Blended learning is a training method that uses both a traditional classroom and an e-learning environment, often with more of a focus on the use of technology. It includes formal and informal or social learning and, according to Christophe Ferrandou, CEO of goFLUENT, the integration of face-to-face and online training should be “seamless.”
The Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning can be more cost-effective, efficient and engaging than using instructor-led training (ILT) or e-learning alone. It enables organizations to use existing content along with new and/or sourced content. Louise Pasterfield, managing director of Sponge UK, says it creates efficiencies for the training organization, since “resources are grouped together but not glued together, making it easy to edit and update individual resources to keep the learning content fresh and relevant.”
Pasterfield also points out that blended learning encourages the use of learner-generated content, which “can be more authentic and therefore more meaningful, helping to make the purpose of the learning clear in the context of the workplace.” Sponge UK recently developed a customer service blended learning program for AXA. More than 85 percent of learners, according to Pasterfield, “found the program engaging and informative and said they could apply the learning to their job.”
Blended learning encourages engagement because it “addresses the fact that organizations are comprised of different people, who learn best in different circumstances,” according to Ferrandou. Trainers have the flexibility to select the right delivery method and resources for their topic and their learners. What’s more, learners can access the online content when, where and on the device they want.
goFluent developed a blended learning program for Schneider Electric to improve employees’ English skills globally. In Italy, the program had an 86 percent completion rate, and in France, 98 percent said they were “satisfied or highly satisfied.” Blended learning can also support better business outcomes. The Schneider Electric program improved employees’ English assessment scores, and within nine months of implementing the blended learning program at AXA, improved positive customer comments by 113 percent and decreased formal complaints by 24 percent.
Tips for Success
Both Pasterfield and Ferrandou recommend beginning with a needs analysis to understand the goals of training and the audience. Then, Pasterfield says, you can determine “the precise blend” of your program. For example, the AXA program included peer-to-peer coaching, train-the-trainer workshops, live exercises, quizzes and challenges, e-learning, interactive games, audio and video elements, social media, and marketing content. The Schneider Electric program, meanwhile, included e-learning, telephone lessons, face-to-face training, written coaching and workshops.
Pasterfield also cites Clive Shepherd’s approach to designing blended learning, which includes identifying the goals of the program and determining the methods to use before selecting media and content. That way, she says, organizations can determine if they have already developed content they can repurpose or refresh and use in the new program. “The perfect blend,” she says, is “one that is transparent to the learner, where the right method and media mixes are available at the right time and place, making the learning intuitive and part of the fabric of everyday life.”
Ferrandou says, “It’s important to provide learners and their managers with detailed information about the purpose of the training and a benchmark of how often and how long they are expected to learn.” That way, they’ll understand the context of the program and plan accordingly.
To evaluate the success of the program, first, Pasterfield says, “identify the performance improvements that the organization wants to achieve.” Make sure performance measures “make sense in context” and are “translatable into the language of the business.” Ferrandou agrees, saying that beginning with a needs analysis will “identify key business objectives and define the specific skill sets employees need.” Understanding this information from the beginning will enable better measurement.
It’s also a good idea to identify metrics you’re already tracking so you can see progress. For example, AXA had been monitoring its reviews on an independent customer review site, so they were able to identify an improvement in reviews after the training program.
Whether it’s improving customer service, supporting English language learning, or developing other critical workplace skills, blended learning provides the best of both worlds, from instructor-led classroom training to on-demand online content.