The Success of Blended Learning: Some Experiences

Posted on : July 18th, 2011
2 comments

Today, more time and resources are being utilized than ever in creating training and delivery platforms that are best suited for different kinds of learners and varied content. When talking about delivery platforms, a term that is well-liked in the learning industry is Blended Learning. As the name suggests, Blended Learning is a platform which combines two different tools of training- diverse in their strengths and benefits.

We bring three distinct examples stemming out of our experiences – which illustrate how a blended approach creates trainings that best suit the learning objectives of the organization as well as the needs of the learner.

A Blended approach to Soft-Skills training

Background

Soft skills and personality development trainings are best suited for a Classroom. True, but what are the ‘take homes’ after the classroom sessions? No matter how impactful an instructor is in the class, a lot of what is taught is lost with time. There is a need for constant re-enforcement and refreshers of the training, which is often a challenge with the classroom-only approach.

Also, some learners may need refreshers only for certain sections of the training and that need may not wait for an instructor to be available!  Some learners may need help in certain sections, while the others breeze through them. These were the problems faced by an organization which provides soft-skills and personality development programs for corporate learners. A learner-centric solution was needed to address these gaps.

The Blended Solution

While the sanctity of the classrooms was maintained and the trainings continued to be delivered through this trusted medium, a strong enforcement was made available through a series of short online capsules of the trainings. Benefits of this solution were manifold.

  • To begin with, it provided the much needed re-enforcement of the classroom training. This was however, not just an online version of class-notes! Online medium of learning is different from the Classroom and the material was developed, keeping this important factor in mind.
  • Each training session was broken down in small capsules and presented in a format that aided quick reading. Language was kept simple and content presented in bullets format.
  • This short encapsulated version aided the learner in two ways. It provided refreshers to the class, in a manner that a quick look is all that it took.
  • With the online version of the training being compatible with mobiles too, the learner could actually have access to it anytime, as per his or her convenience.
  • It gave the learner the choice to pick up subjects that he or she needed a refresher, at any given point in time. Maybe at leisure – when traveling or during free time. Or maybe at the nick-of-time – just before an important presentation.

Overall, it improved the quality of training and with time, it was also reflected in the improvement in working standards and productivity of the trainees.

A Blended approach to Content-Heavy courses

Background

Many organizations believe in imparting training which is content heavy, much of it created with good intent and circulated among its employees regularly. But how much of it is actually utilized remains a mystery to most. An organization grappling with this problem was presented with a blended solution that gave them a robust solution and then some more!

The Blended Solution

The content remained same but its mode of delivery was changed. The chosen medium of online delivery was backed up by instructor-led sessions which created a space for interactions, re-enforcement and even evaluation.

  • A LMS was deployed to provide online material to the learners. It helped to create schedules for them and provide timelines that guided the learners on how to proceed through the course.
  • The LMS also provided the much-needed tracking mechanism to make sure that all employees were going through the course, within the required time-lines.
  • The course being content-heavy, was supported by sessions with subject-matter experts and peers to encourage a better understanding.
  • These sessions were led by facilitators and were also tracked to keep tabs on how much has the learner gained from the course.
  • A third ‘layer’ of interaction was also introduced which aimed at collaborative learning amongst the learner group. Learners were encouraged to ‘meet-up’ in online chat-rooms to discuss problems or doubts and try to find the answers amongst themselves. While a facilitator was present to ensure smooth-sailing, the learners were the ones asking the questions and finding the answers together. This third layer of interaction breathed life into the content-heavy course, and helped to uncover its practical utilities.

This solution introduced a completely new mode of learning – the online approach, but complimented it with another approach – an instructor led one, which made sure that learner felt more connected with the course and was encouraged to learn more.

A Blended approach to Technical courses

Background

Technical courses are often the most in demand, with newer technologies and software doing the rounds every day. For such a continuous demand, a blended solution was a perfect solution for an organization, which encouraged its employees to keep up-to-date. Much of the software used by its employees would go through version-changes, creating a need for training – which needed to be quick but efficient.

The Blended Solution

The need of the learner-group was not uniform. New recruits needed to be trained in detail, including the basics of previous versions. For users working with the software for years, only the changes in the newer version were suffice. The training was divided into two sections. The online version was presented first to the learner, followed by the instructor-led sessions.

  • The online course outlined the major changes in the software and their implications. The length of the course was kept short, to ensure that the learner gets used to the basics of the newer version.
  • Background on the basics of the previous versions was kept as an optional view, for learners who wanted to be apprised.
  • Details and workings of the newer versions were reserved for an instructor-led session. The learner, having created a foundation with the online course, found it easier to understand the practical approaches and clear doubts.
  • This approach worked very well for the learner group, who were busy professionals and were used to the idea of self-paced learning. The online course gave them the liberty of reading up on the basics as per their own convenience. Taking time out for a scheduled instructor-led session was then that much easier!
  • The instructor-led sessions were also better in quality, as the learners came ‘well-prepared’.
  • This model, in its simplicity, was perfect for short technical courses and very easily implemented across similar trainings.

The online version helped to create a foundation for learning and the instructor-led session built up on it. The blend of the two approaches made sure that the learner was able to extract the best of both.

So, in conclusion, Blended Learning can be implemented across different types of courses and trainings. The focus is not, what comes first – online or classroom. It is also not which is more important, e-learning or instructor-led trainings. It is about finding a perfect balance of both, that suits a particular training or learner. There is no common formula or blend that can work as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The ingredients of the blend and their treatments have to be considered keeping the course, learning objectives and the learner profile in mind. Then only can we look forward to enjoy the success of Blended Learning.

Tags:

Latest Post By Varun Arora