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Why Blended Learning Works Best for Some Companies
Classroom training is dead. ELearning is the only effective tool for today’s learners. But is this always true? Does it mean that older approaches are really outdated and don’t contribute to the learning success anymore?
We can’t deny changes that technology has brought to our lives in terms of mobility, instant feedback and gratification, seamless communication, 24/7 easy access to information, and the like. At the same time, approaches that were widely used in the past can still be effective in the modern workplace if incorporated with technology.
We should keep in mind that people still have different preferences in learning styles, and there’s a need for instructors to ensure certain practical skills assimilation. Also, the classroom environment promotes collaborative learning and enhances social skills.
So, what will be the learning outcome if we blend traditional learning with modern technology and eLearning solutions?
Blended learning: its essence and tips to make it work
The gist of blended learning is to promote engagement and make employee training more effectively, utilizing modern technologies with the direct support of coaches. In other words, it’s all about using technology and eLearning as an enabler to enhance and facilitate the learning process for both employees and L&D professionals, leading to improved performance, high productivity, and increased ROI.
Blended learning combines both synchronous and asynchronous methods of learning. In this context, employees can learn at their own pace as well as enjoy collaborative learning in classrooms and virtual learning spaces. Such flexibility allows learners to acquire information independently by completing various training tasks, watching videos, listening podcasts, etc. along with participation in live group discussions, shadowing more experienced colleagues, mentoring, and observation.
According to the Software Advice survey, 68% of LMS users take a blended approach to employee training, combining instructor-led and self-administered training instead of using purely one method, and it makes sense. By combining traditional learning and technology, you get personalization, interactivity, fast and easy access to various types of content, on-demand feedback and support, easy progress tracking, and learning through communication. However, L&D professionals should consider several factors while implementing blended learning, including:
- Your company’s business objectives
Any method of learning won’t be effective if employees don’t apply acquired knowledge to practice. As with any other learning approach, the first thing to do is to set clear objectives or challenges you want to overcome with training. Once you identify goals and implement blended learning, you should constantly monitor your employees’ performance and measure their progress to be able to modify the training content if necessary. (Although with classroom learning alone, it might be challenging to collect precise data for analysis.) This way you will also be able to offer solid support to your employees and get their feedback to understand whether your training program provides real results.
- Choosing the appropriate types of training content
Keep in mind that each and every one of your employees has his or her own preferred learning style and that not everyone has the same level of professional expertise. How can blended learning help? With eLearning, you can upload as many types of content as possible to your learning platform so that your employees can choose whichever best fits their cognitive preferences. Say you want to gather your sales reps to inform them of a new product launch. There’s too much information to consume all at once, so before the meeting takes place, your sales reps are provided with a five-minute video or a pdf document with the new product overview. They can then make a list of questions and discuss them during the meeting. Even afterwards, they will have on-the-go support, being able to access information anytime, anywhere.
- Making online and offline modes coherent
Besides choosing relevant types of content to deliver training, it’s also important to define which parts of a course are better to learn online or offline. Consistency matters. This means that online and offline modes should be interconnected and complementary. Otherwise, your employees may feel disconnected and directly influences their level of engagement. Also keep in mind that classroom training significantly increases expenses, so be mindful of your training budget in advance.
- Knowing employees’ learning needs and goals
Always put yourself in the learners’ shoes to have a good sense of what exactly you’re helping them solve through training. Training for the sake of training won’t do them any good. You need to know what your employees’ want to achieve, in other words, their professional goals, and also what challenges stand in the way of them doing their job. Customized learning paths will focus all available time and resources in the context of employees’ work.
Blended learning as the perfect tool for a smooth transition to eLearning
It’s important to note that blended learning in today’s corporate training is a tool for the smooth transition from traditional classroom training to a full eLearning experience, especially crucial for big companies.
For large organizations with a geographically dispersed workforce, classroom training can be very expensive (with travel and accommodation costs) and time-consuming (different time zones and work shifts). Moreover, it cannot deliver necessary training just-in-time and keep people updated (which is a crucial condition to staying competitive). Also, fast-growing companies with hundreds of new hires every year need to onboard people quickly and teach them all necessary skills continuously. All these needs can be met only with eLearning solutions chosen by more and more companies all over the world.
Adidas, a world-famous multinational corporation, serves as a good example as to why and how it has moved from old-school, ineffective training to eLearning, now enjoying smart learning personalization and scalability, must-haves for any growing business.
Adidas believes that L&D professionals need to further and more drastically transform the company into a learning organisation by creating a culture of lifelong, self-driven learning in a collaborative environment: an environment in which all employees equally teach and learn and acquire knowledge and skills in a variety of ways to best suit present and future generations–“I LEARN, WE GROW”.
Since learning should be light, desirable, and fun, Matthias Malessa, chief Human Resources officer at Adidas, has changed his approach to integrating learning with work, recognizing that learning can take place not only in a formal classroom but also right on the job. For this reason, Adidas Group Learning Campus replaced classroom training programs with social and interactive online-learning offerings, which are open to everybody and accessible 24/7.
Under Adidas’ new program, the digital learning platform generates suggested learning modules for each training topic an employee decides to tackle. These modules take the form of videos, PDFs, quizzes, and include external sources, like TED or YouTube videos, blogs etc. following the model of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), and the platform highlights those which are either “most popular” or expert “recommended”. As employees develop their skills, they rank and rate the training content as easily as they would a video on YouTube or a book on Amazon.
By updating its old-school training, Adidas now takes into account its employees’ preferences in learning styles, making learning a more interactive activity, driving engagement and collecting relevant feedback to enhance their training program on an ongoing basis.
Who can benefit from blended learning and in what way can they do so?
For smaller companies who can easily bring in a room their employees, blended learning can be beneficial, especially when the company is young and personal interactions matter. If such organizations stick to the above-mentioned four principles of blended learning implementation, they can:
- Save costs and time.
When you “digitalize” a part of your training course, you save time and money. For example, thanks to a blended solution, Ernst & Young cut its training costs by 35%. They also condensed 2,900 hours of classroom training into 700 hours of online learning, 200 hours of distance learning, and 500 hours of in-person instruction.
- Make learning more natural with a personal touch.
Your employees need some “face time” from time to time since the interaction with coaches and other colleagues makes learning more natural and meaningful for smaller teams. Learners can go through online training and then, from time to time, get together with a coach and their colleagues to dive into deeper, more strategic questions.
- Better retain knowledge and skills.
A variety of training tools greatly contribute to personalization of a learning journey. Thanks to LMS your employees can learn on the go when they need answers and build their own learning schedule. In addition, live group discussions and on-demand support from coaches empower collaborative learning that decreases the forgetting curve. Relevant just-in-time answers and ongoing support guarantee that employee won’t forget newly acquired information.
- Improve employees’ engagement and productivity.
Lou Tedrick, Wireless Staff Vice President of Workforce Development at Verizon, says that “if you take ‘face time’ away from a struggling student, his or her performance is likely to be worse. In the workplace, we try to determine what would be best learned online vs. in the classroom and go from there.” In other words, when employees encounter challenges and don’t receive seasonable aid, they become demotivated very quickly and don’t show any desire to keep learning.
Blended learning allows some companies to enjoy the benefits of both traditional classroom and eLearning worlds in terms of flexibility, interactivity, ongoing feedback, and progress tracking. Facilitated through technology and supported by live communication, learning becomes more natural and meaningful.
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