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.