Employee Training Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum
When employees show up for an instructor-led training (ILT) event, they bring with them a broad spectrum of prior knowledge and experience of the subject. They also come with a unique set of learning preferences, not only for the method but also for the speed, style and depth of learning delivery.
Learning content can be found almost anywhere on the internet these days, and much of it is that glorious combination of high-quality and free. Fortunately, learning leaders are increasingly embracing content found in non-traditional places as well as changing learning preferences.
Employee Training Isn’t Going Away
New employees will always need some sort of instruction to bring them up to speed. Safety and compliance standards, while always changing, are crucial for businesses to remain current. Forward-thinking organizations also pay special attention to leadership and management development and ongoing learning.
A perennial demand in business is to find efficiencies, and learning and development (L&D) is not immune to this call. However, the reported hours (42.1) and dollars ($1,286) that Training Magazine reports companies devote to training remains somewhat consistent each year. Meeting efficiency mandates has put pressure on L&D leaders to optimize training for essential job roles.
A Quick Definition of Blended Learning
The label “blended learning” can be an umbrella term, but let’s define it as using multiple modalities, including eLearning and a version of live instructor-led training (virtual or in person), to achieve a learning objective. The best blended learning leverages the deliberate crossover of learning content between the two methods. With this crossover, the modalities work together to fill any gaps, moving beyond knowledge acquisition to illustrate true growth. After all, learning is rarely a single event but, rather, a process that occurs over time. For example, the advantage of an ILT event is the opportunity for practice, application, feedback and evaluation, which eLearning typically does not provide.
4 Ways to Optimize Blended Learning
1. Complement Your ILT
In an ILT environment, there is an inherent risk that the more advanced learners will be disengaged when the instructor covers basic content. Adding an eLearning component by assigning curated learning content prior to the event can help create a more consistent baseline of knowledge for learners entering the classroom.
Optimizing classroom time through eLearning benefits not only the learners but also the instructor. It makes the ILT event more interactive than instructive and more engaging than lecturing. This approach can reduce time to competency and spark the sought-after “Aha!” moment.
2. Offer More Choices
A changing workforce brings with it changing learning preferences. Millennials already make up the largest generation in the workforce, and this generation, along with the next, Gen Z, are comfortable with online, interactive, informal learning.
To make blended learning programs work, it helps to meet learners where they are. For example, you might offer an ILT event and record it for consumption in smaller chunks, at convenient times, as needed. By using different modes to reach the same end, you’re more likely to reach different learners with different preferences. Try offering the same content in various formats, including videos, e-books, tutorials, podcasts or articles.
3. Self-discovery Is Important
Learning content is everywhere, and employees are finding that content in order to “learn in the flow of work,” as Josh Bersin calls it, to solve real-world issues. The challenge for learning leaders is embracing user-submitted content while holding the line on quality and relevance. You can personalize the learning experience by making the library of content easily searchable, adding a review and rating system in order to recommend content, and using machine learning to suggest and prioritize that content for peers.
Again, impactful learning content isn’t limited to traditional sources. Content that works for a particular learner, whether it be a relevant book, article, podcast or game, has a good chance of being valuable to his or her peers. The pride of ownership created during this self-discovery process boosts engagement in the content and in the learning process as a whole. It also identifies learners that excel in the subject and displays their passion.
4. Embrace User-generated Content
Providing content that “speaks” to a particular learning group has long been a challenge. Content that is made for a specific organization (or even a team within the organization) is more engaging than an off-the-shelf course. Naturally, premium content has historically carried a premium price to match.
Fortunately, it has never been easier or cheaper to create simple learning content on an individual basis, even from a smartphone. You can use the wisdom of the crowd to boost your content library. Employees often learn how to succeed in a role from their peers. Why not empower them to share their knowledge and experience? The technology in almost any smartphone will enable employees to easily produce their own learning content and upload it to your learning management system (LMS).
Instructor-led training remains the default learning method for many organizations because human interactions matter. According to ATD’s “2019 State of the Industry” report, 36% of the time spent in ILT last year was devoted to soft skills and personal development, including leadership development. This type of training lends itself to a blended learning method, because personal development rarely occurs in a single event.
Making learning content available before an ILT event can give learners a greater degree of preparation on the subject and result in a greater level of participation and engagement. The goal, ultimately, is to affect real change though engaging employees.