Computer-based training makes it easy to offer unified training across vast geographic distances. However, some topics are better delivered in a live setting. You don’t have to choose between the two training methods, however, if you adopt a blended learning approach.
Take the example of the Office of Healthy Communities (OHC) at the Washington Department of Health. The Office of Healthy Communities put the best elements of in-person training with the best of online training to implement a blended learning model for their statewide community health worker training program (read more in the case study). OHC allows its network of facilitators around Washington to supplement a brief live session with an in-depth online course that contains assessments, assignment tools, and collaboration.
The training model is efficient, lean, and scalable, which allows it to meet funding variables and limitations. It makes training fast and easy, which can be difficult in Washington. It’s a large state with rural pockets not easily accessible for traditional in-person learning programs.
“E-learning allows us to reach remote areas of the state to teach community health workers. Staff only need to stay one day in each location so it lowers costs of delivering the training significantly,” says Debbie Spink, instructor and community health worker training system coordinator. “We need the support of the online curriculum. It would be cost prohibitive to offer this training only in-person.”
Is a blended learning approach right for your organization? Here are five secrets of what it takes to build a winning program.
Set educational goals
Saving money and expanding training capacity might be overall goals of moving to a blended model, but organizations need to set educational goals that fit the new strategy. Find ways to set small reasonable goals from the beginning, such as offering short courses for skill enhancement or in languages for a small set of your student audience. Start small, document successes, and then make a plan to expand.
Include trainers from the start
A new training strategy does not mean your training staff will be out of a job, but they might not realize that. Remember to include your training staff from the beginning and remind them that the technology is a complement to their work in a face-to-face setting. Work with them to identify ways to use technology as a tool rather than a job replacement.
Support student needs
Not all students learn the same way–some are better visual learners, some do fine with self-paced study, some might have different language skills. Evaluate what your students need, and when you look for a learning technology, find one that matches your student population.
Change is a frightening word at some organizations, and not always welcome. Anticipate pushback from trainers, participants and administrative staff. Be ready with a list of benefits and get buy-in early. Listening and being open is often the best way to address concerns.
Adapt and evaluate
A blended learning model is new for many organizations, and new systems can be a challenge to implement. As you roll out your blended learning program, frequently evaluate it so you can quickly identify problems and address them.