The blended approach is on the rise in both education and corporate training — if you haven’t tried it yet, it is a good idea to start with blended learning right now. Explore what this is and how to map out a blended learning program with this article.
What is Blended Learning?
The blended approach is achieved when you combine traditional classroom learning with technology-based activities, such as online courses, simulations and webinars. A familiar example of blended learning is driver education. Future drivers attend classes on theory (offline), take online courses with simulated driving activity (online) and practice their skills in a real car with instructors during face-to-face, hands-on driving training (offline).
The blended approach allows learners to choose when and where they can study, but it’s an instructor who communicates with learners, regulates their pace and schedules classroom activities. Next, you’ll learn why blended learning can be useful for your corporate training.
Why Blend Now?
- Safety: In post-pandemic periods, you can reduce the time that people spend together in the same classroom and move a portion of the activities online.
- Interactivity and engagement: With modern technology, you can liven up your course material by creating engaging interactive quizzes, dialogue simulations and mini-games.
- Better skills practice: If you move theoretical training online, you can devote more time to practical exercises during live training sessions.
- Detailed reports: Track not only classroom attendance, but how learners progress through courses and their attempts at completing quizzes. This allows you to spot employee skill gaps and fill them with training.
How to Blend: A Three-step Approach
If you already have face-to-face training in your company but want to shift to blended learning, you should have these basics in mind:
- What knowledge and skills do your employees lack?
- What content do you plan to use or create for online delivery?
- How are you going to set up communication in the learning process?
In the rest of this article, we’ll speak more about online courses and quizzes to illustrate each step. However, this approach is fully applicable to any online training program, including those based on virtual instructor-led training (VILT) sessions.
1. Define Your Needs and Goals
Why do you need to consider blended learning? Do you expect to resolve certain issues by moving part of the training online? Or do you want to change employee behavior with training?
Try to articulate it in detail (e.g., “We need to revamp new hire onboarding and have new merchandisers better prepared for work,” or “We need a scalable way to train our account managers across the country so they can negotiate with retailers more effectively.”)
2. Decide on the Blended Learning Model
You can add different proportions of live and online learning to your program. For a start, choose one of these most common models of blended learning:
- Face-to-face driver model: Classroom training is prioritized, and online learning is an extra option for those who need supplementary training or want to know more.
- Online driver model: Contrary to the previous model, learners mostly study the training material online — but you can schedule live face-to-face meetings if necessary.
- Rotation model: While studying a certain topic, learners switch between classroom activities and online tasks, so you can match any of their learning styles with the approach you implement.
- Flipped classroom: Learners study materials online and practice their skills during in-class activities.
- Flex model: Learners might choose to learn online or offline and at a pace that’s comfortable for them. They can reach out to instructors at any time, if necessary.
Let’s say you need to prepare an onboarding program for merchandisers. You can leave most of the new hire training to online courses but schedule periodic face-to-face checkups with colleagues. That would be the online driver model.
Or suppose that you launch job-specific training for your retail account managers. Account managers can take product knowledge courses and learn negotiation strategies online. After that, they can practice how to manage relationships with retailers during in-person training. That would be the flipped classroom model of training.
3. Prepare Online Learning Materials
The online part of your blended learning program requires technologies to create and deliver training content. The software you need for this may include:
- An authoring tool for creating online courses, quizzes, dialogue simulations, etc.
- A learning management system (LMS) where your learners will study course materials.
- Webinar platforms or virtual classrooms to host live video lessons and discussions.
Using an authoring tool, you can organize product knowledge materials, merchandising guidelines, rules of displaying products on shelves, etc. in a consistent onboarding course. Or you can wrap some topics in microlearning like this one about the customer journey:
You can let new hires not only learn theory, but practice knowledge in quizzes and minigames. Take a look at this practical exercise from a quiz on merchandising:
To help account managers enhance their negotiation skills or train them to make introduction calls to the clients, you can create dialogue simulations: These are interactive role plays where employees can practice communication skills safely and prepare themselves for ongoing face-to-face training.
Now that your learners can study courses and take quizzes on their own, don’t forget to check in on them and ask how the learning process is going. Collect their feedback on both online and offline training activities and improve them accordingly. Give learners space to communicate and ask questions in social media groups or in your LMS. All these measures will make the transition to blended learning smoother.