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Adopting a blended learning approach to training

Incorporating blended learning into your training curriculum can help you tackle the challenges of delivering training to a hybrid audience and create a learning experience that is effective and engaging for your learners.

So where do you start when you are looking to deploy a blended learning approach to employee training?

What is blended learning, and how does it work?

A blended learning approach for training uses a mixture of online mediums to complement and build upon content that has, or will be, delivered face-to-face or virtually. Drawing on a range of adult learning theories, blended learning strategies empower the learner to take control of some, or most, of their development, and gives them the opportunity to put it into practice on the job.

 

Hybrid learning vs. blended learning

Hybrid learning and blended learning are terms that are often used interchangeably, however, they represent two different approaches. Similar to hybrid working, hybrid learning offers people the opportunity to attend a class or workshop in a way that works for them: either in-person or online. 

In practice, that means some learners will head to a physical classroom for their training, while others will attend virtually. The facilitator will deliver the same content, and learners will have the opportunity to complete the same exercises — just in different ways. The training is still guided, and the pace is set by the facilitator. 

Blended learning, on the other hand, provides the opportunity to spend at least some time learning at your own pace, and uses online materials as a core part of the curriculum in addition to face-to-face learning or online training

 

The advantages of blended learning

Using a blended approach for a curriculum can help facilitators differentiate learning paths based on someone’s individual needs. This can be particularly helpful for people with accessibility requirements, cohorts with varied backgrounds and levels of experience, and those with different schedules who may need to learn outside of usual classroom hours.

With the rise of remote and hybrid work, and in organizations where these types of work are the norm, blended learning can be an effective training strategy to use. For more about blended learning in the context of remote work, check out ‘what remote learning has taught us about face-to-face training’. 

 

Blended learning models

There are many different blended learning models and ways in which blended learning can be implemented. This isn’t an exhaustive list of approaches, but it should give you a good idea of how blended learning can be applied. 

Flipped classroom

The flipped classroom model of blending learning turns the traditional concept of homework on its head. With this approach, people study online materials before they attend the training session. During the session — either virtual or face-to-face — they have the opportunity to apply what they learned and build on it. 

This has multiple benefits. Everyone can cover the material in their own time and can reach out to the trainer in advance of the session with any questions. They are able to work with peers when applying their new knowledge which allows them to learn from their colleagues and also get hands-on facilitator support. Finally, they can get real-time, personalized feedback to help them develop further. 

This approach can be really beneficial for companies with remote or hybrid working models. It allows everyone to study the materials wherever they usually work, making the most of the time together during the session. 

Supplemental blended learning

The supplemental approach to blended learning treats one aspect of the learning as additional to the other. This means the main part of the learning could take place face-to-face or in a virtual classroom, with extension activities or non-essential resources online. Alternatively, the main learning could be conducted online, with a live virtual or face-to-face learning session offering further practice for those who need it. 

This is particularly useful for those with accessibility concerns, or companies who work completely remotely or on-site. People can learn in their current environment, and, if they are particularly interested in the topic, they are able to stretch themselves further without the same being required of their peers. It’s also beneficial for learners who need more support in a particular area as they can revisit a topic while others focus on their own areas for development. 

Individual rotation

A blended learning model using individual rotation is a great way for facilitators to have more input into what each person does. Face-to-face or virtual classrooms can be set up with different stations, each with a different purpose. On an LMS (Learning Management System), these stations could instead be different eModules, audio and video resources, blog posts, or sandbox environments. The mix of online and classroom-based learning would be down to the facilitator to decide. 

Once the activities and resources have been designed, the facilitator assigns each learner a specific list to rotate through, in a specific order — a little like a menu. This takes into account their prior knowledge and experience, their current attainment, their aspirations, their current role, any learning requirements they have such as specific accessibility needs, or even their level of confidence. This means the learning can be differentiated for the individual, helping them to get the most out of their experience. 

Mastery-based blended learning

In mastery-based blended learning, robust assessments play a key role. At each stage of the learning journey, learners must demonstrate that they can use their new knowledge or skill before moving on to either the next topic or the next level of proficiency. This is particularly useful with large cohorts where there are too many people to attend a face-to-face or virtual workshop together. 

The benefits of this approach are that learners can take their time to become familiar with the content and feel competent at each stage before being challenged at the next. It allows those who have familiarity with the topic to move through the work more quickly. It also means that if face-to-face or virtual sessions are scheduled regularly, everyone will be learning with others who are at the same level of mastery as them, allowing lessons to progress more quickly. 

The assessments themselves should give the learner the opportunity to clearly demonstrate the objectives at each phase of their learning journey. 

 

Blended learning in practice


Applying blended learning programs well relies on taking the time to prepare the resources, the learners, and people managers for the experience. Using the flipped classroom approach, let’s take a look at how blended learning can work in practice. 

  1. After conducting a thorough needs analysis, prepare a range of high-quality resources that address the business objectives.

  2. Prepare an information pack for people managers and other key stakeholders letting them know how they can support their team.

  3. Let the learners know how the training will work and give them access to the pre-session resources with plenty of time to study them. You could categorize them as essential and non-essential to help people who are short on time.

  4. Reach out to everyone a few days before the session to check on progress and invite them to get in touch with any questions. A selection of common questions could be covered at the beginning of the training session.

  5. In the face-to-face learning session, provide practical activities or problems to solve based on the learnings. These could be in groups or pairs to start, and individually towards the end of the session if appropriate.

  6. The facilitator should offer support throughout the session, taking time to pause regularly and check on progress.

  7. Before the end of the session, the facilitator should give personalized feedback and recommend the next steps for the learners.

  8. After the session, further learning materials should be shared to help the learners continue their journey. This should be supported either by the facilitator, the line manager, or a coach.

 

Ready to get started?

Whatever your blended learning strategy, taking the time to consider the learners’ needs and the blended learning environment is paramount. Once you have a good grasp of their requirements, choose a blended learning method that works for both in-person training and online courses. 

If you need help identifying learner or business needs, or designing and creating a blended learning strategy or blended learning resources for your organization, get in touch.  

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