While not a new learning theory, blended learning has become a buzzword of sorts. With ever-increasing technological capabilities and an emphasis being placed on individual employee development (Hey, we’re all for that!), organizations are clamoring to put in place their own blended learning programs (Great idea!).
While admirable, putting together a slap-dash lunch-and-learn/video-for-you-to-watch-later experience and calling it blended learning leaves many feeling the experience doesn’t live up to the hype. This is what we want to help you avoid.
So let’s talk a little bit about blended learning: What it is, why it is good, and how can you make it work for you?
First, what is blended learning?
The Clayton Christensen Institute helped us out with this one by creating one of the most commonly accepted definitions: “A formal education program in which a student learns:
- An element of online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
- Inclusion of a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
- And the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course (or subject) are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”
But what does that mean?
It means reaching your audience in as many different ways as possible, and making each point of contact as effective as possible. It means creating a learning program made up of a variety of instructional tools (i.e., a blend of in-classroom instruction, self-paced online modules or videos to be watched, and webinars). And, most importantly, it means engaging your audience each step of the way: Using group activities to reinforce skills, online chat or discussion boards or to field questions and foster discussion about a topic, and reinforcing ideas via follow-up articles or webinars.
Literally, the term “learning modalities” simply means the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive and store information. For example, perception, memory and sensation … This, too, aligns with this idea of multiple channels to heighten engagement.
Second, why it is good?
The merits of blended learning are many because it:
- Engages multiple types of learning styles
- Gives the learner some measure of control of the learning experience, thus providing ownership
- Delivers learning experiences in shorter, easier-to-process “chunks” of information
- Provides reinforcement to previously introduced information or skills
In addition, do not forget that today’s learners not only like these things – they demand it. They are mobile ready, and seeking a lean, blended, interactive approach.
Third, how can you make it work for you?
This might be the most challenging aspect of blended learning because, at its foundation, blended learning is about identifying what type of experience makes the most sense for the content to be delivered – and making sure those modules (or pieces) of information are connected. No more one-size-fits-all or one-off, stand-alone training solutions. Learning is now part of a larger strategy.
To make it work for you, try a few of these tips:
- Include a mix of face-to-face, live, online, and self-paced learning opportunities.
- Provide shorter “chunks,” or modules, of information. Think of this as “bite size” or just-in-time learning solutions.
- Consider how each learning experience is connected to the other. They should complement and build on the information received in the previous session. It is all about integration.
- Set some measurable objectives and evaluate them. Define what you hope to achieve with this program and how you plan to measure that progress.
Consider this example for a more in depth look at how blended learning might look in the real world.
Blended learning can work for you and your team. If you need help implementing a program, we are ready. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.