The Changing Nature of Blended Learning
In the traditional sense of the term, blended learning has changed. Once thought of as a series of multimodal learning events taking place within a finite period of time, it is now often more of a mix of dynamic, multimodal learning interventions delivered to a learner persona that’s derived from intelligent data insights.
Cohort-based learning is a popular form of blended learning, but it has diminished somewhat in popularity. Further, cohort-based learning is not the same thing as role-based blended learning, and the latter is essential to driving upskilling initiatives, especially across an entire workforce. The act of going through a prescribed blended learning experience in a cohort of peers is less likely to happen in today’s business environment due to the accelerating pace of change.
Cohort-based blended learning depends upon predictability, as it assumes that someone will begin a learning program at the beginning and work through it to the end. But, learning is no longer linear. How many times have you realized a personal skill gap on your own during the workday? What do you do? Do you make a personal note to explore available courses or microlearning on it? Do you text a colleague? Do you enter a search term into a content catalog? Do you visit an expert community and post questions for help? These examples could be viewed as elements of blended learning, but the impetus is coming from you, the self–aware individual.
There will always be a need for blended learning, such as when innovative thought or the application of new concepts is needed for strategic purposes and the impacted audience is large. This may be the case for subjects such as environmental accounting (i.e., the need being to make the transactional business of climate change more efficient and effective) or cybersecurity (i.e., the need to prevent hacking and personal data breaches).
However, learning is becoming increasingly spontaneous to keep pace with upskilling demands. This change has a direct impact on how we manage learning and design learning experiences. Blended learning is quickly becoming less prescriptive and more spontaneously initiated by the individual.
How to Make Blended Learning More Spontaneous
Here are some tips on how to enable this type of spontaneous blended learning in your organization:
- Assess your workforce and create future-focused learner personas.
- Identify the top three to five pain points and opportunities for each persona.
- Map the current on–the–job workflow for each persona, and clearly mark where in the process of doing the job the persona experiences the pain point.
- Layer in the current training format or modality used to meet regulatory compliance and certifications for each persona. Regulatory compliance and certification maintenance is a significant pain point due to the traditional way organizations deliver compliance training (i.e., “check the box training”) and due to the amount of time away from the job it takes to become compliant and/or report that employees are meeting continuing education credit benchmarks.
- Have deeply knowledgeable and trusted subject matter professionals (SMPs) review and validate the current state of the job workflow and then ideate on the opportunities that exist for learning innovation, an optimized experience and/or new content.
- Capture the opportunities on a prioritization grid, and nominate the focus areas for learning innovation and optimization.
- Use the grid to conduct an ideation workshop on a proposed “future state” learning experience. Be detailed enough that you will be able to build a business case that includes budgeted time and resource allocation.
- Determine the metrics and process that you will use to determine the success and impact of the new learning experience or experiences.
- Develop the business case by presenting a pilot implementation recommendation for one key persona’s new and improved learning journey. Include a return on investment (ROI) snapshot and the recommended roadmap to scale the approach to transform the learning experience for all the personas identified during the workforce assessment.
While they are just a guide, you can use these principles to formulate an approach that works for your company values and culture, within your unique technological and regulatory workplace setting.