What is the value of creating a blended learning program instead of purely in-person or online training?
Moving toward a digitally enabled model is an ongoing trend within the training sector, and it’s easy to see why. Digital delivery methods are considered an effective way to convey all kinds of messages, and employee education is all about making concepts easily comprehensible.
Some of the advantages of pure e-learning models have become clear: These courses are accessible to geographically dispersed teams, they can be accessed at any time, employees find visual content stimulating, and so on. However, there are also reasons to maintain some in-person courses when digitizing.
The compromise between digital and in-person training forms a separate model known as blended learning. The exact extent to which physical courses and online content commingle depends on the company in question. No two programs are exactly the same, and suiting an organization’s business model is the main consideration when designing an overall strategy. The following are a few considerations associated with a blended learning model.
What Are Potential Advantages of Blended Learning?
Companies wondering whether they should add online courses to physical training or go fully digital should consider the details of these models in the context of their own needs. According to eLearning Industry contributor Sandhya Johnson, adopting a hybrid between in-person and online training allows instructors to maximize the potential of their physical courses. In such a model, an online module may act as “homework,” with employees assigned to complete the training and report any questions and comments to the in-person instructor at the next session.
Having a teacher involved in periodic sessions, but delivering most of the learning material through e-learning solutions, is one way to reap the benefits of both online and in-person training. Having a teacher to talk to can help employees stay engaged with the material they’ve consumed at their own pace. Johnson noted that blended learning mixes the flexible schedule of an online program with the human encouragement and engagement of in-person training.
The scale of a hybrid learning model can be more manageable than an all in-person operation. Johnson added that the time spent in a physical classroom can differ significantly when companies begin imparting some of the information via online modules. There is clear potential for cost savings associated with such a move, considering the fact that a significant portion of the money associated with running a physical training course goes into transporting employees, lodging them during longer sessions and losing the hours of productivity they could be putting in if they weren’t at the session.
A Modern Model
The rise of blended learning in corporate spaces may be helped along by the fact that it has become a popular concept in schools. EHS Today contributor Jeff Sanford noted today’s courses are sometimes offered as “flipped classrooms” – the problem-solving that was once covered as homework is now an in-class matter. Meanwhile, the retention parts of the lessons – information previously delivered via lecture – is now handled on learners’ own time, as homework.
Such a system could be a great corporate training approach for companies with important and complex processes to convey. E-learning systems can convey the essential facts employees need to learn, and they can consume the facts at their own particular pace. When they come into an in-person session, they may tackle more in-depth problem solving, to make sure they really know how to perform the work. An instructor will be on hand to make sure the workers leave the class knowing how to perform the task in question.
Making It Work
As The eLearning Coach recently pointed out, there is an art to designing a blended learning strategy. Instead of going technology-first and shaping the program to use a particular IT framework, companies should work backwards from their intended training outcome. Once leaders decide what they want the courses to convey, they can set about designing an ideal structure and balance between in-person and online work. Without starting from an objective, leaders may end up with a technically sound program that doesn’t suit their needs.
The eLearning Coach’s Connie Malamed added that when companies are moving from all in-person instruction to a blended model, they should make sure both elements of the end result are equally useful and valuable to learners. While it may be tempting to just add some online elements and keep the focus on the in-person teachers, the real value of hybrid classes comes from the interaction between the two kinds of instruction. Taking too much focus off of one or the other could create a compromised experience.
Widely Applicable Concepts
While no two companies are the same and every business has unique information to convey, there are a few training trends that have wide potential applications. Blended learning, with its enormous amount of customization and flexibility, is one such concept. Leaders can investigate whether incorporating e-learning into their classroom courses – or vice versa – will create an ideal environment for their trainees.