Let’s face it: People aren’t as eager to binge-learn workplace training as they are to binge-watch a Netflix series. When it comes to training, people need a little more help to stay engaged. The good news is that such help is readily available! It comes in the form of a blended learning program.
In this article, we’ll explore why you should consider a blended learning program and how a blended learning program can add value to your organization.
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning refers to a workplace training program that includes a mix of the modalities used in learning and development. That means a blended learning program consists of any combination of instructor-led training (ILT), eLearning, video learning, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). Such a program breaks up the monotony and accommodates your employees’ different learning styles, which results in increased or sustained learner engagement, and boosts knowledge retention.
A common learning and development goal is to create an engaging program, which means instructional designers always aim for activity-rich, visually appealing initiatives that are aligned with their learning objectives. A blended learning program ensures you’re taking a comprehensive approach to keeping your employees engaged and educated. And if you build a well-thought-out blended program, you can expect even better results from your learners.
There’s a bit of magic to blended learning: Everyone learns differently, and sometimes training is not one-size-fits-all. If you have employees that don’t do well when reading eLearning modules, you can follow up with in-person discussions. If you have employees that prefer not to role-play in front of a group, virtual reality can help them relax. Blended learning keeps your employees comfortable and engaged.
Benefits of Blended Learning
So far, we’ve touched on the benefits that a blended learning program brings to learners. There are operational benefits, too. Let’s explore the benefits in a bit more detail.
Efficient Use Of Time And Money
While studies have shown that proper investment in employee development can improve profitability on the top and bottom lines, it’s important to be mindful of the investment of time it takes from your employees.
Let’s say that ABC Company historically produces a two-day ILT session about executive leadership. That program takes a lot of time and money to produce, and it also takes two full days of work away from their busy executives. Does the outcome support the investment?
But what if ABC Company took some elements of the ILT session and repackaged them?
- The lecture about employee empowerment is pre-recorded into an on-demand video
- The activity supporting written communication practice can be submitted anytime through Dropbox
- Materials and activities that cover accounting principles are turned into an online eLearning module
By taking just one day’s worth of training and repackaging the material into different formats, you can reduce your ILT down to one day and allow the employees to complete the other training materials on their own time. You can then use your now one-day ILT to focus on experiential learning through role-play and discussion exclusively. By implementing digital learning elements, you can assign pre and post work to your learners, saving your organization time and money in the long run.
This is a classic example of a blended learning program coming to life, and it’s important to note that it includes only a few of the modalities we mentioned before. Remember, a blended learning program can include any combination of learning solutions; it does not have to be all or nothing.
Engaging And Personalized Learning
Offering your learners a variety of learning environments isn’t something you do just for variety’s sake. Doing so is a reflection of modern workplace learning.
According to the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT), there are four modes of learning.
- Didactics (being taught): the modern employees’ preference for acquiring new knowledge
- Discovery (finding out for oneself): their preference for problem-solving and staying up to date
- Discourse (interacting with others): this remains a key learning method for learners
- Doing (engaging in activities): the learn-by-doing method will always be relevant
People learn in multiple ways, and they use a plethora of tools to do so. A blended learning program supports the way people naturally prefer to learn: through a blend of experiences that lets them flex all their learning muscles.
Training Tip: When it comes specifically to learning at work, a C4LPT survey shows that modern employees value didactic learning less than learning that comes from doing, discourse, and discovery.
How Do You Know If Blended Learning Is Right For You?
Though the explanation of a blended learning program is simple, and the benefits are straightforward, the development and deployment could be a serious undertaking.
There are some topics or programs that have strict rules or requirements that are not conducive to blended learning. If you have to be in person for safety training or have assessments that can’t be taken online, it may be tougher to implement a blended program.
When should you consider a blended learning program? We’ve created a checklist to help you make that determination.
1. You Have a Varied Audience of Learners
A blended learning program offers personalized learning on a large scale. Everyone learns differently; you may have a small group that looks forward to learning face-to-face with others, while a couple may want to take their time alone. By offering a blended learning program that utilizes a wide range of modalities (ILT, immersive learning, online learning, etc.), you can be more inclusive to your learners.
2. You Have a Robust Amount of Material to Cover
If you have a lot of material to cover, a blended learning program can break up any monotony and make training more cost- and time-efficient. Plus, a blended learning program empowers you to match content with appropriate modalities.
3. You Have the Technical Support in Place to Make It Work
Before you decide to develop a blended learning program, make sure you have access to the necessary technical support. Nothing would be more deflating than to design a program and run into technical issues that you and your learners can’t solve. Iron out the details early on so that feedback from your pilot program is about the learning, not technical difficulties. For simple issues, consider offering performance aids such as:
- “How to” articles
- Step-by-step troubleshooting
- Safety reminders
A little technical aid can go a long way toward a smooth deployment.
4. You Have Measures in Place to Hold Learners Accountable
If you want to implement a blended learning program that asks employees to do online pre-work or homework, you’ll need to have measures in place to hold them accountable. It is a great convenience to give your busy employees the flexibility to complete some portion of training on their own time. Still, for the sake of improving performance, you need to make sure learners actually do the training. Such measures could include:
- Program Completion Tracking
Blended Learning In Action
For example, we worked with a client on a blended learning program to support a new medical service offering at their practices. This rollout affected everyone, from the office staff to medical personnel.
It required role-specific training ranging from patient consultation and data entry to procedural techniques. The data entry portion was well-suited for eLearning, while employees could effectively practice patient consultation using VR. Meanwhile, the medical personnel reviewed the serious nature of the procedure together via ILT. A blended learning approach gave our client the freedom to cover a large amount of material in the best way possible.
Want A Learning Program That Doesn’t Blend In With The Rest?
By now, you know why blended learning programs are highly regarded in training. And, you know what organizational circumstances would call for such an approach. Ready to get started on yours?