What is blended learning?
Corporate training is moving into the era of digital learning, incorporating more and more eLearning. But face-to-face or instructor-led training (ILT) still plays a large role in educating employees, especially those in or moving into leadership positions.
That’s where the idea of blended learning takes the spotlight. A blended learning solution generally combines technology-based eLearning with ILT to get the best of both.
ILT brings learners and instructors together in physical or virtual classrooms for synchronous learning. The technology-based portion of a blended learning solution is usually asynchronous and learner-directed, allowing individual learners to explore materials at their own pace, complete exercises, and participate in discussion forums.
Flip that classroom
A “flipped classroom” is a popular blended learning solution. In this model, the traditional classroom teaching approach of an instructor presenting a lecture and assigning activities for learners to do on their own, is upended.
In the flipped classroom, learners prepare for class by watching a video lecture or reading preparatory materials. These materials can be located in your learning management system (LMS) as curated content or short eLearning courses, which learners can find with a simple search.
Then, in class, the instructor coaches learners through hands-on activities where they apply their learning.
In a corporate setting, the ILT or classroom portion might be virtual — a webinar or online small-group session.
Blended learning is flexible
Adopting a blended learning solution can look different in different situations. It might mean:
- Bringing learners together to watch a demo and try doing a procedure — but only after they’ve learned the steps and demonstrated their knowledge in a game-based learning environment, a simulation, or using a microlearning app
- An all-online learning experience where learners and the instructor meet in a virtual classroom or via chat periodically, and learners complete activities and assignments on their own schedule
- An ILT experience is paired with a microlearning-based knowledge retention campaign to ensure long-term, deep learning
- A learner is paired with a senior-level coach or mentor who provides direction, instruction, and feedback, but the learner completes projects, does research, and follows a gamified, personalized, self-directed eLearning plan in the LMS
Benefits of a blended solution
Blended learning enables learners to exercise some control: They can complete the asynchronous portions — activities, online readings, etc. — on their own time and at their own pace. If the LMS includes learning materials in different formats, learners can choose their preferred medium as well, whether text, video, audio, or multimedia. Offering these choices to learners can boost their engagement and improve learning retention.
A blended solution is less costly than a completely instructor-led approach to learning. Fewer hours of instructor time and fewer hours where all of the learners are away from their jobs add up to lower overall costs.
In addition, much learning material is consumed individually, and learners often complete activities alone or in small groups. The flexibility of doing so outside of scheduled classroom hours makes it more likely that busy workers will actually do the learning.
Many LMS platforms support blended learning solutions by offering enrollment management, personalized learning plans that ensure that each learner meets prerequisites, and tracking of learner progress. Some blended learning solutions reach beyond conventional eLearning courses and incorporate microlearning and other digital learning components into a blended learning solution.
For example, adaptive training on a microlearning app might be used as pre-training, to introduce key concepts. A virtual or face-to-face classroom component might then explore ways to apply those concepts. The learning could then segue into a retention phase, again using ongoing microlearning to ensure that learners remember and apply their learning on the job.
This offers learners a complete solution, where the instructor-led training focuses on ensuring that learners comprehend and can apply their learning, while digital tools facilitate the learning and retention process.