Fishhook, Inc. recently entered the learning and development arena with the launch of Fishhook University, an online training hub that offers communications-related courses for churches and faith-based nonprofits. Lessons learned from this experience are helpful for training organizations making the leap into hybrid learning.

Fishhook University drew on the expertise of the agency’s team members to design TeamSpeak, a cost-effective curriculum that uses an on-demand hybrid learning approach to help participants grow their communications skills in practical ways. Brief online videos are used in conjunction with activity-based sessions led by a local facilitator.

Here are some key practices to consider when developing a hybrid learning experience.

Know your learners.

Who are your students? What are their strengths and challenges? What keeps them awake at night? What do they wish they knew? Take the time to create personas to help your team understand the people you’re trying to reach. This can also help you ensure you are creating content that meets a real, defined need.

Identify your goals.

What are you trying to accomplish? What will success look like for your learners and for your team? Sometimes, it is tempting to jump right to the details of course development without really understanding the goals. Make sure your team understands and can articulate the goal before you begin development. If you can’t see the target, you’re likely to miss it.

Name the challenge.

Course development requires the ability to identify big concepts and break them down into bite-sized pieces for the learner. It requires discipline and creativity all at the same time. Doing it well is rewarding but not simple. Beyond the development, what other challenges can you foresee?

For Fishhook, challenges included meeting the needs of learners in nonprofit settings who are spread thin in their organizational roles, have limited time and financial resources for professional development, and may not immediately identify their potential to directly impact the success of their organization’s everyday communications.

The team also wanted to develop material that would provide a valuable and fun team-building experience while helping various styles of learners absorb and immediately apply the subject matter. The company believed that a live facilitator would be crucial but also wanted the course to be available whenever a client was ready to get started. To meet these needs, they had to dive into the challenge of creating hybrid learning that could be available on demand.

Draw on employee relationships.

Partnering with a local onsite staff member can help create a learning environment where the course facilitator is invested in the organization’s culture, the course material and hosting a positive experience for their team. This important role helps provide a rich classroom experience and built-in accountability for course completion.

Keep it short and simple.

In most settings, it is important for learners to be able to absorb principles and know how to apply them with a minimal time investment. Help students connect the dots from the big idea to their everyday role. The TeamSpeak course met this challenge by featuring a series of five-minute videos followed by quick learning applications and hands-on team activities. As a follow-up, downloadable resources help students continue to apply the knowledge after the session.

Address multiple learning styles.

To maximize engagement, it is important to address individuals with various learning styles. In the hybrid learning environment, consider how the classroom and online components will complement each other. Feature engaging visuals, animations and diagrams; written guides; and hands-on activities where students can work with the material in experiential ways like drawing, gamified learning or even moving around the room.

Turn learning into action.

How can you help your learners continue to apply course material beyond the classroom and online learning experience? Consider online groups or follow-up resources via email, blogs, video and social media.

Although the launch of the TeamSpeak product was more challenging than the team expected, the initial response from Fishhook University students has been overwhelmingly positive. Staff teams share that they have gained new insights, made time for valuable conversations and implemented individual and organizational changes in their everyday approach to communications. As a follow-up resource, Fishhook also offers customized, personal coaching at the close of the course to continue to address the team’s learning needs.