Here’s a plot twist—the most modern approach to learning in the workplace isn’t shaken or stirred. It’s blended. 🤯
The cool part about blended learning models is that we’re not totally saying “out with the old and in with the new”, here. Frankly, traditional face-to-face instruction along with instructor lead training (ILT) does have a place in the learning process.
What we have come to discover is that the same way we all have different go-to moves on the dance floor, we all have different learning styles. Different strokes for different folks.
What blended learning does is it takes what has always worked and reinvents ways to deliver it better than ever using technology.
Think of mid-century modern interior design (you might think it’s a stretch—it’s not). That same idea where you take something classic and then repurpose it to make for a chic finish applies basically the same principles as blended learning.
Blended learning supplements traditional modes of learning by taking what has always worked and uses modern learning tools and technology to make the delivery better than ever. (Can you say: ooooh, ahhhh!)
- What is blended learning?
- How is blended learning used in hand with technology?
- Benefits of blended learning
- Three ways to use blended learning to boost employee performance
What is blended learning?
You’re probably already using blended learning, whether you know it or not. Blended learning combines an engaging classroom experience (no class clown needed) with an online learning space. Using online education and learning management systems to reinforce training has been widely adopted because it’s another way to reach learners.
If you’ve taken on the role of a parent and a teacher during COVID-19, you’re probably more familiar with blended learning than you think. An example of this might be teaching your students math with a combination of instructor-led training and videos on Khan Academy’s website to cement what you taught them. Teachers do this in classrooms as well: you coach your learners and give them additional resources to expand on what was taught. Ta-duh! There you have it—blended learning at work.
Related: Tackle distance learning with your kiddos – Advice from Doce-Parents
How is blended learning used in hand with technology?
So here comes the obvious: trying to capture people’s attention in this day and age without using technology is like trying to make the phrase “fetch” happen. It probably isn’t going to happen (sorry Gretchen).
So, how do you incorporate modern blended learning approaches with technology? Ideally, you want to find the right solution that brings some of the following elements together in one learning platform to create the ideal blended learning environment. Like most things, we have to find what works for you and your learners.
Let’s explore our options here.
Online learning: (AKA your YouTube approach.) Solutions like these have the functionality required allow you to organize online courses, training modules, and catalogs to distribute learning materials across your extended enterprise. These solutions also let you to track and measure results so that you are able to show value and prove ROI in informal learning approaches.
ILT classroom training management: This is where you give your trainers the ability to electronically manage virtual classroom schedules and locations, monitor performance and attendance, and assign learners and instructors to courses. Despite the solid old school vibes, this is a modern experience. (Think: more microlearning via a mobile learning app on your iPhone, and less listening to a cassette on your Walkman.)
Social learning: We all need a little help sometimes. Learners are no different. They need a place where they can engage experts, ask questions, and get answers when they need them. An ideal social learning 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. (Because who doesn’t love a little validation?)
Experiential learning: Effective solutions offer ways for learners and experts to contribute with user-generated content. This is prime knowledge sharing that can be validated through peer-review and shared across teams, all while fostering a culture that rewards top performers. Think of this as a more regulated and productive version of YouTube.
Mobility: You probably have either a phone, tablet, or laptop within arms reach of you right now, if it’s not already in your hands as you read this. Let’s just be honest: we’re all pretty attached at the hip.
Cloud-based platforms that support all of the above and enable any delivery from PCs to tablets and smartphones, are no longer a nice to have. Any best-in-class e-learning solution will have this option because it’s the only way to ensure your learners have several modes of access. Don’t settle for anything less—your learners deserve to like how they learn.
Related: Why and how to create a continuous learning culture
Benefits of blended learning
It’s difficult to put it more eloquently than this: blended learning is pretty awesome. Corporate training and development teams use blended learning in the workplace to design learning that is not simply one dimensional. It’s like the Trail Mix of learning (without the raisins obviously, gross) where you can deploy learning activities that are made of an ideal mix of online and on-the-job learning experiences.
Here are some of the cool things you’ll notice about blended learning:
- It’s cost-friendly: I’ll say it again for you so you know you’re not dreaming—it’s cost-friendly!!! For many companies, blended learning cuts costs considerably because it reduces training program costs. How, you ask? Fewer facilitator fees, lower classroom expenses, and reduced travel and accommodation costs associated with training. Technology truly is a beautiful thing.
- More efficient classroom training: The way your Toyota is making the best of your gas mileage, hybrid learning approaches help instructors make the best use of their time in the classroom. Learners can be asked to complete certain portions of learning content online, and this allows instructors to spend more time clarifying any confusions and testing comprehension of learners in the classroom. We love a good hybrid.
- The best of both worlds: You know those restaurants that somehow manage to create a magnificent steakhouse and a delicious seafood fusion joint all in one? That’s blended learning. You get to bring the best of the online and offline learning worlds together so that learners have a pristine learning space to reach their highest potential (cheesy, but it’s true).
- Learners set their own pace: We all have that one friend who (for whatever reason) has run a marathon, and somehow loved it. (We don’t go running with that friend.) In the same school of thought, the pace at which we learn is unique to the individual. For example, some people prefer to watch webinars in real time, where others prefer to watch them later, on demand. Blended learning in online environments gives learners the chance to access their learning content whenever they choose and at their own pace. With a more multi-dimensional approach, your audience can learn at their own pace and solicit guidance from their peers with internal subject-matter experts.
- Better retention: We’re likely to latch on to experiences that we enjoy. Online and offline blended learning solutions help learners cement concepts because their learning experiences are much richer, and because they are consistently reinforcing what they’ve learned.
Related: The critical importance of the learner experience in e-learning
Three ways to use blended learning to boost employee performance
In order to ensure blended learning reaches its maximum potential, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind when designing blended learning courses:
- Map out the learner’s journey
Like most things, it’s good to have a plan here. You want to keep short-term and long-term goals in mind for each learner’s learning path and map them out so they stay top of mind. Narrow down your expected outcomes for the learner from the blended course.
Both classroom and online learning need to have set milestones that have to be achieved (your boss will like this because it helps prove ROI).
- Make online learning complementary to formal learning
A harmonious relationship is one where the people compliment each other. Well—online learning and formal learning—name a better duo, we’ll wait.
The online portion of blended courses should enhance the effectiveness of classroom learning. It serves to repurpose previous training, reinforce previously covered material, and cement the information for more long-term retention.
- Pay attention to user feedback
Learners like to feel seen, heard, and validated.
Soliciting feedback from learners helps you stay attuned to their needs, suggestions, and expectations. Surveys and assessments are a good way to gather feedback, improve employee performance, and they can be collected using forums like Typeform or SurveyMonkey. It’s important to give learners the opportunity to shed light on a training course’s effectiveness as well as challenges in the classroom that instructional designers may not have taken into account.
Related: Why you absolutely need gamification in e-learning
Well, there you have it. A fairytale ending for formal learning programs and the modern learner—they compliment each other and they help your organization thrive in a more innovative way than ever before. Simply put: blended learning is modern learning.