In the practice of talking to trainers about implementing blended learning tools, an important business question comes up repeatedly. How does a training agency or an individual trainer transition from a traditional to a more flexible blended model? Based on discussions with quite a few trainers, it’s become obvious that no one has the answer yet, but it’s definitely time for you to start thinking about it. Your competitors certainly are.
First of all, let’s define this traditional model. Most training agencies are small to mid-sized companies with a relatively small amount of fixed staff and many trainers contracting for them. Training is often sold to corporations or individuals and charged for by day or as a total amount. A typical training product would be a few days spread across several weeks up to a few months. Clients not only pay the fee for the trainer, but also for lost time at work, travel and lodging. Once the training is over, it’s over.
A blended learning scenario can start before the training sessions by offering learning material, assignments and online training between and after the class-based sessions. Learners can connect at any time to learn and motivate each other.
It’s certainly not rocket science but it might force you to rethink your business.
Define short term goals
Most training companies don’t have long-term project management skills, so it’s best to do what you can in a short amount of time. Don’t build your own technology, don’t host anything yourself, but shop around in the cloud and focus on your side of the business. Most tech providers offer short-term contracts and if they don’t, continue to shop around.
Talk to your clients
Ask what they need and offer them online components as added value in the beginning. It will give you time to think about how to earn money off your online content- and collaboration platform as that is where this is going.
Offer a professional branded online environment
Offer a branded online environment and start adding material to it. This will help your current and future clients realize you are shifting to a blended model. Remember, your clients need good usability, especially when it comes to ‘onboarding’ (that’s how your trainees enter your online environment).
Start using video
Even the simplest video will improve the level of engagement compared to long texts. Remember, your clients have come to learn, not watch movies. As long as you’re framing the material with your knowledge and guidance, even video produced with a smart phone or tablet will work.
Reconsider your revenue structure
For now, you might simply consider leaving your pricing the same. The cost for online technology does not need to be too high. Soon you’ll want to charge for moderating your online platform, being there outside of the classroom and developing new online material. You might actually be charging less for online work than for class-based training. Whatever you do, re-evaluate it regularly and focus on flexible agreements with technology providers so you can move forward.
Redesign your training step by step
Redesign your training so there are clearly identifiable online components like online assignments, discussions, videos and evaluations. Though learners enjoy leaving their offices to learn together with other people, they’ll learn a lot more if what they’ve done during the training is repeated or practiced during day-to-day work.
Sell your blended training
Your clients have heard of blended learning. They might not want to completely replace class-based training with self-paced e-learning, but they will be thinking about better retention, lower costs, less traveling and more impact. If you use your online environment properly, you will not only serve your clients better, but will develop a relationship with the participants, some of whom will be your future clients.