn’t it hard enough just to design it?!), I have found that certain commonalities exist between the rollout plans of successful organizations.

2017 Learning and Remembering Report (Free Download)


Thank you to everyone who recently participated in our Learning and Remembering Survey. We had 150 respondents from a wide variety of industries and many thoughtful responses to the open-ended questions.

We used the survey results to create our 2017 Learning and Remembering Report. Our goal was simple: find out what knowledge and skills trainers find most important for their learners, what challenges they face when providing training, and how they plan to deliver training in 2017.

Our report presents and summarizes the results. Then, I offer my five takeaways from the data. You can access the report here.

About the Learning and Remembering Report

This report is simply a snapshot. It represents the opinions of our clients and email newsletter subscribers over a two week period of time in early 2017.

That being said, the results certainly align with the anecdotal evidence we see as we work with clients.

While some survey questions were “select all that apply,” most were open-ended so participants could share their perspectives without being influenced by the answer choices we had created. We took the raw responses and put them into meaningful categories that emerged based on the responses given. If respondents said both “stakeholders” and “lack of time for training” were holding them back, we counted this as one response in each category.

Since we sent the survey to our existing clients and contacts, the breakdown of respondents reflects the industries and company sizes we frequently work with. For example, life science (pharmaceutical, medical device and biotech) and healthcare companies are over-represented in the results. The majority of respondents work at Fortune 1000 or larger organizations.

A large number of internal trainers at higher education institutions also participated, likely because of their interest in the survey topic.

Otherwise, industry representation was broad and balanced:

Industries Represented Chart

While nearly two thirds of respondents are instructional designers or trainers who develop or facilitate training themselves, this is somewhat balanced by the other one third that either manages a training team or leads another function such as sales or operations.


What’s in the Report

We asked survey participants five simple questions:

  1. What knowledge and/or skills do the employees you train need to have to be successful in their jobs?
  2. What challenges do you face when you try to help these employees build the necessary knowledge/skills?
  3. What methods will you (or your organization) use to deliver training in 2017?
  4. What learning trend(s) or new training delivery method(s) are you most excited about for 2017?
  5. If you could improve ONE thing about learning & development and/or training at your organization in 2017, what would it be?

Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report to view the results and analysis of our Learning and Remembering Survey.

Tired of Trends? Five 2017 Training Realities


I’ve read some thoughtful articles on learning trends over the last couple of weeks. But I’m obviously partial to Sharon’s article here on the Lessons on Learning blog. Any trends article that looks to the past for perspective when discussing trends gets my attention. Sharon’s use of the 1998 ATD State of the Industry report provided some much needed perspective on the speed with which we can expect today’s ‘hot’ learning trends to reach widespread adoption.

In short, most of the emerging trends we are seeing today will make a meaningful impact on L&D. Just not overnight.

Sharon broke learning trends into two buckets: trends that are just starting to emerge (like machine learning and virtual/augmented reality), and trends that are established and growing (like microlearning and mobile learning). I will add a third bucket to the discussion: trends that are truly widespread, and impacting learning & development in a meaningful way across a majority of organizations.

Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report to view the results and analysis of our Learning and Remembering Survey.

The annual discussion on ‘learning trends’ sometimes distracts well-meaning trainers and learning leaders from the real work right in front of them. Exciting visions of ‘the future of learning’ in five or ten years can take our focus away from the meaningful progress we can make this year in our organizations.

To get a better sense for how organizations are really delivering training, I asked eight of our in-house experts to weigh in. These individuals have roles like project manager, senior learning designer and account manager. They lead design meetings, help clients identify their business needs and ultimately have a big impact on the type of learning solutions that we create and implement.

Based on the thoughts of these individuals, I have created my list of five realities for learning leaders to consider as they solidify their 2017 training plans.

1. Instructor-led training (ILT) isn’t dying, but it’s getting more creative


With all the talk about machine learning, augmented reality and microlearning, it’s easy to think that old-fashioned instructor-led training is a thing of the past. Our experience, however, tells us it’s not going away anytime soon. As one project manager put it, “I was surprised at the amount of ILT we continued to create in 2016.”

But while ILT isn’t going away, it has changed quite a bit from the lecture-based approach most people think of. Almost all of the ILT we create today is nearly 100% interactive and often gamified in some form. This award-winning new employee orientation program is a great example. ILT is also usually part of a larger blended learning curriculum that includes other learning technologies (more on this later).

2. Games, both digital and tabletop, are here to stay


Game-based learning and gamification are a great example of a learning trend that is happening all over the industry. Almost every individual I spoke with at BLP specifically mentioned learning games as a solution they created a lot of in 2016. The reason? Organizations are looking for more engaging, memorable, and motivating ways to teach the product, process and industry knowledge that their employees need to be successful. And games are a great way to do this.

One senior learning designer noted that “even when a full-fledged game isn’t the right solution, many clients are interested in some form of gamification.” In some form or another, game mechanics are now highly pervasive in corporate learning. Learning games take many shapes and forms, from tabletop experiences to mobile games for a smartphone.

3. Storytelling and theme are go-to instructional design methods, no matter the solution type


I found it interesting that Sharon cited storytelling as a trend that is just starting to emerge. This is because storytelling turns up even more often than games when I see the learning solutions BLP creates. Multiple project managers and designers noted that clients consistently want “highly themed” solutions that incorporate a wide variety of meaningful scenarios.

The embrace of storytelling as a learning strategy is connected to the embrace of games. Both are attempts to make a more lasting impact on learners and inspire lasting behavior change.

4. Mobile reinforcement is on the rise out of necessity


Industry reports consistently show that a majority of organizations still aren’t embracing mobile learning. When we surveyed our clients in 2016, 81% said they’d be likely to use a reinforcement tool intended for smartphones. This is in part why we created our new Knowledge Guru app, Drive, as a mobile-first training reinforcement tool. Today, we expect people to learn and remember a huge amount of information. And the organizations we work with increasingly acknowledge the need for reinforcement as part of a larger curriculum.

Our project managers and senior designers specifically cite how mobile reinforcement apps such as Drive and other smartphone-based solutions were included in more and more projects in 2016. And even when clients were not yet ready to move to mobile, account managers mentioned that mobile access to training is on the rise as a point of interest in conversations.

We explore our perspective on the right way to approach mobile in this webinar.

5. Comprehensive blended learning curriculums are the popular approach


Of all the comments I received from our team, the word curriculum may have come up the most. It’s true that we have seen a huge increase in the number of clients who want us to design and develop a large training curriculum for them, as opposed to a single eLearning course. Research shows that a blend of modalities is the best way to teach. And most organizations have come to embrace this.

Our project managers and designers note that most curriculums have an over-arching theme to spark interest. If you use instructor-led training is used, it is highly interactive with very little ‘tell.’ Today’s curriculums typically have at least some gamified elements. eLearning uses meaningful stories and scenarios. They’re more likely than to include some sort of mobile reinforcement or performance support tool that’s designed for a smartphone. And one of our designers specifically mentioned increased interest in interactive video as an alternative to eLearning within a curriculum.

Learning trends and preferred delivery methods change over time. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for organizations to help their employees say and do the things that make their businesses successful. While trends articles can help you prepare for what that might look like tomorrow, I hope these five realities help you create better learning solutions today.

Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter (Webinar)


How much of your company’s training only exists to check the box? How often is your job ready to comply with regulations or teach basic, routine procedures that employees must follow? It’s easy to see how training like this often becomes rather dull. And when employees take this training, it’s no surprise that they are often disengaged and unable to see how what they are learning impacts their job or their organization.

Sometimes, the regulations you must comply with limit your training design options, too. For example, a certain number of training hours or a certain delivery format might be mandated by a regulatory body. Constraints like these can make it seem impossible to create training that really makes an impact.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and we have proof! Regulatory requirements can become constraints that encourage creativity. And while processes and procedures might seem mundane on the surface, they are really the building blocks of a successful organization. What your employees do every day is at the heart of your business: you just have to show them how and why.

A Winning Solution

Need a little inspiration to spark your own creativity? Just take a look at one of our awesome clients and their recent success story:

Bottom-Line Performance and The Mosaic Company partnered to win Gold in Best Advance in Compliance Training in the 2016 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. The winning project, “Phosphate Foundations,” is a new hire training and annual refresher training program that is helping Mosaic improve safety outcomes and employee engagement. Mosaic creatively worked within constraints to connect compliance training with business needs while creating an engaging learning environment. The project was the only Gold winner in the Compliance Training category, and we will be showcasing it in an upcoming webinar!

Make Regulatory Training Matter

We gave a webinar called Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter. In it, Jennifer Bertram—our director of instructional design—presented with Linda Anhalt, the EHS Training Manager at Mosaic. In this session, we covered:

  • The best ways to use regulatory constraints creatively and incorporate engaging learning techniques into your training.
  • Issues The Mosaic Company faced before they redesigned their training program.
  • How The Mosaic Company redesigned their training program to focus on key objectives while complying with regulatory requirements.
  • Example training materials we created for The Mosaic Company.
  • How to gamify content, no matter how dry or technical.
  • Strategies for managing external stakeholders effectively and keeping your training design on track.

You can view the recording of this webinar by clicking “Access” below.

Access our webinar Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter and learn how to creatively work within constraints while creating an engaging learning experience.

Reluctant Sales Reps? How to Show them the ‘Why’


Have you ever encountered sales reps reluctant to take training? Maybe reps are excited and motivated as new hires, but less interested to invest time into training once they have been on the job for awhile. They might be used to working a certain way and don’t want to learn your new sales process or add another product to their offerings.

You’ve tried to explain how the training will help them sell better (and earn more commission), but to no avail. Trainers and sales managers are frustrated, and the C-suite wants to know why the numbers look bad. But before anyone drops the hammer, let’s explore why your reps seem disconnected and examine the driving force behind employee engagement: motivation.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Think about what motivates you. Maybe you have a hobby that you participate in just for fun. Maybe you like playing a game because you find it exciting or solving a puzzle because you find the challenge fun. If so, you are intrinsically motivated to do so. Your motivation is internal and you engage in a behavior for the sake of personal enjoyment or satisfaction.

If, however, you do something to gain some type of external reward (i.e. money, awards, etc.), then you are extrinsically motivated. Researchers have found that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation differ in how effective they are at driving behavior. For example, extrinsic motivators such as incentives do little to produce lasting attitude and behavioral changes.

And herein lies the problem when talking about sales reps. This role is motivated by the commission or the bonus check. These are powerful extrinsic motivators that may actually motivate reps not to take time for your training! If they can’t connect how the new sales process or product will help them sell more and do their jobs better, they will resist. If the training is hard to access or time-consuming, they will resist even more.

Why Incentives Aren’t Enough

First things first; stop dangling shiny things in front of your reps.

Social scientist, Alfie Kohn, at the Harvard Business Review agrees. “Incentives … do not alter the attitudes that underlie our behaviors,” Kohn says. “They do not create an enduring commitment to any value or action. Rather, incentives merely — and temporarily — change what we do.”

Sure, every sales rep wants a nice commission check, but it’s not just the money that motivates them. It could be the feeling of achievement that comes from making the sale, a sense of mission or purpose associated with your company, or the desire to support their family.

So when it comes to long-term motivation, consider using these alternative methods to internally motivate and engage your reps:

1. Show reps how the training will benefit them

Past experiences have taught sales reps that training is simply time spent away from selling. This is why you must clearly connect training to a desirable outcome for the rep. For example, make sure reps understand how selling your new product will help them gain marketshare or how using your new sales process will allow them to build deeper relationships with their customers.

Try to balance both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. After all, winning more business will always be a powerful motivator for sales reps!

2. Connect sales reps to their products

The most motivated people aren’t the best paid, but those who feel a connection with their work. Help your reps truly understand and believe in the product they’re selling. How does it improve people’s lives? When they feel like they know their product, your reps gain a sense of purpose and responsibility, which increases motivation.

3. Encourage managers to structure coaching around meaningful progress, not just hitting targets

A sense of progress and personal growth is crucial for employees to actually stay engaged. One study shows that making progress in one’s work is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event. You can help enable progress by providing clear goals, frequent feedback, and the necessary resources to accomplish those goals.

The greater progress your reps make, the more competent and confident they become. So rather than having sales managers focus their coaching on hitting sales targets, make sure coaching is focused on continual, meaningful progress. In turn, your reps will be more internally motivated and satisfied in their roles.