A blended learning approach, as the name suggests, refers to the use of more than one method when delivering education and training. Frequently, this will involve using online course materials together with a more traditional classroom-style approach.
Precisely because of this approach, blended learning is increasingly viewed as the way forward in training and development. It also offers elements of learner control to create a more personalized learning experience.
Why Use Blended Learning?
It’s important to understand what blended learning offers and how this can enhance your training and development strategy.
This approach will facilitate better long-term development and growth, as both the strategy and those using it, are not constrained by a narrow delivery method. Instead, the learning outcomes can be achieved through the flexibility offered by a blended learning approach.
Promotes collaborative and personalized learning
With its open style, blended learning is best placed to deliver training and development in a more informal and relaxed style; which in turn, can foster a collaborative environment, opening the door for greater participation. This, combined with elements of learner control, creates a much more personalized experience allowing learners to develop and apply knowledge at their own pace.
Impact on costs and efficiencies
Blended learning approaches offer real opportunities to deliver faster outcomes at lower costs, as well as reaching a much wider audience through the utilization of digital platforms.
What does blended learning actually look like in practice?
There are multiple models of blended learning, however here are just a few of the most successful within learning & development:
A flipped classroom provides learners with some materials ahead of the classroom time, the trainer will then further discussions about this material (virtually or physically). This approach is ideal for busy environments, where learners have less opportunity for time away from other duties.
This method allows the learners to study the preliminary material/lesson before the actual training session. This pre-teaching, or pre-onboarding, enables the learners to stay prepared and avoid repetition of the basics in the classroom. Consequently, the trainer’s time can be used for discussion and queries in the class time.
Tailors learning to a group of learners with different needs and ensures personalization for the specific requirements of individuals. This approach utilizes technological tools for one-on-one learning and makes effective use of SMART goals.
Ten Top Tips
The very nature of a blended learning approach leaves considerable scope for interpretation and discussion of the most effective strategies; however, we've gathered our top ten expert tips to help in designing your blended learning strategy or approach.
1. Consider the rationale
Ensure your original rationale for pursuing a blended learning approach is central to your strategic planning. Whether this was the size of the audience or their differing requirements, ensure your strategy addresses this.
2. Learning Objectives
Hold your learning objectives as the key to your strategic design and approach, rather than fall into the trap of simply designing your blended learning around the availability and use of a specific platform.
3. Think about what your learners want
Always think about your learners as you design any strategy and, if you haven’t already, use surveys to understand them better. This will ensure your blended learning approach can be tailored to their preferences and specific background.
4. Think collaboratively
The core principle of the blended approach is to ensure all the different components work together to achieve the learning outcome. Keeping sight of this when designing your strategy will ensure each building block fits neatly into place.
5. Consider building from the ground up
It’s often all too easy to simply repackage or re-purpose existing materials; however, the real power of a blended approach is its ability to shake things up and take a new look. Do not be afraid to discard what you’ve done in the past when designing your blended approach.
6. Match your tools to your learners and your trainers
Consider different technologies and platforms that are out there for you to harness, as well as the options already available to you from your in-house experts that can act as coaches, mentors and provide shadowing opportunities.
Before you decide on your blended learning tools, though, consider your learning goals, your learners’ needs and of course your budget. An overly complex authoring tool, intended for instructional designers, will not suit subject matter experts who are new to e-learning. Likewise, opting for a mobile app-led program may not suit all learners.
7. Value all aspects of the blended approach equally
It can be easy to place too much emphasis or value on the classroom parts of your strategy; however, the key to your blended approach is knowing and understanding the importance of all the components in delivering your learning objectives.
8. Think about collaborative learning
There’s real power in collaborative learning when it works for the learning objectives and the cohort. Don’t overlook opportunities where this can be utilized to enhance the learning experience.
9. Run a pilot scheme
When you’re rolling out a large blended learning strategy, a pilot will be key to achieving your learning objectives. Use this to identify pitfalls in your approach; the learning you take from this should inform continuous improvement.
10. Get buy-in from your learners and management
It’s likely a blended learning approach will be new to your organization, to help alleviate anxiety and skepticism it will be important to rationalize and properly position the benefits of blended learning.