Modern blended learning: how to create the perfect blend

With blended learning one of the preferred choices for workplace learning and development, in this article we’ll look at how to create the perfect blend.

Meeting the needs of the modern workforce

Increasing demands placed on the L&D function to deliver greater value to organisations, faster and with fewer resources, continues to drive the rise in popularity of blended learning. While it can reduce the cost of classroom training by offsetting some of it with online techniques, it’s important to recognise that blended learning is not just a cheaper version of traditional training. It’s a much more effective solution for today’s modern learner. Digital learning technologies, when used alongside the wide range of existing face-to-face methods, can outperform traditional approaches in terms of knowledge acquisition, building skills and, ultimately, personal growth and productivity.

People learn differently and at different paces, and technology has opened up the floodgates to provide more creative and engaging learning solutions that bring together different techniques tailored to suit the individual needs and preferences of the learner. A further benefit of a blended approach is that it can help ensure learning and development is transferred back into the workplace which is essential for delivering ROI.

56% of learning is still delivered face to face; 22% is via blended learning solutions and 22% is via online learning only. (Towards Maturity Learning Benchmark Report, 2016-2017)

How to create the right blend

Blended learning has almost unlimited variations. It typically includes an amalgamation of face-to-face interactions such as classroom training, role-playing and one-to-one coaching with digital experiences including eLearning, video, microlearning, online discussion groups, podcasts and game-based learning. Every learning situation is unique so there is no secret formula for creating the perfect blend but our five top tips will help you to consider what the right balance of face-to-face and online learning interventions is for your organisation.

1. Know your learners

How do your learners prefer to learn? Where are they located? How technology-savvy are they? These are all important factors to consider when deciding which learning techniques to use. If you’re trying to upskill learners across multiple-locations then you may need to build more digital learning into the mix. If your learners are not used to interacting or collaborating online with peers then including some kind of learning game that appeals to a broad spectrum of users is a good way to help get people on-board with online learning.

2. Make the training relevant

Every element of blended learning should be relevant to the learner and be aligned with the learning goals. It should also take into account the pace at which the learner is comfortable and able to learn, and allow plenty of time for the learner to digest and reflect on the learning content.

3. Embrace formal, informal and social learning

Different types of learning should work together in harmony to re-enforce the learning experience, increase knowledge retention and help to reduce time to competency. The rise of social networking tools have opened up new horizons for learning by enabling knowledge sharing, collective learning and greater collaboration. The use of social media tools needs to be learner-driven and part of the person’s natural workflow.

4. Make every element count

Each component of the blend should have a clear business case. Why do you want to do it? What issues or problems can it help you solve? Does it offer an opportunity to improve business performance? How will it impact engagement? Also, each element of a blended programme needs to be viewed in the context of the overall blend and learning objectives. Including an element that could be seen as irrelevant could be the blend’s weakest link.

5. Leverage the expertise of a partner

Creating an effective blended learning programme requires carefully analysing your learners, their needs and your needs, technology, content and other factors. It’s an art rather than an exact science that requires a wide range of skills. A true partnership approach between learning provider and an organisation’s L&D department can pay huge dividends in delivering an effective blend.

Social learning is now a key part of the blended learning experience, with 61% of learners now motivated to learn online by using technologies that enable them to network and work with others. (Towards Maturity, Unlocking Potential: Releasing the potential of the business and its people through learning, Annual Benchmark Report 2016).

Compelling content

Today’s learners want a complete mix of learning activities which complement the way they like to learn and work. Blended learning improves choice both in terms of the depth of learning and learning techniques used. It can give learners greater control over their learning pathway by empowering them to select the ideal learning mix for their personal needs and role, resulting in greater engagement. Successful blended learning programmes link learning to a training need and are underpinned by a clear learning strategy. In any blend, the learning should be transformational for the individual as well as the organisation. To achieve this, the programme needs to be stimulating, challenging, inspiring and motivating.