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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.

How to Close the Account Management Skills Gap

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Account managers and salespeople play two important but different roles in the customer acquisition and retention life cycle. But at some organizations, you can’t tell the difference. Most of the training that organizations provide their sales functions is centered around front line selling techniques, product knowledge, features and benefits. Increasing a salesperson’s ability to immediately impact sales dollars is obviously an important objective to drive. In some industries, it’s the most important objective.

Want to learn more about sales enablement? View our recorded webinar: Sales Enablement & Beyond: Using Games and Smart Implementation to Drive Performance.


The water gets murkier when an industry is highly complex and heavily regulated. In the Fall 2015 issue of LTEN’s Focus magazine, Wendy Heckelman, Ph.D. described the challenge life science and medical device companies face:

Life science companies can no longer rely on the “one-to-one” or “sales representative to physician” model to drive growth. Treatment decisions are often made by various stakeholders across large and complex healthcare and government institutions. They face the challenge of improving patient outcomes while simultaneously reducing associated costs. Therefore, decision-makers need solutions that address quality patient care and broader healthcare outcomes.

Key Account Management (KAM) requires a different set of competencies and behaviors than that of the traditional sales rep. When the selling process within an industry changes from a one-to-one sale (such as sales rep to doctor) to an account-level sale (such as an account manager selling to the C-suite of a health system), the type of training and coaching required to equip learners also changes.

The ideal solution to this problem is often a blended learning curriculum that helps your Key Account Managers take the long view and differentiate their roles from that of frontline sales reps. Here are three areas of focus to consider:

1. Realign core competencies

“Selling” in a traditional sense is only one small piece of the strategic account management life cycle. The selling skills, product knowledge and features and benefits you previously focused on in training do not build the competencies a key account manager needs to build long-term, mutual value with a customer’s organization. Before you re-design training, a sound analysis should be conducted to assess needs and find the gap between existing competencies and desired competencies.

2. Redefine the Launch or POA meeting

For the organizations we work with, the product launch meeting, national sales meeting or POA (plan of action) meeting is usually the key event that will (allegedly) prepare sales reps and account managers to sell the “right” products the “right” way. Once you have re-aligned your core competencies to include key account management and selling, the learning solutions included in these meetings will also change. Consider blending online pre-work with interactive live events that incorporate gaming and roleplay. The learning content should focus less on features and benefits and more on identifying ways to create long-term value for an account and articulating that value proposition as a compelling story.

3. Extend the Learning

Because Key Account Management is a highly complex discipline, ongoing coaching and performance support is essential. Include in your plans a way to reinforce key learning objectives and remind learners to apply the behaviors they learned regularly. A mobile reinforcement app such as Knowledge Guru can be used to embed the most common customer stories into long-term memory.

Start at the Beginning

If your organization has been equating selling with strategic account management, you’ll need to realign your core competencies and behaviors before you jump to the solution. Dr.Heckelman’s article includes a chart with some example competencies and behaviors, and these are a great starting point. Our recorded webinar on analysis describes how to conduct an audience analysis and task analysis, two steps that can help identify what your competencies need to be and how to close the skills gap.

How to Integrate Product Knowledge Into Your Launch Curriculum

It’s here! The time has come! Your company’s new product is about to launch and it’s time for the launch event. Reps are flown in from all over the country, or the world, to learn about the new product they will be selling. Excitement is high and, ideally, reps will leave enthusiastic and ready to sell. But amidst all the hype, what will they actually take away from the meeting? What will they learn?

Most importantly, will your reps be ready to effectively sell that new product after a day of information sharing? Probably not.

When a new product launches, a huge assortment of new facts and knowledge must be internalized by the reps who will sell and support it. Many product launches consist of a single in-person launch meeting, as described above, or series of regional meetings. Reps receive the new information and are expected to leave the meeting start applying it in customer conversations.

If the organization is highly spread out, the local and country-specific groups will have to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date as well. This is a tall order.

So in the midst all of the excitement that surrounds a product launch, what is the best way to present the new knowledge to sales reps? How will they become familiar with features and benefits, strengths and weaknesses, and ways to position the product against competitors?

Our Product launch framework

In her white paper on learning solutions that support product launches, Nancy Harkness presents the product launch curriculum as a set of learning solutions broken into three parts. We use this framework with most of our clients:

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Product knowledge has a place in each one of these three parts. The key is placing the right amount of detail in each phase of the launch.

Turn Product Knowledge Into Pre-work

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In the curricula we design and develop, we typically teach basic facts and introductory knowledge via a series of prelaunch solutions. These solutions are usually online and consist of eLearning courses, games, videos, and mobile apps. Reps can start learning about the new product in small chunks whenever it is convenient for them to do so. This way, they arrive at the launch meeting with at least some exposure to the new product knowledge and competitive landscape before face-to-face activities begin.

Cover the Highlights During Launch

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While product knowledge is emphasized heavily in the prelaunch online solutions, we also design in-person activities that reinforce key takeaways during the launch. A product launch event should go far beyond a lecture format and include a variety of hands-on activities, breakout sessions, and games to achieve lasting impact. Only key product and competitor information should be discussed in the launch meeting; information that is “nice to know” should be reserved for resources they can find and locate on the job.

Continuous Reinforcement Via Reference Tools

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Most of the product launches we support are for highly complex products. No matter how effective the courses, games, and in-person activities are, reps are bound to forget certain details without proper reinforcement. Some product information might change over time as well, so organizations need a way to push new content to the reps.

To keep product knowledge top of mind, a content management system can be used to make key guides, videos, and job aids easy to find. In most cases, making these resources mobile-friendly is an absolute necessity for on-the-go sales reps.

View our Product Launch Webinar Recording

Leanne Batchelder and myself partnered with Training Magazine to present a webinar on product launch learning solutions. Learn more and view the recording below.

Is Your Process Training “Nice to Know” or “Need to Know”?

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Process is critical to every business, and research increasingly tells us that “tiny habits” matter. It is the small actions, not the sweeping initiatives, that truly define our businesses… and our lives.

Every individual has had to learn a set of processes that are tedious or difficult to follow. Think about the sales rep used to using Outlook to log follow-up tasks who is now asked to re-input the same data into the CRM, or the call center representative who must ask every customer who calls in, even the irate ones, to answer a three question survey.

But at the same time, every manager or decision-maker knows the pain that follows when sales reps are not documenting their activity, or when customer service reps do not collect meaningful data on customer satisfaction. In some environments, the consequence of ignoring processes is even more dire: accidents (and lawsuits) happen. People get hurt.

Policy and process are top priorities for L&D

L&D is often asked to help solve the “process problem” and get employees proficient at following the right steps. In fact, 41% of respondents to our 2014 Learning and Remembering Survey listed policies, process, and procedures as the primary type of knowledge employees must know on the job.

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So if processes and procedures are considered so successful to employee success on the job, why do so many organizations struggle to effectively train their employees on how to follow them? Here are five possible reasons—and questions L&D professionals can ask to overcome these challenges.

1. Too many processes

One challenge might be that there are too many processes, or the processes are too complicated. Depending on your role within the organization, you may have limited ability to fix this issue. Your job, then, is to help employees focus on the right processes, the most essential information.

Questions to ask: Think about your C-suite: which processes and procedures would they care about most? Which processes have the most direct impact on the bottom line? Those are the processes that deserve the most attention and emphasis in your training. You might still need to produce training on a large number of processes and procedures, but the training you produce for processes that impact sales, customer satisfaction or safety should be more robust and impactful than training that teaches the employee dress code, for example.

Which processes and procedures are absolutely essential to the business? Align your efforts with the areas your C-suite cares about most. Perhaps one process is customer facing while another is about storing documents, for example.

2. Content overload

Similar to the problem of too many processes is the problem that arises when employees are presented with an overwhelming amount of detail on processes they must follow. In our Learning and Remembering survey, 24% of respondents cited the amount of content as their primary challenge and 38% cited knowledge transfer and retention as the stumbling block, which is often closely related to the overwhelming amount of content employees must complete training on in a given year.

Questions to ask: How often do they need to follow the process? Is it information they must know cold to perform their job function, or an infrequently used procedure that can simply be looked up when needed? Reduce learner’s cognitive load when possible and focus on the three to five key steps they absolutely must follow.

3. Lack of motivation or buy-in

Middle management might report that a certain sales documentation process is complex or difficult to follow, but that may not be the real reason employees are falling short. Lack of buy-in from the middle managers who actually coach and support employees on the job may be the real culprit. If the process is a change from a past workflow or standard way of doing business, you can expect excuses and resistance. In situations like these, L&D is really being asked to do more than simply apply adult learning theories to make instructionally sound courses; the learning solutions you produce are also an internal marketing tool to sell employees of the benefits of following the new process.

Questions to ask: How can we make middle management see the impact this process and procedure has on the business—and their jobs? Sometimes, L&D functions spend so much time producing process training for front-line staff that they neglect the needs of middle managers to be included in the bigger picture. Make middle managers feel like leaders who can see how their actions are linked to the company strategy. Design experiences to show them how everyone benefits when proper processes and procedures are followed, including themselves.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Training technicians how to use a software tool? Why not create a functional simulation of the software within an eLearning course that allows them to practice following key steps? For processes that are more complex, a single eLearning course or series of short vignettes may not be enough. Instead, consider a blended approach that introduces basic concepts in online prework, followed by live training sessions with an instructor.

Example: A customer training program we created moves basic terminology and introductory content into eLearning courses and game-based modules. Technicians then attend a live, instructor-led session where they are able to practice operating the machinery with an instructor present. Reinforcement is handled via a flashcard app post-training.

5. No “pain,” no change

Training is often the go-to solution when learners are not following a process or procedure. But once again, let’s assume that your employees are human beings who are intelligent and capable of following basic steps. They could learn the process and follow it if they wanted to, but they have not found a compelling reason that motivates them to do so. Training is sometimes developed in a vacuum that is very different from the actual work environment. In the learning solutions you produce, strive to show employees how following a process or procedure benefits them, or actually helps relieve a real or imagined pain they encounter on the job.

Example: We developed safety & compliance training for hair stylists in Regis corporation salons. A key interaction in the “Slips,Trips, and Falls” course asks stylists to try to retrieve items from a high shelf. If they do so with the “shortcut” process, the character falls off the ladder and sprains an ankle. The course actually shows the consequences that arise from taking the “shortcut,” and how the shortcut is not really faster if an accident happens.

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Trying to find out what is “nice to know” and what is “need to know”? Download our Training Needs Analysis Worksheet.

Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success (White Paper)

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Your product might be ready to launch, but what about your sales and support reps? A slick launch meeting is not enough for them to really know your product, and a quick skim of your marketing collateral is not the ideal preparation for talking to customers.

The time, effort, and energy that goes in to a product launch are too valuable to waste. No matter how good your product and its message are, its success or failure will still rest in the hands of your sales and support teams. They must have the skills and knowledge to make the launch successful.

Nancy Harkness, Vice President of Learning Services at Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper on the use of a curriculum to support a product launch. In Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch, Nancy draws on her work with some of our largest clients to explain what a curriculum is, what it can do, and how an effective curriculum is often the secret to a successful product launch.

What you’ll learn

  • What is a curriculum, and how a blend of learning solutions can work together to reinforce product knowledge, selling skills and proficient usage of a product.
  • What a curriculum can do to help learners build skills and knowledge around what they sell and support. You’ll also see what a curriculum is not meant to do… like change the market environment or fix a bad product.
  • What you need to know to develop a curriculum starting with a broad vision, measurable goals and a realistic picture of the circumstances surrounding your launch.
  • How to design a curriculum using a repeatable three-part framework that drives knowledge and skills retention.
  • How to avoid common mistakes that can derail a curriculum design project, and the steps we have taken with our clients to turn challenge areas into successes.
  • Rules for a better launch that offer specific guidance for your product launch curriculum.

Are you ready to launch yet?

Best Practices for Using eLearning in Soft Skills Training

Your company has a new five step leadership model it wants everyone to follow… and you need to make an eLearning course to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, employees are not too enthusiastic about the new model and don’t see any benefit to themselves if they start using it. Is eLearning going to solve the problem?

Or perhaps you need to help sales reps practice their selling skills. Should be simple enough, except some of the new reps are fresh out of college, and others are 15 year veterans who come from another organization and are used to doing things “their way.” You’ve been asked to create eLearning for that, too. How do you make it applicable to everyone?

Why is teaching soft skills so hard?

Alicia Ostermeier - Learning Designer

Alicia Ostermeier

I interviewed Alicia Ostermeier, Manager of Operations and former Senior Learning Designer at BLP, to learn more about how she approaches eLearning projects designed to teach soft skills. Alicia has developed training on sales skills, leadership skills, communication skills, change management and more.

Read on to learn more about developing soft skills eLearning… that actually works.

Starting a Soft Skills eLearning Project

If a client comes to us with a new model they want everyone to follow, we know it’s not really about the model, but a desired performance improvement. Alicia uses a set of questions that we like to use across BLP to kick off new projects.

Alicia commonly asks these questions:

  • “Okay, that’s the model you want to teach, but what do you want people to do with it?”
  • “What’s in your environment right now that’s driving a need to change the way you do things?”
  • “What do you expect to happen differently after you’re done? What will people be able to do?”
  • “What other mechanisms will be in place to help them get it done? Job aids? Organizational culture change?”
  • “Who is the actual learner? Are they new to the company or have the been around awhile?”
  • “What”s the mood of people taking the course? Will change be perceived as good or bad?”

Answering basic questions like these BEFORE starting the eLearning project are crucial to success.

Choosing the Right Learner Interactions

Using Scenarios in Soft Skills eLearning

An example of an eLearning scenario we created for a soft skills eLearning course.

Of all the interactions available to eLearning designers, Alicia rates scenarios as the most effective tool for soft skills eLearning. Learners need to see what a particular model for soft skills behavior looks like in real life. The best eLearning scenarios will do the following:

Allow learners to make decisions: Include realistic consequences. Let learners experiment with various responses to see how the outcome is affected. Scenarios in eLearning let people practice in a safe environment. One of Alicia’s preferred scenario types asks learners to have a conversation with a co-worker where they not only get to see what the co-worker says, but also what they are thinking. Get creative with your scenarios to help learners practice.

Include appropriate context and background information: Alicia cautioned that scenarios that do not set the stage and give learners the “what” and “why” will be less effective than scenarios that provide a sense of context.

Apply directly to the learner’s job: Your scenarios have to seem realistic. Trying to keep things generic just won’t have a lasting impact. When multiple job roles and personas are taking a course, Alicia recommends using a branching scenario that presents different learners with the most applicable information for them.

Develop Emotional Intelligence and Intuition: Since soft skills training often uses a particular “5 step model” or “4 step tool” to provide guidance for learners, eLearning scenarios must be designed to show that one sizes does not fit all. Your goal should not be teaching people to go down a flow chart and make the best decision, unless you will have a flow chart available in real life! According to Alicia:

The trick is to not make it about the model itself, but about how the model applies in the particular business situation. It has to apply to the level of employee you are working with and types of individuals on your team.

Without a doubt, effective soft skills training will include lots of applicable scenarios… giving learners a chance to practice. As Alicia (rather humorously) puts it,  “You can fail at your desk in eLearning and you haven’t hurt anything.”

Tangible Impact of Soft Skills eLearning

Blended Learning for Soft Skills Training

The best soft skills training blends eLearning with face to face methods.

Soft-skills eLearning is most useful for giving learners a standardized picture of “what good looks like” and giving them some introductory practice opportunities. And while soft skills eLearning is an important tool in a company’s culture, Alicia says it is only one part of the solution:

For soft skills training to work, the entire framework has to be there, including  the support of management. Learners must feel like there is organizational support for what they’re doing… and have the right tools and resources.

The best soft skills training curriculum will take a blended approach. Alicia recommends combining eLearning with face to place role playing and one on one coaching. Have Director-level people sit in and observe the role-playing to encourage greater accountability. Integrate the training into what people are already doing in their workday anyway if you can.

If you follow Alicia’s advice, Soft Skills training does not have to be hard. Remember: use eLearning to show what “good” looks like, include lots of scenarios, and blend the eLearning with role playing and coaching opportunities. Don’t forget that soft skills success depends on commitment and buy-in from the organization as a whole. eLearning plays a big part, but it’s still just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving performance.

Blended Learning and Mobile Performance Support: Ahead of the Curve

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“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.

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.

Want to learn more about mobile learning design? Access our recorded webinar: The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners.


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.

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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.