The digital revolution is in full swing. It’s everywhere around us. Our phones are digital, our cameras are digital, and even our TV sets are digital. It’s all too easy to assume that “digital anything” is preferable to analog, and that includes employee training and development. So many businesses jump on the eLearning bandwagon, but they fail to assess all of their options first. For instance, blended learning can offer some pretty important benefits, but is it right for you?
What Is Blended Learning?
Simply put, blended learning is nothing more than combined learning. Academic institutions have used it for years. In this situation, a student completes some portion of their training online, through a web-based learning management system. However, students complete another portion in person in a traditional classroom setting, via lectures, or something similar. By combining the two methods – traditional learning and eLearning, you get the best of both worlds.
Why Does Blended Learning Matter?
First, understand that this may not be the right option for your needs. In many situations, eLearning is the better choice. For example, you can teach many things through online videos, animations, and similar content. However, there are situations in which hands-on training is not just better, but essential. Consider the continuing education that nurses must complete. Students can complete much of this virtually. However, they must complete a portion in person because it involves physically performing techniques on a simulated patient.
Another reason that blended learning might be a good approach for your organization is if your workforce is spread across multiple generations. For instance, Baby Boomers are often more comfortable (and learn better) in a traditional classroom setting. Gen Xers can learn via traditional settings or through online learning. However, Millennials and Gen Z are “digital natives” and they will expect at least some digital training.
Finally, there is the fact that in some cases, blended learning allows you to provide the right type of training for each employee’s needs and preferences. You might even find that eLearning works well to augment traditional learning, with things like videos, podcasts, user forums, and message boards, animations, gamified content, and the like.
With all of that being said, multiple types of blended learning may (or may not) work for your organization. Understanding how they differ is important when choosing the right path forward.
This is the least blended of the approaches we’ll cover. It could also be called ‘augmented’ because it used eLearning to augment, enrich, or expand upon what your learners accomplish through more traditional channels. Students will complete instructor-led, in-person training, but will also have access to digital options that can help them better understand the subject matter.
Rotation Blended Learning
In the world of distance education, this is probably the model most frequently used. In this scenario, the student will complete some portion of their studies online, and then another portion with an actual instructor. The format works very well for situations where students need to learn things that can be easily communicated through digital technology but must also master skills that can only really be taught in person.
For instance, consider photography courses. With eLearning, students can learn about their cameras, how they work, how to compose a shot, and so much more. However, at some point, they do have to pick up their cameras and use them.
Flex Blended Learning
A less rigid option that focuses more on eLearning than in-person training, flex blended learning provides your students with options and empowers them. Essentially, this is an eLearning platform but provides students with the opportunity to meet in person for hands-on experience, or to speak with an instructor face-to-face.
A La Carte
This option is sort of the opposite of enriched learning. The focus here is on eLearning, but students can get personal help, but not in-person help. For instance, a student could request time with an instructor through a video call. They could also interact with others in a user forum, a message board, or a chat app. However, because this model is primarily focused on using digital technology, you’ll need to ensure that you can accurately track each learner’s progress and gauge their mastery of the material being taught.
The Right Learning Management System
No matter what type of blended learning you ultimately choose, the right learning management system (LMS) is an essential ingredient. These systems are designed to help you track, schedule, and manage all aspects of the learner experience. There are also lots of different options on the market. Saying that your choices are not all the same. When comparing the various LMSs out there, consider the following:
- How easy is it to create blended learning courses? Does the system provide you with tools for managing both online and offline training? How feature-rich is it in this regard?
- Does the platform support multiple file types? This is important for ensuring that you’re able to provide different formats and information sources. Some of the file types your LMS should support include PDF, Word, SCORM, PowerPoint, audio files, JPG, and other commonly used options to help you flesh out your courses.
- Does the LMS give you the tools you need to engage your learners? Can you document training results? Can you collect their feedback or interact with one another in user forums?
Ultimately, blended learning can be an excellent approach to training. However, it may or may not be the right choice for your needs. The first step here is to determine whether your teams need in-person training. It could be that eLearning is the only option you’ll require. Once you know your needs, you can compare learning management systems to find the right option to support your learners and foster the best outcome.
Resources – Additional information?