Beyond the Classroom: How to Implement Blended Learning in the Workplace
Blended learning is not simply about combining modes of learning — like classroom instruction and online courses — together at random. Today, learning and development (L&D) teams use blended learning best practices across many modals. There are 360 assessment tools, one-on-one coaching, social learning, and even virtual reality learning.
Types of training modals must be thoughtfully selected and woven together to support the unique needs of your company and its learners. To best equip your blended learning program, you need to first understand the principles of blended learning and why it’s so effective. Then, compare the best blended learning models, before delving into how you’ll bring your blended learning program to life.
Why blended learning is so effective
Over the years, L&D researchers have uncovered many benefits of blended learning. Here’s a quick overview of three reasons why blended learning is so effective in the workplace.
Blended learning benefit #1: Learning spaced over time is more sticky
Blended learning easily breaks into smaller chunks and can be spaced out in regular intervals over time. This more digestible style of training helps learners retain knowledge. Research at the Harvard Medical School demonstrated that a spaced approach helped medical students and residents filter out irrelevant information while generating improvements in learning and long-lasting retention.
Blended learning benefit #2: It’s adaptable to modern learners’ needs
Blended learning approaches offer a more efficient use of learner time. For example, instead of week-long classroom training, employees can sign into a company-provided app and consume bite-sized learning on the go.
Blended learning also isn’t tied to a schedule. Instead of waiting for a scheduled classroom session, learning can start as soon as employees need it.
Blended learning benefit #3: The method offers more efficient use of time
Instead of long days spent only in a classroom, blended learning focuses on reinforcement learning styles with instructors leading learners through role-playing and other hands-on activities. Plus, the modern learner is self-directed. They want to choose their own learning destiny from a menu of activities, rather than passively receive information in a rigid classroom format.
4 models for applying blended learning at work
As you start building your training program, take time to learn which of the four models of blended learning may be right for your company. Adapt these models to support the needs of your employees.
- The Rotation Blended Learning Model: This blended learning model is versatile, using both face-to-face instruction and online study. This is likely the type of blended learning model most L&D leaders are familiar with. How it works: learners complete a module online and then participate in an in-person (or virtual) group activity with colleagues.
- The Flex Blended Learning Model: This model has a focus on online instruction, and only small groups or specific learners have face-to-face instruction. Adopters of this model might offer face-to-face training for learners who need more support or schedule regular group sessions for learners. Encourage social learning by having learners collaborate with each other on their lessons and in-person sessions.
- The A La Carte Blended Learning Model: The A La Carte Model offers online instruction only but in a physical classroom. The instructors might record lectures or offer online support to their learners via internal forums, email, or chat services. An example of this model in action sees learners partaking in video calls with the instructor at a predetermined time, then completing their training experience through a class or workshop.
- The Enriched Virtual Blended Learning Model: Enriched Virtual learning focuses on in-person learning that’s supplemented with online resources after the instructor-led sessions are complete. A leader implementing this model should also offer online materials to learners. This lets them study more on the topic when not in the classroom.
How to make blended learning work for your organization
Now, time to put the concepts of blended learning into practice in your training program. Here are eight best practices to follow to build a successful blended learning experience for employees.
Gather feedback at the beginning and continue to track metrics
Use performance 360 assessment tools for research on the developmental needs of your employees. How? For example, say in reviewing quarterly performance reviews you spot a skills development need a manager mentions for an employee or group of employees. You can then offer personalized feedback for individual employees or create a course to address the group’s skills gap.
Conducting 360 assessments shouldn’t be done only at the start of the program. You also want to use it to measure how employees perform post-training. Then, offer continuous learning to address any gaps and reinforce knowledge. Blended learning is a journey, not a one-time event.
Leverage your tech stack intentionally
Once you decide the areas of focus for your L&D programs, think about how to map out the blended learning experience. While there are exciting new learning technologies available like augmented reality and chatbots, leverage these technologies intentionally. Stay laser-focused on the learning objective first, then strategically select learning formats that can help reach this objective.
Before you choose what technology you want to leverage, ask yourself, what is the problem we’re solving? Would this technology help employees learn more effectively? Cost and time are also factors when considering adopting new technologies.
Talking the talk — power-up active learning
Discussion — either online or face-to-face — is an important part of self-paced blended learning. According to research by the University of Texas at San Antonio, the best blended learning practices use active learning as an integral component of learner engagement and course design. The same research notes that interactive discussion and prompt feedback with peers or instructors are key to student engagement.
Keep learning short and sweet
The advantage of blended learning is you can break out training over time in small chunks, an approach called microlearning. Inundating learners with information that’s not immediately relevant to their jobs won’t enhance performance. Instead, blended learning lets you teach employees exactly what they need to know when they need to know it.
Curation is the new creation, embrace it
External content curation plays a critical role in modern blended learning experiences. Many L&D teams no longer have the time to create week-long classroom sessions themselves. Instead, they’re turning to external online content created by subject matter experts — like the 5,550+ courses found on Udemy for Business — to supplement learning.
Not your average learning environment
Blended learning distills classroom work to focus on role-playing, discussion, and practice sessions. At the same time, innovative technologies can reinvigorate the classroom portion of your blended learning program. For instance, augmented and virtual reality offers new immersive experiences for “learning by doing” in risk-free environments.
Get social with coaches
Seventy-five percent of the informal learning that occurs in the workplace is thanks to peer-to-peer social learning. While learning from mentors or coaches on the job is not new, the proliferation of new social media tools and online discussion forums has amplified this type of learning in recent years.
Blended learning redefines workplace training
The concept of blended learning is not new. But thanks to advances in technology and the evolving needs of the workplace, blended learning has changed. L&D professionals now have a suite of tools to help them evaluate employee needs, design and curate holistic learning experiences, and evaluate the success of these programs.