Seventy-three percent of learning and development (L&D) managers say finding the time for learning is their top challenge. And employees feel it, too. Fifty-four percent of employees say having more time to learn would help them learn more effectively.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand that will give us more hours in the workday. But there is a technique we can use to make the most of the time we do have: blended learning.

The basic concept of blended learning is that learning works best when we take different approaches. It’s not just about spending time in the classroom with an instructor. We can learn through practice, quizzes, explaining something to a peer, and many other activities. Blended learning is easier to fit into our workday. Plus, it helps us retain what we’ve learned.

Let’s take a closer look at what blended learning is, why it works, and how to apply it at your organization. 

What is blended learning?  

Blended learning is the practice of combining traditional classroom learning with other modes of learning. It involves layering classroom and online learning with a wide variety of digital technologies and L&D practices. Think 360 assessment tools, one-on-one coaching, social learning, and virtual or augmented reality (to name a few). 

But blended learning isn’t about combining these elements at random. The best blended learning takes a thoughtful and intentional approach. This way, you can support the unique needs of your company and its learners.

Why does blended learning work?

There are many reasons why blended learning is so effective. Here’s a quick overview. 

Blended learning benefit #1: Learning spaced over time is more sticky

Blended learning can be broken into smaller chunks and spaced out in regular intervals over time. This method helps learners retain knowledge. Research at the Harvard Medical School showed that a spaced approach to learning helped medical students and residents filter out irrelevant information. They also saw improvements in longer-lasting retention of information.

Blended learning benefit #2: It’s adaptable to modern learners’ needs

We all know that a lack of time is a significant obstacle to learning. But blended learning offers more efficient use of a learner’s time. Instead of week-long classroom training, employees can sign into a company-provided app and consume bite-sized learning on the go. With this approach, employees can learn whenever and wherever it’s convenient.

Blended learning benefit #3: It optimizes classroom time

Blended learning makes the most of time with an instructor. Learners can do pre-work such as reading articles or watching videos ahead of time. Completion of pre-work means classroom time focuses on instructors leading learners through role-playing and other hands-on activities. 

How can you make the most of blended learning?

Start putting blended learning into practice with these ideas. 

Gather feedback at the beginning and continue to track metrics

Use performance 360 assessment tools to research the needs of your employees. When you review quarterly performance reviews, you might spot a skills development need a manager mentions for an employee or group. 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. Offer continuous learning to address any gaps and reinforce knowledge. For a real-world example, Tile’s VP of People & Workplace shares how she plans to implement a 360 assessment in her company.  

Leverage your tech stack intentionally

Once you decide the areas of focus for your L&D programs, think about mapping out the blended learning experience. First, focus on the learning objective, then strategically select learning formats that can help you reach your goal. You will encounter all kinds of shiny new technologies like augmented reality and chatbots. Be sure to leverage these technologies intentionally. Don’t forget to consider cost and time, too. Read more on how some companies are considering different technologies in their training programs. 

Talking the talk — power-up active learning 

Discussion — either online or face-to-face — is an essential 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. The same study notes that interactive discussion and prompt feedback with peers or instructors are crucial to student engagement. Learn more about how Udemy’s Learning team approached active learning in unconscious bias training

Continue your exploration of blended learning

Blended learning is remarkably adaptable. It allows you to experiment with different modes and find the combination that works best for your objectives. It also helps learners take charge of their own experience and make the most of their limited learning time. And even when employees are working remotely, blended learning can promote a sense of togetherness as employees share resources and discuss what’s worked best for them.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to blended learning, but there are plenty of practitioners who can share their successes and challenges. To continue exploring blended learning, check out the latest case studies from Udemy Business customers.