If you searched “blended learning” to find this article, you likely selected it to find the perfect way to add blended learning to your training programs so that you can tell your stakeholders, “Fear not! we have blended learning in our plan!”
Blended learning was once a distinct approach in which there were checklists of components so that you knew if your training solution was blended or not. But, with over a year of increased (or up to full) virtual and/or new working arrangements across industries and the world, blended learning is now what all learning is or is becoming.
Let’s focus on the descriptor “blended,” which reflects the fusion of things into something new. Consider this quote from a blog post about fusion cooking: “The word, ‘Fusion,’ is most commonly applied to the act of combining two substances or items together [and can relate] to the fusion of two ideas to form an entirely different principle … It most definitely does not mean putting all the ingredients selected for a dish in to one pot and turning the heat up as high as possible!”
Reflecting on the training solutions you have designed or have been part of designing in the past, would you say that they were a blending — a fusion, if you will — of the best aligned ingredients? Or, were they a an experience of throwing it all together, turning up the heat and waiting to see what happens? Sadly, in the push to reduce budgets or decrease upskilling timelines, many learning professionals have had to throw it all in the pot to boil. The results of this approach are uneven. Some people can glean needed information from a mixture of content and experiences, but many become overwhelmed or refuse to engage — to taste the results.
As learning professionals, we need to take what is good about traditional blended learning. Then, we need to make it relevant for learners who may be experiencing added pressures in their role, make it affordable for budgets that are shrinking and, above all, make it something in which employees want to partake.
Taste Test Your Blended Learning
Ideally, you would have a test kitchen in which you could receive feedback on your newest creations. Use these tools to obtain early data on blended learning solutions:
- Pilot classes
- Limited–run programs
- Pulse checks after specific components of solution
- Focus groups
Creating a smaller version or a section of your solution and using feedback to refine it will help prevent the launch of an expensive, bad-tasting offering.
Mix Your Ingredients
Not all blended learning has to follow the same recipe. Use the learning needs analysis process to understand the content, the delivery, the culture and the desired outcomes. Then, you can craft your list of blended learning ingredients. Consider:
- Hosting a 15– or 30–minute facilitated virtual kickoff prior to a self-directed series of online modules.
- Leveraging gamification to motivate learners between classes.
- Incorporating “office hours” with subject matter experts (SMEs) to address questions from learners who are practicing new skills.
- Leveraging technology to provide software practice in a safe setting in conjunction with peer presentations by learners.
Sometimes, you need more of one ingredient than another, which is OK! Learning professionals, like chefs, must use their expertise to find the right fusion.
Keep It Fresh
Sure, everyone loves classic dishes from their family or childhood, but if nothing ever changes, people can take things for granted or label them as “out-of-touch.” Study your current blended learning solutions, and ask these questions to determine their freshness:
- Can you make paper resources electronically available?
- Could a naming (including branding and style) update bring new energy to the learning?
- Can you try virtual tools like whiteboards, polls and asynchronous posts to tie together and enhance instructor-led classes?
- Could you change the order of content and/or rearrange activities?
Keeping it fresh does not mean you have to add costs. Even a small change can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to learning experiences that are up to date with business needs.
Blended Learning for All Tastes
Don’t limit your design to a single blended learning recipe. Just as you promote critical thinking and agility to your learners, apply them to your blended learning solutions. Ask your learners for feedback, leverage data and try mixing up ingredients to ensure an impactful blended learning experience.