What is Blended Learning?

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Is instructor-led training (ILT) a thing of the past (you know, pre-2020), or do companies still use it? If that question makes you nervous, don’t worry. Face-to-face delivery isn’t cancelled. Rather, recent trends and technology are causing changes in the training landscape, including a movement towards tech like learning management systems and learning experience platforms.

Ultimately, 2020 has caused training departments to look at how they approach learning, and many are investing resources into blended learning.

A shift in mindset

With more and more businesses and people having to work remotely because of the coronavirus, instructor-led training hasn’t been the first choice for companies to deliver learning content to their employees this year. Instructor-led training is most successful when all employees are onsite at the same time, which hasn’t been possible since early March. In contrast, eLearning lets employees learn anytime, anywhere. So, eLearning should be the easy answer, right? Not necessarily.

What is blended learning?

ILT? eLearning? Mobile? Maybe it’s not only eLearning or ILT that’s the solution, but a combination. Blended learning takes instructor-led training and combines it with online resources and instruction. What makes a blended curriculum great is that it plays on the strengths of ILT and eLearning to improve learning outcomes.

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Benefits of blended learning in corporate training

1. Blended learning adds a human touch to eLearning

It’s not hard to see the value of ILT—there’s something powerful about having classmates, discussions, and instructors available to answer questions throughout a course. However, all of those value-adds aren’t as readily available in 2020. And while convenient and accessible to employees on-the-go, eLearning without elements of ILT often lacks that human touch that helps retention and adds context to concepts. 

However, when you build a blended curriculum that includes webinars, video roleplay, or other features that build connection, you invite learners to engage more fully with your content.

2. Blended learning is inherently learner-centered

The downfall of ILT is that in a room full of participants, each person has different experiences, knowledge levels, and learning styles. No matter how hard you work to create an equally valuable experience for everyone involved, some people will respond better to the course than others because ILT aligns with their learning style.

With blended learning, while the in-person elements remain the same, online course content can easily be customized to each individual’s experience level and pace, allowing for a more learner-centered approach.

3. Blended learning improves knowledge retention

We’ve all been to a corporate training at some point that was quickly forgotten by the following week. Most people learn best through repetition and practice, and blended learning offers so many opportunities to do this. For example, if you’re hosting an in-person sales team training, consider offering a short online segment for participants to complete before arriving to prime them for what they’ll learn in-person. This way they’ll have exposure to the content before the physical training, and it gives reps the chance to start practicing what they learned at the training itself.

After an in-person session, consider adding additional value to a blended curriculum by offering post-session online practice questions, scenario learning, or video roleplay assignments to further build skills and address blind spots.

Blended learning at the corporate level

A medical device company faced a crucial training challenge when they acquired a line of power tools to add to its portfolio of products. The majority of items sold by its sales force were one-time use products as opposed to capital equipment. This presented a need for training with two purposes.

First, 1,200 sales reps needed to understand how and why selling capital equipment was vastly different from selling the one-time use products they handled previously. Second, the reps needed education on the new line of products so they could sell effectively with confidence.

The company used blended learning to meet these needs. They used an app that enabled reps to learn the necessary background information on the power tools, then scheduled  in-person training for a deeper dive for reps to really learn, know, and understand their products before sending them into the field to sell.

The prerequisite app work meant the in-person sessions could focus on building confidence and specific selling skills. After face-to-face training, learners could continue to sharpen their knowledge using the same app they were already familiar with.

Create a learning combo that’s right for you

Not only does blended learning in corporate training play to the strengths of each delivery method, but it’s also proven to be more effective than ILT or eLearning alone. Many studies have found that combining the two produce better educational results, exam scores, and attentiveness.

So when you are building on your learning strategy, don’t be afraid to get creative! Throw in several different delivery methods and blend away to provide your users with the type(s) of learning they need to succeed.

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