Blended learning is a hybrid instructional methodology combining traditional “classroom" instruction, online learning, and structured independent study.
The term is increasingly ascribed to the way elearning and traditional classroom methods are combined in corporate training. In essence, it’s a term that represents the fundamental shift in how instructors, learning designers, and learners now approach the overall learning experience.
Although no set definition exists, it’s widely accepted that blended learning consists of three main components:
In-person training activities facilitated by an instructor
Online learning materials including online courses
Structured independent learning guided by content in the online arena and skills developed during the instructor-led portion
Blended learning can often start with a more substantial focus on in-person training, and be followed up by more independent learning afterward once the core concepts have taken root.
Blended learning is often referred to as blended training in a corporate learning context. The concept combines both offline and online training and incorporates both supervised instruction and independent learning. For corporate trainers and learning designers, the focus then shifts from the delivery of training to its practical application.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning increases the potential for successful learning because learning architects can leverage all the tools in the belt, incorporating the best elements into the learning experience.
Tools for blended learning can include elearning, instructor-led training, coaching/mentoring, resources, apps, peer-to-peer coaching, and more. Learning designers are, therefore provided the opportunity to provide the optimal learning experience for employees.
Some of the more tangible benefits of blended learning include:
- Increases the reach of training courses
By incorporating multiple mediums and delivery points of training through blended learning, the materials and learning opportunities become far more accessible to a variety of learner needs and circumstances. In this way, blended learning increases the reach of corporate training.
It also means delivering quality training to a wider audience through online learning, and all at a lower cost. The potential for a broader reach is particularly beneficial for large organizations with a globalized workforce.
- Increases learning engagement
Taking the blended approach to corporate training means using a variety of content types and delivery methods. As employees participate in instructor-led training and interact with content types like videos, audio files, text, presentations, and more, they are more likely to stay engaged, retain knowledge, and apply the new learning in their day-to-day roles.
- Facilitates collaboration for more in-depth learning and problem solving
We’ve written and spoken about the value of collaboration before, and blended learning can help facilitate this amongst your learners. For example, social learning is a growing trend in L&D, and when incorporated into blended learning, it can help employees solve problems, improve performance, and increase profitability.
- Helps to better leverage assessments
Blended learning benefits the assessment process in two ways:
i) For instructor-led training, the instructor can use the online portion of the learning process to generate online quizzes and assessments quickly.
ii) The reports generated from online assessments can help to inform future course design and improvements, both for online learning and in-person instruction.
This type of information would be difficult to gather in a traditional classroom setting alone, but blended learning offers the opportunity to leverage the best of both worlds.
Potential drawbacks of blended learning
As with any strategy overhaul, implementing blended learning does not come without the potential for mistakes and hazards to avoid.
- Implementing blended learning tech can be expensive
Many organizations have already embraced blended learning or have moved their training completely online. For those looking to make the first move towards blended learning, investment in the right learning tech stack can come with an initial heavy cost and ramping up period. However, the longterm reward far outweighs the initial cost.
- Potential for pushback against new technology
The potential issue of IT literacy doesn’t just extend to employees. It may take some time and training to onboard instructors who are used to in-person training and assessment to a new blended learning system.
Solid tech support is a necessity to ensure a new blended learning community is fostered by instructors, learning designers, and employees.
- Potential for cognitive overload
When first introducing a blended learning strategy, it’s common for designers and instructors to overdeliver on content and learning activities. Blended learning works best like any learning does: when it’s tailored to the individual learner and not applied as a bulk “one size fits all” approach.