What is blended learning?
Think of a blended learning program as a wall of brightly coloured bricks. And each one of those blended learning bricks fits together to create a successful learning transfer.
Therefore, design matters. When you’re structuring your blended learning program you must carefully consider how each element will slot together into the larger whole. Get it right, and your delegates will remember it for years to come. Get it wrong and, well, it'll be an experience they'd rather forget...
Naturally, design approaches differ depending on who the blended learning program is being designed for. Some organisations will choose a structured end-to-end approach where their learners all experience the same journey together. Whereas others prefer allowing learners to choose their own journey through the content; accessing the learning as and when they need it. Some complete a learning diagnostic before a program to help determine which elements they need most.
When you're creating a blended learning program, it's easy to get lost in the minutia. That's why keeping the key purpose in mind while designing is a must. It helps to start by defining the required outcome then build the learning components to support it is. A wall falls down without a solid foundation. In your blended learning program, your key purpose is that foundation- so cling to it at all times!
What are the benefits of choosing a blended learning program?
The benefits of blended learning are undeniable; from increased inclusivity to improved efficiency, and more besides.
Here are just a few of the benefits of running a blended learning program.
- Lasting learning
For a leaning intervention to be successful, it’s got to create learning transfer. This learning transfer is what drives the desired change in behaviour or mindset. A blended learning program provides information to learners in layers. This makes it easier to go into greater depth which in turn helps learners build a rounded knowledge base that lasts.
- Access to experts
A blended learning program leverages content like videos and webinars from experts. This gives your learners access to a broad range of ideas and experiences.
- It’s inclusive
The variety of content means there’s something for everyone in a well-designed blended learning program, no matter their learning style. Better yet, the bulk of the learning happens remotely so your learners can benefit from the material wherever, whenever.
A traditional 9-5 learning schedule doesn't work for everyone. Childcare, hobbies, and jobs all get in the way of successful participation in a learning program. Many elements of blended learning can be done at a time to suit the individual. Things like assignments, mini-projects, private reading and watching videos needn't be completed in office hours. Instead, your learner can enjoy them at a time convenient to them.
Embraces learning styles
We all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners, others auditory learners. When you’ve got a diverse range of learning styles within a group, a blended learning program is perfect. Because there is a wide variety of different learning opportunities to choose from, so there’s something to suit everyone.
If you’re looking to reduce costs without compromising on quality (who isn’t?); a blended learning program offers a wealth of learning at a much-reduced price when compared to similar classroom training. All the free content and resources out there online mean you can build a comprehensive program that achieves learning transfer but doesn’t break the bank.
We all want to do what we can to protect the environment. And a blended learning program can help here too. A lot of the content can be consumed at home, and many of the activities can be facilitated virtually. This serves to reduce travel and consequently, the cost to our environment.
Embraces learning on the job
Blended learning programs allow learners to absorb a new skill, apply it immediately in their job, gain feedback and use that feedback to improve. When this system is in place, it’s almost impossible not to improve. Few things solidify learning transfer quite like real-world application. This 'see one, do one' approach is a natural consequence of the flexible way blended learning content is consumed.
Read more about these benefits in our blog: 'The Benefits of Blended learning.'
What are the components of blended learning?
Essentially, every brick in our blended wall represents a single component.
There are a dizzying array of options to consider, and it's tempting to look at those options as a bit of a pick’n’mix. However, just picking the bits you like and melding them together won’t result in a successful blended learning program.
Ask yourself, is this useful and relevant to your learners? Does it move the program towards the desired outcome? If not, it doesn’t make the cut - be ruthless!
Here are just a few examples of components that you could choose from:
- Face to face workshops
- Virtual workshops
- Flipped workshops
- "On the Go" learning apps
- Virtual experts
- Formal qualifications/certifications
- Tasks/mini projects
- Manager intervention
When you’re considering your options resist the desire to go overboard. At the end of the day, it’s better to pick fewer options and do them well than it is to stuff your program with a little bit of everything. How many you choose will be determined by the scope of the program, your budget and, most importantly, the needs of your individual learners.
If you want to read about the components you can choose to create your blended learning program, we wrote a little blog about them. You can find it - here.
What are some tips to make my blended learning program a success?
If you haven’t used a blended learning approach before you might bump into some challenges.
With that in mind, here are the Virtual Training Team’s top tips for making it a success:
Purpose, purpose, purpose
Before you even start designing get what you’re trying to achieve clear in your head. Ask yourself, What do you want your participants to be thinking, feeling and doing by the end of the program? Think how that relates to where they are now. Once you’ve figured all that out, creating the content becomes a whole lot easier.
Mix it up
If you want your learners to stay engaged until the end (you do), you need a decent variety of content to keep them learning. Too much of a good thing certainly applies to your blended learning program. If you've included a stack of eLearning, fifty books to read, or hundreds of travel miles your program will start to feel like it’s dragging. Too much of anything makes it formulaic and predictable and leads your learners to disengage. When that happens, any hint of learning transfer will be lost.
Optimise time spent together
Most blended learning programs are, to a greater or lesser extent, self-directed. This means that time your learners do spend learning in a group with colleagues is critical. Your learners will have the opportunity to share ideas, help one another, or just chat about the course. All vital for maintaining morale and securing learning transfer. Time spent together doesn’t have to mean sitting in a classroom, either. You should consider virtual workshops or video calls through platforms like Zoom. Done well, these provide all the benefits of the classroom. The only difference is, the classroom is wherever your learners want it to be.
Be clear on what is and isn't optional
Some activities in your blended learning program will be essential, whereas others won't be. When it comes to critical content, make sure your participants know. Sounds simple, but it's easy to overlook if your course contains a lot of content. Being clear about what is expected and by when keeps everyone focused and on track towards an outstanding learning outcome.
Whatsapp, Yammer, Slack or Microsoft Teams make great platforms for support, questions and advice while on a learning journey.
These tools are great for building rapport and creating a real feeling of being ‘in it together'. Get it right, and your learners will enjoy sharing the journey. They'll rave about their successes and mull over their struggles for the duration of the course (and beyond).
(This is just the short version, read the full breakdown of these tips in our blended learning programme blog.
How to implement blended learning into your company
While there are no absolute rules of how to implement a blended learning program into your organisation, there are still some best practices to consider.
One is to focus on your objectives as a priority and the technology tools second. Essentially, your learning technology tools serve your training goals, not the other way around. Ideally, the learning technology should fit seamlessly into your training plan to enhance the experience, rather than them being the experience.
Set goals and expectations in advance
You must have a full and clear idea of what learning technologies you are going to use, and in what way you will be using them. Similarly, you need to have clearly defined performance goals and expectations in place before you go on to roll out your blended learning program.
Create a flexible implementation strategy
A successful corporate blended learning program is fluid. It’ll flex frictionlessly with the ever-changing needs of your organisation and learners. Speaking of your learners, encourage them to voice their opinions and concerns to help you fine-tune your strategy and build an effective feedback system.
Research employee needs and preferences
While the performance goals and objectives of your organisation should be among your key concerns, your top priorities are the needs and requirements of your learners. Reach out to them through surveys and interviews to find out what they need to get out of your blended learning experience. Then, design and build content to suit.
Cultivate a blended learning community
To get the best learning experience, your learners need to feel as though they're part of a supportive community. To achieve this, set up a platform where they can receive frequent updates and share their thoughts with one another.
How to build a Blended Learning programme
Designing and building a blended learning program is both exciting and daunting. It’s an opportunity to create a learning solution that delivers behavioural change and successful outcomes for your learners and your organisation.
With this in mind, it's crucial to get it right!
So where do you start?
Purpose, purpose, purpose
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. You must start with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll get lost. It’s as simple as that. Ensure every decision you make links back to your key purpose and above all, decide on that key purpose before you get going!
Ask, "Who are my learners?"
Establish this early on as it will inform almost every choice you make in the learning approaches you build into your program.
Decide on your content.
Focus only on the topics and areas of learning that are required. Then decide what models, knowledge, and processes are needed to meet the desired outcome that you defined in the step earlier.
Now, it’s time to build your blended learning program. Combine a mix of approaches that will complement your delegate’s preferred learning styles and ultimately deliver your required outcome.
Communicate with and engage your learners.
Once you’ve built your program, it's time to get your learners up to speed. You must get your communications right, so give them as much detail as you can. This will get them as invested and excited about the program as you are.
Maintain your momentum.
You know that excitement you feel when you start something new? If you want your blended learning program to be unforgettable, you need to keep it alive. This is where your forum comes in. The choices are near endless: WhatsApp, Yammer, Discord, or another platform that suits your learners. Using one of these well is key to keeping your learners engaged and motivated.
End with a bang!
Make your course one to remember by ending your blended learning program end on a high. Depending on the size and length of a program, there are many ways you can recognise and celebrate the determination and success of your learners. Anything from certificates right up to a paid meal out will add that little bit extra that shows your learners that you care.
(Want to see the full process? Find it in our blog–How to Build a Blended learning program.)
Blended learning is a great way to create a training program that’s tailored to your learners and their needs.
If you’re going down the blended learning route, keep in mind these cornerstones of success:
- Always start with the end in mind
- Build a solid plan
- Keep your learners feeling supported right throughout (and beyond)
Need help getting started?
We’re here to help us and we’ll talk.