Boost commitment and performance with blended learning programs

Traditional blended learning was introduced to address the learning needs and styles of a wide variety of learners by incorporating two key learning dimensions into its approach:

  • Self-paced, online learning, where learners are essentially guided through the learning process; and,
  • face-to-face learning in the classroom, where students are taught directly, in real time, by instructors assigned in the classroom.

Although apparently opposed, these two approaches can actually complement each other. For example, both may be compatible with learning technology, such as online learning. However, both programmes are invariably delivered through a ‘push’ mode, in which trainers prepare and send structured and formal learning content to learners.

On the other hand, an alternative example can be found in the 70:20:10 learning model, which holds that 70% of learning is experiential, 20% is social, and only 10% is formal.

Consequently, in real-world environments people learn in ways other than formal learning (courses, readings, questionnaires, etc.), such as through social interactions and activities at work, among others. These are considered instances of informal and ad hoc learning that cannot necessarily be planned by design, but are highly practical and effective.

What is the blended learning approach?

Blended learning is increasingly used to describe an online learning approach that combines traditional classroom methods and independent study to create a hybrid teaching methodology.

It combines offline (face-to-face, traditional) learning with online learning in a way that complements each other to give learners the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Two key principles often associated with blended learning include:

  • Students who share information and work with others directly in a collaborative and social environment to produce a richer learning experience.
  • Student collaboration is enhanced when group activities rely on information gathered from online resources or lessons.

Blended learning activities that include formal components of online courses that are followed by interactive social learning activities are well known for producing more enriching learning experiences.

Traditional vs. modern learning

Let’s combine these two ideas and see how modern blended learning programs can take advantage of this model. Traditional blended learning consists of the following components:

Classroom learning (instructor-led): Live, face-to-face training will never go out of style, but it is often overwhelming, costly and slow. Knowledge retention after intensive classroom training can be very low.

In addition, this learning approach keeps people away from the field, a factor that can damage the productivity of some teams. That said, along with online training, classroom training can significantly reinforce the learning material by providing the opportunity to practice the required skills in a more structured and organized environment.

Instructor-led training technology (ILT): The ILT virtual classroom, on the other hand, is incredibly convenient, as participants can access and take courses from anywhere, reducing time off the field. The best virtual ILT classroom offers students frequent opportunities for collaboration through chats, polls, discussions, and interactive exercises.

Online learning, at its own pace: with this approach, training is accessible and actionable whenever and wherever it works best for the learner. This means that an individual’s peak hours of activity can remain uninterrupted.

Students access training at any time, even on the go. Online learning is proving to be an excellent way to reinforce training, as it can be delivered in short and small modules, on demand and from any device.

Finally, this approach not only allows trainers to manage and distribute learning content on an online training platform, but the solutions it offers often provide tracking and reporting capabilities for a better 360-degree view of training progress and effectiveness.

The problem with traditional blended learning is that it focuses primarily on promoting formal and structured courses for students. To that extent, here are a couple of things to consider:

How do people learn naturally in an organization? Most learning occurs through interactions with peers and managers, as well as on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving, as opposed to structured formal training programs.

By its nature, formal learning tends to draw students away from their workflow rather than support them in learning within the workflow. It simply does not provide all the information required at the point of need.

Where do workers go to get information that is critical to carrying out the task at hand? In these cases, users generally do not take formal courses to obtain essential information. Instead, they conduct research, ask questions, and find the people they consider experts.

On the other hand, modern learning, based on the 70:20:10 learning model, is two-way: it involves both push and pull learning. When we add informal learning modalities to the equation, we incorporate an attraction modality into the learning process.

The benefits of blended learning in entrepreneurial training and development programmes

As a tool for training and business development, blended learning provides organizations with the opportunity to implement learning activities composed of an ideal combination of online and on-the-job learning experiences. For business training, the many benefits of blended learning include:

It’s economical: For many companies, blended learning reduces costs significantly by providing reduced training costs in the form of lower facilitator fees, lower classroom expenses, and reduced travel and accommodation requirements.

Makes classroom training more efficient: A hybrid learning approach helps instructors make the best use of classroom time. Students may be asked to complete certain parts of the online learning content, such as basic concepts or theory, and this allows instructors to spend more time clarifying questions and assessing students’ comprehension levels in the classroom.

It brings together two worlds: blended learning brings together the best of the offline and online learning worlds, allowing students to derive a learning space at their own pace to support levels of motivation and commitment on an ongoing basis.

Online and offline face-to-face interactions foster critical thinking skills among learners as the digital and real world come together to help learners find guidance among their own experts, such as in-house subject matter experts, to facilitate effective learning.