What you Need to Know about Blended Learning

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Boost Engagement and Performance with Modern Blended Learning Programs

Traditional blended learning was introduced to address the learning needs and styles of a wide variety of learners by incorporating two key learning dimensions into its approach: Online, self-paced learning, where learners essentially guide themselves through the learning process, and face-to-face classroom learning, where learners are taught directly, in real time by assigned instructors in a classroom setting.

Though seemingly opposed, these two approaches can actually complement one another. For example, both can be supported with learning technology, such as eLearning. However, both programs are invariably delivered through a “push” modality, where trainers prepare and push formal, structured learning content to groups of learners.

On the other hand we can find an alternate example in the 70:20:10 learning model, which holds that 70% of learning is experiential, 20 per cent is social, and only 10 per cent is formal. Accordingly, in real-world environments people learn in many different ways other than formal learning (which traditionally includes courses, readings, quizzes, etc.) such as through social interactions and on-the-job activities, among other examples. These would be considered instances of casual, ad hoc learning that can’t necessarily be planned by design, but are highly practical and effective nonetheless.

Traditional versus Modern Blended Learning

Let’s combine these two ideas and see how modern blended learning programs can take advantage of this model. Traditional blended learning is comprised of the following components:

  • Classroom (instructor-led) learning: Live, in-person classroom training will never go out of fashion, but it tends to be overwhelming, expensive and time-consuming. Knowledge retention after an intensive classroom training can be very low. Also, this approach to learning takes people away from the field, a factor that can damage productivity for some teams. That said, in conjunction with online training, classroom training can significantly reinforce learning material by providing an opportunity to practice required skills in a more structured, organized environment.
  • Instructor-Led Training (ILT) meeting technology: Virtual ILT on the other hand is incredibly convenient, as participants can access and take courses from anywhere, thereby reducing time away from the field. The best virtual ILT offers learners frequent opportunities for collaboration through chat, polling, discussions and interactive exercises.
  • Online, self-paced learning: With this approach, training is accessible and actionable whenever and wherever it works best for the learner. This means an individual’s peak activity hours can remain uninterrupted. Learners access training at any time, even on the go. Online learning is proving to be a great way of reinforcing training, as it can be delivered in short, bite-sized modules, on-demand and from any device. Finally, not only does this approach enable trainers to manage and distribute learning content on an online training platform, the solutions it leverages often provide tracking and reporting capabilities for a better 360-degree view of training progress and effectiveness.

The problem with traditional blended learning is that it’s mainly focused on pushing formal, structured courses to learners. To that point, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • How do people naturally learn in an organization? Most learning occurs through interactions with peers and managers, as well as on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving, as opposed to through formal, structured training programs. By its nature, formal learning tends to take learners away from their workflow instead of providing support for learning within the workflow. It simply does not provide all the information required at the point of need.
  • Where do workers go for information that is critical to perform the task at hand? In these cases, generally users don’t take formal courses to get essential information. Instead, they execute research, ask questions, and find the individuals that they view as experts.

On the other hand, modern learning, based on the 70:20:10 learning model, is bidirectional: it involves both push and pull learning. When we add informal learning modalities to the equation, we incorporate a pull modality into the learning process.

Implementing Modern Blended Learning with Technology

Effectively incorporating modern blended learning approaches with technology means finding the right solution that brings some of the following elements together within one platform:

  1. Online learning: Solutions should feature the ability to organize courses and catalogs, distribute learning content across the extended enterprise, and track and measure results (which are increasingly desired among companies trying to show value through informal learning approaches.)
  2. ILT, Classroom training management: Trainers should also be able to electronically manage classroom schedules and locations, monitor performance and attendance, and assign learners and instructors to courses.
  3. Social learning: Users also need a place where they can engage experts, ask questions, and get answers when they need them. An ideal platform enables learners and experts to join forces to create best practices and curate knowledge capital. It is also a place where performers can be recognized by coworkers.
  4. Experiential learning: Effective solutions need to offer ways for learners and experts to contribute with user-generated knowledge that can be validated through peer-review and shared across teams, all while fostering a culture that rewards top performers.
  5. Mobility: An effective cloud-based platform that supports all of the above and enables any delivery modality, from PCs to tablets and smartphones, is no longer a nice to have. It’s now an expected aspect of any best-in-class eLearning solution. Don’t settle for anything less.

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