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Hybrid learning

Hybrid learning

Table of Contents

    Learning technology has changed dramatically. The changes forced on workplaces by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be reversed. Many companies are moving to a hybrid work model, where people spend some time in the office and other time working from home. Of course, work is not the only thing that has gone hybrid. Hybrid learning is becoming more and more important as time goes on and technology improves. But what is hybrid learning exactly and what value does it bring to an organization?

    This article explains:

    • What is hybrid learning?
    • What are the benefits of online, face-to-face, and hybrid learning?
    • How to implement hybrid learning in your organization

    What is hybrid learning?

    Hybrid learning is much like hybrid work. It is a learning environment where some training takes place face-to-face, while other sessions are online through video conferencing, virtual courses, webinars, and ebooks.

    One step further is blended learning, where you might do both online and in-person elements as part of the same training.

    To understand hybrid learning, it’s good to touch on the benefits of both online and face-to-face activities.

    Benefits of online learning

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all learning went online, even for young children. Benefits of this instructional mode include:

    • Reduced cost: Online learning means there is no travel, no meeting space to be rented, etc. 
    • Asynchronous learning: Employees can do self-paced training when it is convenient for them rather than having to go to a live session.
    • Format variety: The same training can incorporate a range of methodologies and material formats, like interactive polls, discussion forums, workbook activities, and video content.  
    • Easier assessments: Quizzes and other interactive learning activities can demonstrate an employee’s absorption of the material and provide them with feedback that shows them what to focus on. Many learning management systems come with metrics and data analytics that give real-time insights into how learners are performing. 
    • Long-distance learning: Through online learning, employees can get instruction from experts who might not be geographically close or even in the same country. With face-to-face instruction, this can be prohibitively expensive.
    • Social distancing: While the risk of COVID-19 has decreased, some people may be more comfortable doing meetings online for the near or even medium-term future. Additionally, people can attend online seminars if they are a little under the weather, juggling a sick child, etc., and still get some benefit.

    However, there are reasons not to move all learning online.

    Benefits of face-to-face learning

    There are, in fact, strong benefits to doing some training in person. These include:

    • Better social interactions: Nothing beats face-to-face interactions when it comes to networking and creating meaningful connections. At face-to-face conferences, not all of the learning takes place in class. People learn from each other through peer discussion, working lunches, and other activities that might not even be considered conventional learning. Online discussions can only partially replace this valuable experience.
    • Hands-on learning: Some lessons have to be taught in person because they involve physical activities. These need to take place in a physical classroom that has the necessary equipment.
    • Improved focus: During in-person classes, people are obligated to pay attention and give a higher degree of focus. Online, whether it is at home or in the office, somebody can easily be drawn away by social media, a coworker knocking on the door, their dog, or other distractions.

    So, what is hybrid learning bringing to the table that a strictly online or face-to-face training program cannot? The advantage of hybrid learning is that you can weigh all of these factors against each other. For example, it might not be worth sending somebody to New York for a half-day seminar that can easily be done online. However, it might be worth doing so for a three-day conference involving a lot of networking. Hybrid learning gives you the flexibility to adapt your program to various circumstances. 

    The hybrid learning model’s policy is that both face-to-face and online courses be part of the picture depending on the situation, the individual employee, and the topic being studied. Indeed, most courses of instruction should contain both elements. They might even have some people in the room and others coming in via Zoom.

    Benefits of hybrid learning

    So, what is hybrid learning excellent at? Why are so many organizations adopting this approach? Hybrid learning, when done right, gives you all of the benefits above. It also has benefits of its own, including:

    • Levels the playing field: It allows equal learning for remote employees who might find it particularly inconvenient to come into the office because of distance or ability. This can help with a common situation in hybrid offices in which remote workers become second-class employees.
    • Easy adaptability: With hybrid learning, you aren’t married to one type of teaching method. So, when changes arise or there is a need to make adjustments, you have a lot more tools and formats to choose from making it easier to customize.  
    • Break things up: It is easy to lose learner focus and interest when conducting an hours-long in-person workshop. Breaking the content up between face-to-face and online learning keeps things interesting and allows learners to see things from multiple formats. 
    • Reach more learning styles: Some people learn best during face-to-face discussions while others learn best by reading articles or practicing through virtual simulations. The more ways you present your educational materials, the more learning styles you will reach. 

    The challenge is, of course, balancing the online and in-person elements. Hybrid teaching requires specific skills, especially if you have both in-person and remote learners. However, when done well, you don’t have to make any trade-offs at all and can give your employees the best possible learning experience.

    Ultimately, a hybrid workplace requires hybrid learning to work well.

    How to make hybrid learning work

    The first step to making hybrid learning work is establishing what should be in person and what should be online. So, what is hybrid learning best at, and what combination of learning modes works best?

    Know your learners

    Take into account individual learning styles. While it might be ideal and cheaper to do much of your training through webinars, you may have employees who benefit from face-to-face instruction. It may not be possible to meet all learning styles every time. However, being aware of the diversity in your learning audience will help to make the most informed decisions regarding instructional format.

    Know your content

    You’ll also want to determine the best way to convey the information in your training program. For example, if you are providing mental health awareness training to employees, an online self-paced course with lots of real-world examples and concept analysis would be a good format. However, if you are training employees on how to use new software, you may need a more hands-on approach that allows the learner to practice using the software and ask questions in real-time, which may mean an in-person workshop. 

    There is also the flipped classroom option where learners complete lectures and review material outside the classroom. Then, the classroom is a space to explore concepts and review and discuss materials. This can often be the best use of limited in-person time, especially if people have to travel to attend class. This allows learners to benefit from hands-on, in-person guidance when necessary while also partaking in self-directed learning.

    Provide the necessary tools

    Ensure that when your employees are learning remotely, they have the tools they need, especially if they are learning at home. For example, somebody taking a webinar should have access to an office with a closed door rather than trying to do it in a cubicle or open-plan setup where there are far more distractions, even with headphones. If they want to learn at home, ensure they have a fast internet connection and a quiet place to learn.

    So, what is hybrid learning management system technology? The key to hybrid learning is having a proper learning management system. A learning management system allows employees to access course materials and even entire classes on their own time, as they need them. This strengthens the advantage of asynchronous learning.

    Should your company engage in hybrid learning?

    Absolutely! With modern technology, the more hybrid you can go, the better. There is a movement that says virtual learning alone is good enough and that in-person learning is no longer necessary. While virtual learning is a great tool you also don’t want to short the learning experience by not providing the benefits of in-person learning as well.

    Having a good learning management system is absolutely vital for doing hybrid learning the right way. For more information and definitions to guide your learning processes, check out our glossary.