The Only Limit Is Your Imagination
Thinking about mixing it up with blended learning? The hype around blended learning, pushed along by the need for more digital learning during this remote-work era, may have you looking into it as an option for your organization. Unfortunately, adopting just any blended learning model could cause more problems than it solves, unless your team ventures into it strategically. Like developing any learning program, thoughtfully evaluating your organizational needs and making calculated choices is necessary.
Blended Learning At Its Best
In order to get the most out of blended learning, you must understand the purpose for which blended learning was designed. Blended learning, at its best, is the “best of both worlds.” There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of learning—digital and face-to-face. Theoretically, if you combine different types of learning, you can take advantage of the benefits of each type.
For example, if you are developing a program to teach a new software, a face-to-face session in which the instructor lectures on all the details of the new software is likely to be very boring and probably ineffective. But, if employees learn the software exclusively through online interactive lessons, they have no one to reach out to if they have specific questions.
A blended learning model would solve these issues by offering a digital lesson on the basics of the software followed up by an in-person interactive session in which employees try out using the software for the first time with the supervision of an expert.
Where To Start With Creating A Blended Learning Model
The key to blending learning is to do so strategically. You already know this because you are reading this article to find out how to develop the right mix. In order to achieve this, there are several steps you will want to take before jumping right in. Here, broadly, are some of the things you should think about:
Evaluate Your Organization’s Needs
This is an important step in developing any learning program for your organization, but it’s impossible to create the right blended learning mix without it. Evaluating your organization’s needs can be more complex than you think. Start by asking yourself and your team these questions:
- What are the problems that exist with our current learning model?
- If we don’t have a current learning program, what are the reasons we want to develop one?
- What are the goals for the new learning model? If the outcomes are measurable, what are the numbers we are hoping to achieve with the new program?
- What do employees think about our learning model (if we currently have one)?
- Do employees use the current learning model? What are the engagement statistics relevant to employee buy-in?
- What do employees desire for the future of organizational learning?
- What do managers think about the current learning model?
- What do managers desire for the future of organizational learning?
- What topics or skillsets will be included in the new learning program?
- For each topic, what is the most effective way to teach it?
If you don’t know the answers to all these questions off the top of your head, don’t worry—that’s normal. But it means research will be an important part of the needs evaluation process. Talk to key people at your company, including managers and employees. Conduct surveys. Take measurements.
It might even be a good idea to contact third-party learning and development professionals. There are many companies that are experts at guiding organizations through this process, and outsourcing some of the work may mean less disruption to everyday activities.
If you are developing an organization-wide program, you can expect the needs evaluation process to take several months. Smaller programs may take less time (for example if, say, your company only employs fifty people, or if you are looking to develop a program for only one course). Be patient with this step; it will be the foundation for all your decision-making as you develop your ideal blended-learning mix.
Research Learning Options And Platforms
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to get really familiar with all that’s out there. eLearning has become an incredibly innovative field with complex, custom solutions.
Blended learning doesn’t just mean a mix of digital and in-person learning. It means a mix of in-person learning, traditional digital modules, microlearning, just-in-time learning, LMS, LRS, interactive learning, VR, AR, and more. Let your imagination get wild with what’s possible.
With a workforce that’s more familiar with digital platforms than ever before, adaptability to different types of learning is less of a concern than it used to be. Employees are used to switching from an in-person meeting to their phone to the computer to other devices—sometimes using multiple platforms at once.
Working with learning development professionals who are constantly learning about the new developments in their field is a great idea, as they may have a good instinct for what options are commonly successful at addressing your organization’s types of learning needs.
Bringing It All Together
One of the challenges of blended learning is that combining different types of learning modes and platforms may make it much more difficult to keep up with, distribute, and, especially, more difficult to track. Having a system in place to do this will be part of figuring out what types of learning make sense for you to include in your program.
To some extent, there has to be an acceptance that only so much centralization is possible. Inevitably, there will be learning that occurs outside the LMS or LXP that you choose for your organization, no matter how many platforms it connects to—or how many devices it is compatible with. Modern users are used to decentralized digital experiences. For example, most people have multiple social media accounts on different platforms, and they are all used differently and have different audiences. They understand that to get the best of everything, they have to use it all.
There are, however, strategies for bringing it all together. For example, xAPI is an incredible development that allows the company to track learning across different platforms and that includes informal learning and non-digital learning. There are even ways to track the books read by learners, websites read by learners, and more.
xAPI is not your only option. Talking with some learning and development consultants will allow your organization to devise the best method for organizing, tracking, and centralizing blended learning.
The Only Limit To Blended Learning Is Your Imagination
Once you get to understand your organization’s learning needs, the technologies available to you, and develop a system to hold it all in place, the sky is the limit with blended learning. Blended learning means you are no longer stuck in your LMS. It means that learning experiences aren’t trapped by time and space. Finding the right mix of learning for your organization is certainly a process, but a worthy one that will turn your organizational learning and development into something you never thought possible.