Many workplaces have shifted in their training policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, educational methods have been trending online for years.
Typical methods of providing face-to-face training are becoming more flexible. Topics that aren’t dependent on in-person training are more easily and safely available online.
Even agencies that have been reluctant to move their professional development model online are finding that blended or hybrid models have distinct advantages.
Blended learning has been around for decades. But it’s still new to many. You might be one of those who have limited information about what it is, how it works and its benefits.
Knowing these details will help you make decisions about if you’ll adopt a blended learning format for your team and how you might communicate the new training plan to your colleagues and staff.
Hybrid Learning vs. Blended Learning
First some definitions. The terms “hybrid learning” and “blended learning” are often used interchangeably. They’re similar but not exactly the same.
Hybrid learning – an educational model in which some people participate in person and some participate online. For example, a college class where some learners log onto a lecture virtually while others attend in person.
Blended learning – this is an instructional model where in-person instruction is mixed with online activities. An example could be when learners read foundational text online and then meet in a peer learning session at the end of the week to discuss how the study relates to work.
Blended learning takes the best of in-person training and melds it with the best of online training. It’s a principle that predates online learning because instructors have been mixing facilitation methods for years.
Think back to your own experience in school. You probably read from a textbook at home and did activities in the classroom. That’s because classrooms aren’t the best place to read a textbook, but a quiet bedroom is. On the other hand, a science experiment is usually better conducted in a live setting rather than in that quiet bedroom.
Blended learning courses often include software, such as a Zoom meeting or a learning management system, to facilitate the online learning portion.
Why Use Blended Learning
Blended learning is a flexible approach to addressing a range of learning styles and also adapting content to the right format.
For example, communication techniques might be better addressed in a live setting, while HIPAA regulations are easy to teach online. Studies have shown that it’s easier to keep a group engaged for longer with a blended program.
Transitioning from In-person Training
The first step is to figure out what you really need. This means conducting a needs assessment. If you haven’t done this, read about the importance of a needs assessment before you start with a training program.
If you offer only in-person training, you probably already know about this method’s benefits–and drawbacks. You can segue into blended learning by looking critically at what portions of your program can easily be delivered online. Or start with those pieces that lack consistency. Depending on your technical capacity, it might be relatively straightforward to convert those into an online format.
An easy way to augment your live program is to look at off-the-shelf online courses that you can supplement your own program. This is a very popular approach because it lets you leverage your internal training capacity, especially for issues specific to your workplace. But it bypasses the time expense of developing a custom training yourself.
Transitioning from Online Training
Some organizations offer only online training, often relying heavily on off-the-shelf courses and deploying them to staff members. This can work out fine. But you might be able to increase engagement and retention if you supplement with in-person elements.
For example, you might have an in-person kickoff session to introduce learners to the technology and subject they’re about to learn. Or you might assign coaches to teams to apply what they learned online in the field.
If you’re starting from scratch and need to figure out what makes the most sense offering online and what should be in person, look at all the training materials you have. Then, decide which can be better delivered online, and which can be better delivered in person:
In face-to-face learning, these materials would appear in the form of reading materials, handouts, worksheets, presentation media, and testing materials. In self-paced online training, raw media elements would contain multimedia, including audio, animation, and videos as well as text and images. Also, assessments in self-paced online training are designed such that an instructor’s presence is not required.
An important takeaway for any administrator thinking of integrating blended learning is that it is not about eliminating anyone’s job or replacing a human with technology. Blended learning is a way to serve your learners better by enhancing their experience and by giving trainers more teaching tools.
Get Started with Blended Learning
If you’re ready to start with blended learning, then begin with a smart strategy. Look at your catalog of existing courses. Look at what’s available to you from an outside vendor. Then make sure that the mix fits your needs, your capacity, and your learners. Building the right blended learning can help you keep improving and designing training that will reward yourself and your employees for years to come.