How to Succeed with Blended Learning - A Complete Guide
"The obvious advantage of the blended learning solution is that learning becomes a process rather than an event" Caroline Gray
There are a number of definitions of Blended Learning, but all of them have some common elements. They describe Blended Learning as initiatives that:
- Include a combination of approaches, technology-driven as well as conventional (face-to-face)
- Contain a mix of medium – video, audio, in-person lectures, etc.
- Combine multiple pedagogical approaches, such as behavioral, constructivism and cognitive, to produce desired learning outcomes
As a result, creating effective blended learning initiatives isn’t always easy to do. So, how can you ensure that as you embark upon your corporate blended learning strategy, you’ll meet with success?
Find out more in this article.
Achieving Blended Learning Success: Think of Who, Why, What, Where and How
Achieving success with blended learning is a matter of planning and executing a well-thought-out strategy. Here are the most critical elements and steps that you need to consider:
Who: Analyzing your audience
Before organizations start throwing money at a “learning problem,” it is important to first look at WHO they are trying to “educate.” The biggest stumbling block to blended learning success is assuming a one size fits all solution will work – It won’t!
Most organizations today will most likely comprise of individuals who have different learning preferences. If you want your learning content to resonate with them, then your strategy for delivering that content must factor in WHO will be receiving it.
When thinking about your target audience, it is important to create at least two Learner Profiles.
A Learner Profile should consider aspects such as:
- What's their typical day-in-the-life? Include job role, responsabilities, team members, tools they use, etc.
- What will be the typical learning path?
- What kind of content would your learners prefer to consume—case studies, demo videos, stories, checklists, or any other?
- What types of learning opportunities should you develop for them?
- How will they respond to certain type of learning options (Online, In-Class, On-the-job)?
- What needs to be done to motivate and engage each of those constituents in your training initiatives?
Answers to the above questions will ensure that your blended learning strategy encompasses all learners organization-wide and not just a select few.
Why: Cohesive strategizing
Let’s face it –businesses do help their employees become better individuals through enhanced learning programs, but the end objective is not learning in and of itself. It is to make the employee more productive so that the company can accomplish its business goals. As a result, it is vital that the right blended learning strategies are devised in a way that they align with your business goals.
Matching business objectives to blended learning strategy should consider the following aspects:
- What the organization (as an entity) is seeking to accomplish with the blended program?
- What skills and competencies does it need to succeed in achieving those goals?
- Are any of those skills/competencies lacking today – organization-wide?
- How can those gaps be filled – in-house training, external training, hiring outsiders that already have those skills?
- How will you measure if training has contributed in meeting business goals?
Strategizing will lead to training with a purpose. In thinking of these items, you’ll make sure training dollars aren’t simply spent to “train” for its own sake, but instead, will be used to “train effectively.”
What: Learning Content
Once you’ve determined your business goals, and devised an appropriate learning strategy to support employees achieve those goals; it’s time to take a long hard look at what you need your employees to learn.
To do that, you need to conduct a thorough content assessment.
- Take a content inventory by looking at learning content that may already exist
- Review current content that meets the objectives
- Determine what existing content needs to be updated to fit the bill
- Agree on any gaps between learning outcomes and existing (including updated) content
- Identify what new content needs to be developed to bridge those gaps
This approach will help you identify targeted learning content that, once delivered, will help learners enhance their skills to support company goals.
How: Blending content with delivery
The next step to achieving success with blended learning is to determine an optimal delivery strategy. And by that we mean: What mix of delivery channels would be ideal to disseminate the content you just identified in the steps above.
- Is the mix of face-to-face and online the best option?
- Will you use videos or will there be other media included?
- Should you include live-stream events?
- Could on-the-job learning components be added?
- What happens to those employees who may not be comfortable online?
- Which tools and technologies are best suited to implement your blended learning vision?
Answering these questions can help you make informed investment decisions so that your blended learning initiatives meet desired cost-benefit goals.
Where: A place for everything
We are all aware of the age old saying “There’s a place for everything”! This saying holds true for blended learning as well. Your blended learning strategy will only meet with success if you choose the optimal channel for delivering the content your company seeks to teach to your learners.
- If you have hands-on exercises or projects that must be completed as part of the training course; is it best for shop floor staff to complete those in a simulated lab; at a facility outside the company’s factory; or on the company’s own shop floor?
- Should assignments, quizzes, and other course assessment components be allowed to be completed by staff without corporate supervision? Or, must such aspects of the course be done in the presence of managers and supervisory staff?
- Will learners be allowed to learn at their desks, or should they be mandated to study exclusively in the corporate training environment?
- Will they be able to take course on their mobile devices? If yes, which type of content is best suited for this?
Answers to such questions will go a long way to developing a workable and successful blended learning strategy.
One Final Point: Ensuring it continues to work
Once implemented, your blended learning initiatives will need continuous support. Many organizations are so fixated with getting the program up and running that they omit to look beyond the initial launch.
- Have you thought about what support you’ll need to provide to “sell” your blended learning courses to your staff?
- How to ensure staff are leveraging your blended training opportunities?
- Are you adequately staffed to provide trainers, technical support and HR counselor support for the program?
- Will learners have access to “human support” when/if they need it?
Thinking about, and being prepared for, such eventualities will ensure that your blended learning programs don’t just launch successfully; but that they continue to play a vital part in supporting your organization grow and accomplish its corporate mission.