As a corporate learning function is gearing up to handle the challenges posed by pandemic organizations are realizing the vast potential of Blended Learning Methodology. Organizations have realized that no one mode of learning works effectively, to engage the learners today we need an ensemble of methods. Let’s examine, what exactly is Blended Learning? It is a model of delivery of instruction combining classroom and online instruction, enhanced by synchronous and asynchronous learning. Few examples of Blended Learning are - Webinar followed by Group Discussion, Self – Paced activities on a web-based platform reinforced with one on one tutoring. Blended Learning is not new and has been around for several years. The present crisis has propelled its usage to a larger degree to deliver training programs.
Traditionally, the benefits of Blended Learning strategy were reduced time and being more cost effective than traditional classroom training. Blended online learning removed location restrictions and eliminate travel costs. This type of learning model helps engage learners with time constraints and shorter attention spans. Few years ago, MIT piloted a full-credit online course, leveraging an existing MOOC and added a private online discussion forum for MIT on-campus students. The students reported more flexibility with scheduled learning, and less overall stress relative to their traditional classes. Blended learning appears to be the best mode of learning for modern learners. It has resulted in better learning and engagement outcomes than solely in-person or online learning.
Redefining Blended Learning
Experts believe that Blended Learning is much more than combining classroom training with e-learning. It is a combination of powerful content, effective teaching methodologies, well designed dissemination channels, enabled by efficient Learning Management Systems (LMS). Blended learning is the way forward for a learning enterprise to survive and thrive. Josh Bersin put it firmly , in this world of automation, business transformation and continued obsolescence of skills, companies are realizing that delivering on a compelling learning experience is critical to business success. We need an engaging and interactive learning experience that drives more results than traditional methods of learning.
Today, Blended learning is about understanding the delivery channel, the best practices for design, and picking the right pick for your audience and business needs. In the present times, learning objectives has gained importance. What is the learning objective of the program? This needs to be determined first. The channel to disseminate the knowledge, the collaboration required to fulfil this objective is decided next. The L&D world has thrown itself to virtual learning. The good news is that the online learning space is more sophisticated now. The advent of social media and digital technology has extended the scope of blended learning by paving the way for concepts such as social learning, micro learning and gamification. For optimal learning and knowledge sharing its important that the Learning and Talent Development Professionals in organizations evaluate all these channels and put together a mix that helps to fulfil the organizations learning goals. The backbone of a successful Blended Learning Program is a state-of-the art Learning Management System. A robust LMS can support the organization in implementing its learning strategy and execute it seamlessly across the organization.
As LMS backed blended learning programs can help transform the learning landscape within the organization, how do we measure the learning effectiveness ? An effective learning management system should have the following features to understand how much the learner has benefited:
- Assessment: gives the learner a peek into their strengths and areas of focus .
- Surveys: on the quality of content , resources and trainer effectiveness
- Learner Feedback: Structured Learner Feedback , to help assess the effectiveness of the program.
In addition , a Management Information System ( MIS) and reporting mechanism offering detailed reports can help.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning approach offers benefits like increased engagement with the learner, better learning and retention. One of the longest held L&D beliefs is that dynamic learning sessions can leave a mark. This is where Blended learning shines. The methods are varied and dynamic, employees experience different ways of acquiring knowledge.
It can be a tool to enable powerful collaboration in real time allowing knowledge sharing. It has a wider reach and overcomes the geographical constraints and can streamline the learning process. Thanks for the economies of scale, web-based material is more affordable when used by hundreds and thousands of people. It leads to faster fulfilment of organizational learning objectives with reduced costs.
When it comes to flexibility, blended learning offers the best of both worlds. Whether it's by pressing the pause button or personalising study scheduling notifications, employees have complete control over their training pace. Also, thanks to smartphones and tablets, they can access e-learning materials anywhere 24X7, wherever they are, and this empowers them to acquire skills in their own terms. LinkedIn learning Report (2020) 58% of respondents reported that they want to learn at their own pace.
For the L&D function, the tracking of progress of the learners has always been a challenge. Blended learning offers you ways in which the L & D team gets feedback on whether the learner has enjoyed the training while engaging with the materials, thereby offering a holistic view of the training success.
So, the next important question is does the technology enabled blended learning, spell the end of classroom training . No it doesn’t . Experts like Josh Bersin believe that a good LMS based blended learning program can help define the way classroom training is conducted, by making it much more effective. According to Deloitte University Article, the global traditional employee training market is valued at $130 Billion, but very few organizations are aware of how this money is spent & the result of this spend. With technology enabled Learning Management System, it is possible to ensure that every penny spent is accounted for and learning becomes a measurable outcome.
ASTD Report: The Global Workforce: Learning Beyond Borders reported that only 32% of learning professionals indicated that global learning initiatives have been successful to a high or very high extent. This is a typical challenge in executing learning and development activities for a dispersed workforce. LMS based blended learning program addresses these concerns as well. In addition, social learning can be augmented with blended learning for better impact and reach
To summarize, the present situation has offered us great opportunity to be boundlessly creative. With the right blend of people, skills and immersive technology we are the tipping point of all positive benefits that an online training and development can offer its employees, both now and in years to come. Implementing training programs using a Blended Approach will help you effectively train employees in any location, increase retention and improve operational efficiency. Research has indicated that blended learning approach can increase knowledge retention by over 60 % & organizations that have replaced class room training with this approach can save between 50 – 70 % (Training Industry Report 2019) . The journey ahead will force us to keep experimenting with virtual and online training techniques. Let the excitement begin ….